Dear Dining Duo Readers,

We wish you a very happy, healthy and lucky 2013!  Thank you for reading our restaurant and hotel reviews over the years, and please don't forget to "like" us on Facebook...we're over 20,000 strong and growing! 

We recently hosted our very first "The Dining Duo" mixer evening at SFIXIO in Beverly Hills, and all 65 seats were quickly filled with people enjoying, socializing and trading business cards.  Dinner was wonderful and offered at less than half the normal price.  Parisian artist Jon One (offered by FABIEN CASTANIER GALLERY in Studio City) created a unique original tableau during dinner that was sold at a fraction of the value to a lucky collector.  We will be doing this again soon, so keep your eyes open for our next event.

Following is a potpourri of reviews for your enjoyment, be it dining in Maui, or a hot-spot in L.A., or a not-spot in Palm Springs.

If you have any suggestions of restaurants for us to review, please don't hesitate to email us at:  We will be doing a "guest review" soon, so if you're out of Los Angeles and would like to be published, please send us a picture of the restaurant and a review of 50 words or less.

Appetizingly yours,

Michael and Scott
The Dining Duo


Asian Fusion
1 Ritz Carlton Drive, Kapalua, HI 96761
Phone: (808) 669-6200

This is fine dining and it's Superb!
If you stop to think about most of the restaurants on Maui compared to any metropolitan city, most fall short and just service the resort crowd.  That is, except for this idyllic locale. Located at the lower end of the gorgeous Ritz Carlton property, there is more of a South East Asian feel than a tourist trap trading off of a lit beach.
With a peaceful, open setting, the food selections are minimal, but they all deliver. Robaire, the consummate waiter with former Paris training and time spent at the legendary Ma Maison in L.A., creates a superlative experience. He will make you feel like you are the most important person in the restaurant and Ken backs him up with the ease of a tango partnership.
The Opakapaka was sublime, flaky, delicate and sensational. The organic pea soup was tasty and refreshing. Everything is organic and locally sourced. Skip the traps on Kaanapali Beach and make the evening a dining experience; expensive, but.... anything good (with the exception of 100 Wines)  on Maui is expensive.
Who knows?
Whalers Village
Lahaina, Hi. 96761
Did we just mention "tourist trap on Kaanapali Beach?"
Well here's an example of one of the worst.  This place is just bad. If you're stuck on being at just Kaanapali, then try the two restaurants in front of it, Leilani's and Hula Grill, both of which were packed when we went to Maui Fish and Pasta, itself 3/4 empty; and with good reason.
The environment is sterile, the seats hard, the service unprofessional and unpolished, and the menu is uninspired. They have "Pasta" in the name of the restaurant, yet there are only 2 pasta dishes. If you request a side of pasta with your meal instead of potatoes, they up-charge you $5. Really? For a small side of pasta that probably costs them a few cents per side.  The fish was plain inedible; hard, and probably frozen, and definitely over-cooked. The waitress was sweet, but didn't know anything about the menu and had to keep running to the back to find out answers to our normal questions (and then she complained about "having a workout"). The only answer she couldn't give us is why we bothered coming to this loser in the first place. Shame on the restaurant savvy Sansei co-owner who should know better than to serve up this slop and call it Aloha.
French inspired
325 Keawe Street #202A
Lahaina, Hi. 96761
There is a new kid on the block in West Maui.  Opened just last year, and located in an average looking meandering strip mall, this new venue is hip, happening and delicious.  Oh, and as we said above, by Mauian standards, it's cheap ($75 all in for 3 of us).  We received extremely attentive service from both the waitstaff and the manager, all of whom were very friendly.
Don't expect something glamorous here, but the first room (not the inside room) is charming, with a bistro flair, and offers a cart of, you guessed it, 100 affordable wines (with no corkage fee).  All three of us agreed that this place prepared one of the best dishes of Onion Soup loaded with Maui onions that we've ever tasted west of France. The unbelievable brussel sprouts (only $10) were not only delicious (Scott normally hates these things, but not here) but they also sported a unique presentation.   Enjoy, I know we did!
Asian Sushi Fusion
Kapalua Resort
600 Office Road
Lahaina, Maui 96761
From the moment you walk in and you receive a warm greeting from Jamie, you know it it's going to be a wonderful experience.  This little gem is located about a 15 minute drive from Kaanapali Beach and is worth the visit, maybe even a few times during your stay.  The food is consistently good, and the flavors of their signature dishes are truly yummy. 
With so many to mention, we loved the crab ramen noodles with Truffle broth, the firecracker shrimp and the panko crusted ahi.  The fish are so fresh it seems they just got out of the ocean.  The desserts are limited (if you even have room) but the apple caramel tartan is scrumptiously divine.  Ask for Joni and you will get the finest service, which she delivers with the TLC of someone who genuinely cares.
Don't miss the Crab Ramen with truffle oil, so much YUM!  The prices are fairly reasonable to begin with, but if you go after 10 PM, it's 1/2 price sushi, and you get to listen to really bad karaoke.
Japanese Grill
Sheraton Hotel Kaanapali
2605 Kaanapali Parkway
Lahaina, Hi. 96761
Yes, there is actually decent food at the Sheraton Hotel in Kaanapali, but only at Teppan-Yaki Dan (don't even think about risking the other venues).
We have been here too many times to count and have never been disappointed. Josh is an excellent chef and showman, and really the only one to ask for when making the reservation.   Once again people complain about the price which is high (some entrees into the $50 range) BUT this is Maui, so just be prepared at most of the restaurants.
We enjoyed the lobster, the fried rice and filet mignon.  The beansprouts on the grill tasted heavenly, and the veggies were Maui-fresh.  Josh can wield a knife like no one else, so make sure you leave him a good tip.
Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas
6 Kai Ala Drive
Lahaina, HI 96761
808. 667-3200
Who would have thought that a time-share resort would have such a nice restaurant?
Sporting excellent food and a beautiful atmosphere, we were greeted warmly by the charming and sophisticated Elyse (who, in fact, graciously lent us her personal reading glasses), and she set the high standard for the evening. 
Ask for one of their curved booths which is cozy and has a view of the outdoors.  We really enjoyed the risotto crusted majong and the lobster carbonara. The service was superb from start to finish, and our server, Kelsey, was flawless.  Considering the mix of atmosphere, service and food, we thought this to be an excellent value and definitely worth a visit.  We'll come back.
THE LAHAINA GRILL (formerly David Paul’s)
Pacific American
127 Lahainaluna Road
Lahaina, HI 96761
(808) 667-5117
Returning to The Lahaina Grill each year is like going to an old friend’s for dinner; an old friend who just happens to be a talented chef with an exquisite kitchen. Superbly run and owned by the ever-charming Swiss Yurg Munch, we adore this spot smack in the center of old Lahaina Town.  With its colonial interior motif and intimate feel, it’s always consistent and has never disappointed us during our more than 20 visits throughout the years. It's also been voted "Best Restaurant on Maui" for the past 18 years.

