Dining In A Department Store

Jo McGarry
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Friday - January 13, 2006
| Del.icio.us | podcast Podcast | WineAndDineHawaii.com

I remember going to Mariposa before it had a kitchen. Doug Lum, the executive chef, and I sat outside in the hall with electric cables and drywall around us - he perched on the end of a desk and me sitting on the floor - as we talked about the possibilities of dining in a department store.

Doug was full of the enthusiasm a new chef has for his restaurant, and was utterly convinced he would be able to create lunches and dinners that would appeal. I was impressed with his passion and his obvious dedication to local produce, and left believing that Mariposa would indeed become a lunchtime gathering place. Little did we all know how much - 350-400 lunches a day, and seven years or so later, Mariposa is still a place you’d better call to make a reservation before turning up for lunch.

“It’s incredible, really,” says Lum, of the never-ending succession of people who line up from 11:30 a.m. onward. “And this past December we hit higher than those numbers.”

The lunch menu appeals because it manages successfully to combine enough variety for ladies who regularly lunch with a host of local produce and hearty enough dishes for those with larger appetites. And the setting, of course, is beautiful.

The food has always been good, parking is easy and plentiful, and the view is inspiring. I think the service can leave a bit to be desired at times, and I’m not sure why. We had the longest wait for dessert (more than 20 minutes) the last time I was there, and the hostesses are capable of looking at you like you have two heads if you turn up without a reservation. But it’s still a terrific place to eat. There are a couple of signature ‘Neimany’ things - the chicken broth served in a tiny cup as an amuse bouche, is always nice, and the giant popovers are legendary.

Salads are plentiful and for the most part feature a range not seen on many menus, and they include a wonderful Applewood Roasted Salmon Salad on baby greens with spiced pecans, Maui onions, champagne papaya vinaigrette and Sonoma goat cheese, and a Grilled Fresh Island Fish (catch of the day varies with what’s available) in a lemon parsley marinade. Sandwiches come with greens or fries and include a Lobster Club, Grilled Ahi and Maui Taro Burger. It’s island dining at its best, really, when you consider the view, the use of local produce and the considerable talents of Doug Lum and his team.

Dinner offers some gorgeous selections, including Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops with Bleu d’Auvergne cheese, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a pinot noir veal reduction. Lum describes wine pairings with this dish as “sublime.” Try the Seared Maple Leaf Farm Duck Breast, and the Seared Breast of Chicken with roasted garlic mashed potatoes haricot verts and a white wine bordelaise.

With an ocean view, ceiling fans overhead, and an aura of old Hawaii, with a menu that almost never disappoints, Mariposa is a great dining destination.

Think of it this way - you can have dinner for four with some great wine for less than the price of a Neiman’s cashmere sweater.

Mariposa, Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center: 951-3420

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