market fresh bistro • makawao’s farm to table favorite

“If you’re a farmer, let us know what you grow!” The request is written across the bottom of the menu at Market Fresh Bistro—and it’s not just for show.

Owners David Magenheim, Justin Pardo and Olivia Coletti have made it their goal to use only the most local food available in their Makawao restaurant. The result is an almost 95-percent local selection for the dinner menu (served three nights a week), and about 85-percent local for breakfast and lunch (served all week).

On a chilly Upcountry Thursday evening the intimate restaurant has a relaxed ambience not unlike being invited into a friend’s kitchen. It’s the first time I’ve been to Market Fresh Bistro for dinner, although I’ve enjoyed their popular breakfast menu several times over the last year since they opened.

Our server brings us the freshly printed menu, which changes daily. “Chef Justin sits down to do the menu at around 4 o’clock, based on what we have that day,” David explains. “It’s fascinating to watch him do it.”

All three owners are originally from New York and have known each other forever—literally, in Justin and Olivia’s case, since the two are brother and sister. David, who is Olivia’s boyfriend, recalls how Chef Justin used to shop for fresh ingredients from farmers at bustling Union Square Market. “That’s how he’s always done it,” David says—so making the jump to buying local on Maui hasn’t been too hard.

“It requires a little more work on the front end, creating a system, creating contacts,” David says. “We may not always have beets or kale or carrots every week, so we change the menu every day to reflect what we have.”

Tonight, the menu features a modest selection of starters and entrées. Several diners are enjoying bottles of wine that they brought with them (Market Fresh is waiting for its liquor license), but having left our wine at home, I opt for an herbal berry tea, while Steve has a fresh tart lemonade.

A small dish of homemade focaccia with oil and vinegar is quickly dispatched as we await our Spice Crusted Upcountry Venison Terrine ($17). As I muse about how they get the venison, David nods subtly over his shoulder. “The hunter is sitting right there,” he murmurs, gesturing to a gentleman enjoying a hearty meal.

The medallions of venison are delicious, chewy but tender, served with a flavorful Greenleaf Farms Mulberry Compote, perfectly accented by the crunchy Aina Lani Farms Micro Greens on top.

Next is the Tamimi Farms Tomato Salad, a rainbow of tomato slices delicately sprinkled with Kula Herb Goat Cheese and a Haiku Parsley, Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette—delicious and fresh.

For the main course, my choice of the Kupa‘a Farms Kalo Crusted Opelu Kala ($32) is a large hunk of soft white fish with a wonderful crumbly purple crust. The fish rests on a bed of Kupa‘a Farms Roasted Organic Cauliflower that has a strong smoky flavor balanced by the tomato-ey Coca Farms Fennel Saffron Fumet. The ample serving means I’ll have plenty to take home for tomorrow’s lunch.

Steve loves his spicy Haleakala Ranch Lamb Ragu, served over a bed of Handcut Parpadelle Pasta and Coca Farms Organic Rainbow Chard with Pecorino Cheese—a pleasing blend of flavors just right for a cool evening.

Market Fresh doesn’t have a keiki menu, but the chef gladly whips up a dish of steaming buttered pasta for our toddler. Her water is served in a biodegradable cup with a biodegradable straw, in keeping with the restaurant’s sustainable philosophy. “All our scraps go to compost,” David tells us.

We top off our excellent dinner with a square of sweet and creamy homemade haupia. We should have ordered two, it disappears so fast!

David gives us a few breakfast and lunch menus to peruse. As pleasantly full as we are, we vow to come back for a Sunday Brunch to enjoy ‘ukulele music in the courtyard and sample one of the popular Benedicts (topped with choice of Ham, Vegetable, Smoked Salmon, Kula Tomato, Blackened Hawaiian Catch or seared Blue Crab). Market Fresh Bistro also hosts special Farm Dinners, showcasing the offerings of local farms with a seven-course tasting menu.

“We want our business to strengthen the economy of our island,” David says. “People are inspired by what we’re doing, and we love doing it.” As a diner, it’s a good feeling to enjoy a wonderful dining experience and to know you’re supporting self-sufficiency on Maui at the same time.

For reservations and more information, please call Market Fresh Bistro at 808-572-4877.

— sky barnhart

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