The bar is in the center of the main room, and is always a scene. The drink menu is filled with tropical creations, and the wine selections are plentiful. We love to start our meal either with their true Maui onion soup.  There are so many delicious appetizer choices that we suggest picking several and splitting them amongst your dining companions; don’t miss “the Cake walk” which actually is a combination of crab, lobster and ahi cakes.  The lamb chops were thick, juicy and exactly as ordered at medium rare.

Make sure to sample the sunken chocolate cake, flour-less chocolate decadence (with real Kona coffee ice cream), and their Kauai pie, with Oreo crusted Kona coffee ice cream with rich chocolate fudge. Appropriate wine pairings are available with each course, as well as with the desserts.

If you have six to eight friends with you, call way ahead to reserve their “private room” off the main dining room; it’s charming and intimate. If you’re alone, eat at the bar, mingle with new friends and say hello to Mary, the sweetest and sexiest bartender on the island.

Gerard's Restaurant
French traditional
174 Lahainaluna rd.
Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
(808) 661-8939

The Dining Duo is always transported to a time and place beyond that of an American tourist destination, thanks to owner/chef, Gerard. When you walk into the historic inn that houses Gerard’s, the moment you inhale the exotic smell of burning incense, you feel as if you are a colonial in South-East Asia a century ago. It is our recommendation to take advantage of the lovely verandah in the front to dine al fresco amongst the striking palms and local flowers.  The wine list is quite extensive and well priced and features a number of half bottles.

Gerard's offers one of the finest Foie Gras dishes in Hawaii. It can be ordered in a terrine but we prefer seared with Macadamia nuts and French toast.  You will not go wrong with their fresh fish offerings, which vary from night to night.  Scott savored his favorite dish, Rack of Lamb, prepared medium rare to perfection and accompanied by exceptional, fluffy, potatoes au gratin.
Their crème brule is one of our favorites because it’s as if it were dropped in from Paris, with just the right amount of sugar and flame on top. The dusty road, which features both coffee and chocolate ice cream, is laced with butterscotch and chocolate sauces, Chantilly cream, macadamia nuts and chocolate dust.


Comfort Food
800 North Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, Ca. 92262
We had been to Workshop for lunch just after it opened and gave it a very positive review, but when we went again for dinner a few months later, it was a horror.  We were with a group of ten and the restaurant was hopping, but the food served to us was almost inedible and so loaded with salt, (our latest pet peeve that seems to be apparent with restaurants catering to main-stream tastes).  We could barely open our mouths this morning (that might make a few people happy, but not us), our tongues were brined from all the salt.

