Bidding Kauai Aloha, we departed the island of Kauai on a 12:13 Hawaiian Airlines flight. Arriving at Kahului Airport (Maui) half an hour later, bedlam ensued at baggage claim and at the car rentals due to Mother’s Day weekend. Still, it was great to be back at Maui. Our first stop, Paia for an overnight stay at Mama’s Fishhouse.
Peter and I are often accused of being creatures of habit. It’s just that when we stumble on to a good thing, we patronize it again and again. Becoming regulars of fine establishments means that we get loyalty in return and extraordinary service. This might mean a complimentary drink here or a dessert there. In the case of Mama’s Fishhouse, it was an upgrade to one of their finer garden suites as our stay last year was slightly marred by the building noises that came from the renovation of the new reception area.
“Would you be happy with this cottage,” the lady at the reception enquired, referring to the more luxurious accommodation. Happy? Is the Pope Catholic? And on Mother’s Day weekend at that!
Peter and I have been visiting Mama’s Fishhouse’s for years because of their exceptional cuisine, simply the best and freshest seafood anywhere in Hawaii. So much so that our dining experience in this establishment has evolved into a ritual. This year, we decided to straddle both Hawaii and Australia's celebration of Mother's Day and have dinner on 10th May. Mama's story is a fascinating one and well worth sharing:
Over a quarter of a century ago, a 17 year old young lady named Doris married a 20 year old young man named Floyd Christensen, who was employed by a company in San Diego that manufactured anti-missile missiles. Wondering if he was going to spend the rest of his life working in a cubicle, Floyd’s imagination was regularly drawn to Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. Living in a 38-foot ketch which they bought shortly after their married, Floyd and Doris often fantasized about lifting anchor and sailing off to a tropical island. After their son Keith, turned 3 they did just that.
For four years, the Christensen's island hopped throughout the Marquesas and French Polynesia, sailing as far as New Zealand. Daughter Karen was born in Tahiti, taking her first steps at sea.
As Keith and Karen grew older, Floyd and Doris decided it was time to sell their boat, find a school for their children, and settle down in Maui. Joining the Lahaina Yacht Club, a rough establishment where brawls frequently broke out between visiting sailors and locals, Floyd regularly found himself ducking for cover under the tables as chairs flew overhead. When Doris threatened to leave if he didn’t find himself a paying job, Floyd got himself hired as the yacht club’s business manager and he and Doris ran the bar and restaurant.
In 1973, Floyd received a call from an acquaintance who was struggling with serious gambling debts. Offering to sell Floyd a couple of beachfront lots and a rundown shack that served as a local restaurant in Paia, best friend and proficient cook, Hilda Costa told the Christensen’s,“You buy the restaurant and I’ll run it.” Acquiring the property for $12,000 despite an asking price of $125,000, the deal was sealed over a handshake and Mama’s Fishhouse was born.
Friends of the Christensen’s thought that they had gone crazy when they offered a primarily seafood menu at the restaurant. Fish was what the locals ate at home so when they ate out they wanted steaks.
“But tourists wanted to eat Hawaiian fish and we were the only ones who had it,” Floyd explained.
Floyd began printing a daily menu, complete with the names of the fishermen who brought in the day’s catch and where it had been caught, a practice that continues to this day. This showed signature proof of the freshness of Mama’s fish and has earned the appreciation of the local community and diners from all over the world. And it is why Peter and I come all the way from Sydney (Australia) and stay at Mama’s cottages, so that we can fully enjoy the best seafood in Hawaii and not have to drive anywhere else afterwards.