The space is aesthetically extraordinary but the food needs lots of help. The pizza barely had any flavor; the new rage, brussel sprouts, were devoid of any taste; the chicken was cold and tough; and the vegetables were soggy and uninspired.  That's not all of it:  the burger Michael ordered at medium rare came out well done and then it was recooked, came out right, but he had to ask the waiter four times for ketchup so that when it finally showed up, the burger was not hot.  The waiter rolled his eyes when we complained.

If they don't get their act together soon, the space may just be a beautiful furniture store, which is terrible for a restaurant we had high hopes for on the Palm Springs strip. HELP!
Japanese Traditional
1555 S.Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, Ca. 92264
If you want to sample some tempura that is the best you've tasted outside of Japan, this is the place.  Small and intimate, this gem feels like you just ducked out of the streets of Tokyo and into a taste sensation.  Don't stop at the tempura, as all the sushi is top grade and prepared by husband, Kiyo, while his charming and beautiful wife, Teruka, greets every guest as if they were family.
If you want something truly unique, try their original grapefruit special "cocktail" with Alaskan King crab, tuna, scallop and salmon, served from a half of a grapefruit.  We challenge you not to pick it up and slurp.
Sushi innovative
73-111 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260
(760) 346-1500
This is still an amazing experience, from start to finish.  Our friend, Chef Engin hails from Turkey, and he brings an innovative middle-eastern interpretation to all of his creations.  This is located on the elegant El Paseo in Palm Desert, so after the meal you can step right outside and enjoy fabulous window shopping.  It is quite reasonably priced for the quality of what is served.
The very attentive staff, especially Lucky, attend to every need and serve you some the freshest and most creative food in the desert. If you haven't been, you owe it to yourself to experience The Venue; a great value for the quality of food you are served.


Japanese sushi
218 North Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hills, Ca. 90210
An amazing experience; I've been lucky enough to dine at Urasawa four times and it has never disappointed me. Everything is sushi perfection; one can basically eat as much as you like but I have never felt overstuffed when I leave. The dishes are beautiful to view as well and the service is very well paced.  Get over the approximately $600 per person including tax, tip and drinks, and you will not feel taken advantage of. This is an instance where one gets what they pay for and more (Scott hates sushi and wouldn't spend $60 on it, so this is Michael's opinion)

American steak and seafood
252 North Beverly Drive
 Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Yes, something new in Beverly Hills that's not Italian. Remember the old RJ's on Beverly Drive?  Several unsuccessful restaurants later, and a whole new comfy interior, it's now Fleming's.

Now some of you may be thinking, "The Dining Duo at a 'chain' restaurant?"  Busted.  It's true, and it's our guilty pleasure.  Every Fleming's we've enjoyed is consistently good, and delivers a great steak, and frankly, one of the best lettuce wedges we've had anywhere.  Expanding their menu, this new Beverly Hills locale now offers delicious pork bellies as well;  plus, they are all open late, which is great when you are coming from the theater or a movie and want a warm, cozy place to dine and talk.  We dropped in this new location after only one week, and yet the service was already impeccable and friendly, and the entire "vibe" of the place was right on.

In fact, one of our favorite spots in Rancho Mirage is Fleming's at the River, where we can always run in, get a comfortable table, enjoy great service and yummy food.  We don't yet know the management well in Beverly Hills, but have had the pleasure of meeting Ty and Chef Brandon, and in Rancho Mirage, Patrick is a dynamite GM who knows what hospitality is all about (and he knows his wines too), and David is the young-buck chef who can really cook.  When we don't want to scream over dinner to be heard, and don't want to think about where to eat, Fleming's is our go-to choice.


California Cuisine
1633 Abbott Kinney Bl
Venice, Ca. 90291
This ranks as one of the single worst experiences we have had and we didn't even get to taste the food.

We arrived at 9:45 PM for a 10 PM reservation, at 10:15 PM, with no table in sight, we asked if maybe they would bring as a drink and they said it was only 10:14 (we swear this is what the host said to us) and on weekends it is "problematic to honor reservations."  10:25 PM rolled around, and still no drinks; we were told by the hostess that "drinks take a long time," at which point we walked out with absolutely no protests from the staff.  Before we left, we also spoke with the manager and, unfortunately, he was very dismissive.  Add into the mix that the noise was deafening and you have a recipe for disaster.
We're the folks spending the money, lets give The Tasting Kitchen a taste of their own medicine by not going there until they improve their behavior and personality.

Until next time, Bon Voyage and happy trails.

Appetizingly yours,

Michael and Scott
The Dining Duo

Posted by The Dining Duo | 11:23 AM | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts by Categories

Widget by Hoctro | Jack Book
Bookmark and Share

Related Posts with Thumbnails