joe’s nuevo latino restaurant + tequila bar: out with the old, in with the nuevo!

Joe's 5 Plates OriginalAfter two decades of serving comfort food like meat loaf and ribs, Joe’s Bar & Grill in Wailea recently underwent a much anticipated remodel and rebrand. In early May, the new and improved Joe’s was unveiled, and Joe’s Nuevo Latino Restaurant + Tequila Bar was born. Celebrating the diversity of food from Latino communities around the world,

Joe’s aims to take guests on a culinary journey designed to introduce the best, most inspired Latin flavors blended with fresh, local ingredients.

I’ve invited my friend Dan to join me at Joe’s this evening. He’s a huge Latin cuisine aficionado, and we are both eager to sample what promises to be exciting new fare. Veteran server Tony (19 years with Joe’s) seats us next to the expansive windows overlooking the courts at Wailea Tennis Club and, of course, the expansive blue Pacific. The way Joe’s is perched above Wailea, it’s the perfect vantage point for enjoying Wailea’s spectacular sunsets. In fact, Tony tell us one of the things he enjoys most is observing how the sun sets in different locations depending upon the season.

Tony presents us with the all-new menu, and invites us to make a selection from the list of signature cocktails, tequila y mezcal, or wine & cerveza (beer). “Our cocktails were thoughtfully imagined by head bartender Mark Klepich so as not to be your typical Margaritas and Mojitos,” he says. Tony also points out that although the wine list isn’t huge, each was carefully selected to complement the flavors of Latin cuisine.

With Latin-inspired music playing in the background to get us in the mood (we hear Carlos Santana and company singing “Oye Como Va” and also notice there’s a cocktail on the list with the same name), Dan decides on the Cohiba (Sombra Mezcal, Casamigos Anejo, Cynar, demerera sugar, lemon, and orange zest—$14), while I go for the Machete (Espolon Reposado Tequila, Aperol, fresh lime, chile de arbol, and a mezcal rinse—$14). There’s an amusing Spanish phrase—para todo mal, mezcal—which means, “For every ill, drink mezcal.” Dan and I can see the truth in this saying as we happily sip our uniquely divine concoctions. Neither of us is ill, but what the hey…when in Rome, right?

The ambiance at Joe’s is rustic chic, with lots of wood, wood, and more wood, from the flooring, to the chairs, to the open-beam ceiling. Tabletops are a lacquered deep blue, mirroring the color of the ocean. Black & white movie reels play old Zorro flicks and scenes of distilling tequila high up on one of the walls; a high-top communal table in the middle of the dining room seats 16; and the menu covers resemble brushed stainless steel. The vibe is lively, but not too noisy.

Joe’s menu features small and large plates, all equally sharable. Dan and I begin with the Yuca Causa (Chilled and Layered Potato and Yuca Salad—$13): a beautifully presented pillar composed of layers of creamy yuca (the tuberous root of the cassava plant—not to be confused with yucca, an unrelated fruit-bearing shrub) and avocado, topped with a tangy beet escabeche (pickled beets), and garnished with boiled quail egg halves, briny olive tapenade, crisp microgreens, and a sprinkle of quinoa for a hint of crunch. It’s a masterpiece of tastes and textures.

Next, we dive into the Tamal De Pollo (Steamed Chicken-Filled Corn Dough—$6). Moist and tender shredded chicken is encased in a soft dough wrapper, and smothered in a heavenly mole negro. It’s topped with cocoa nibs and queso Oaxaca (a white cheese similar to Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string-cheese texture). Es muy bueno!

For our third share plate, Dan and I have chosen the Esparagus A La Parilla (Grilled Asparagus—$11). Bright green asparagus spears have been charred to a perfect al dente, and they smell tantalizingly smoky. They’re enhanced with macadamia sofrito and pimenton crema. The mac nuts have retained just enough crunch so as to provide a textural contrast, and exemplify the restaurant’s mission to incorporate local ingredients into traditional Latin cuisine.

Who could visit a Latin American restaurant without sampling their ceviche? Certainly not us! So we go for the gusto: Peruano Mixto (Peruvian-style Mixed Seafood Ceviche—$25). Perfectly cooked morsels of octopus, shrimp, and fish are accompanied by slivers of corn sliced right from the cob; salsa criolla (onion, pepper, and lime); leche de tigre (the by-product of the ceviche preparation), aji amarillo (a bright orange thick-fleshed chile); and strips of fried purple Moloka‘i sweet potato, the latter component being another nod to local products. Dan says sometimes the lime can overpower the other ingredients in a ceviche, but this version delivers just the right amount of tang. For myself, it’s quite easily the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted. Period.

Meanwhile, managing partner Greg Shepherd stops by our table. “What we’re offering here at Joe’s is authentic South American Cuisine,” he tells us. “Most people envision Tex-Mex when they think about Latin cuisine. But our dishes are clean, pure, and naturally 90 percent gluten free.”

Dan’s cocktail has gone dry, so it’s time for another! The Macchu Picchu ($14) is a blend of Barsol Pisco, fresh lime, pineapple, coconut water, and lavender foam. It’s a frothy orange and white South American version of the pina colada that beautifully complements the spices in the dishes that come next.

The Pescada Veracruzana (Fish Simmered in Spicy Tomato Broth—$32) features local uku (blue-green snapper) smothered in a Veracruzan tomato broth atop caperberry olive salad and saffron rice. The Pollo Asado (Grill Crispy Half Chicken—$31) is a generous portion of burnished chicken that’s been rubbed with a recado negro spice blend. It’s also served atop saffon rice, with roasted zucchini, Brussels sprouts, and onions alongside. Both entrees have incredible depth of flavor, and are positively soul satisfying.

Not surprisingly, Dan and I are slowing down, but we bravely forge ahead with dessert. When Tony mentions a cheese plate ($14), my ears perk up. I’m a die-hard cheese plate junkie and, sadly, most restaurants don’t venture into this culinary realm. Wedges of manchego and cotija cheese are drizzled with honey, sprinkled with poha berries, and served with mac nuts, quince jam, and lavosh crackers. OMG, is all I have to say, as I roll my eyes heavenward.

We also can’t resist sampling the churros ($8). There are churros, and then there are these churros—so light you can’t believe they’ve been fried, they’re dusted with vanilla sugar and served alongside creamy kahlua chocolate ganache for dipping. They’re positively divine.

Simply put, Chef de Cuisine Gary Johnson has hit it out of the park with Joe’s Nuevo Latino. His food speaks to his obvious passion for Latin cuisine, and his talent for combining South American flavors with local ingredients to create stellar dishes.

There’s another Spanish saying that fittingly describes Dan’s and my dining experience this evening at Joe’s Nuevo Latino: Barriga llena, corazon contento (full stomach, happy heart).

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Joe’s Nuevo Latino + Tequila Bar, serving the best, most inspired flavors from Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Spain blended with fresh, local ingredients.

WHERE •

In Wailea Resort at 131 Wailea Ike Place, above the Wailea Tennis Club.

WHEN •

Dinner is served nightly from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

HOW •

Call Joe’s Nuevo Latino at 875-7767, or visit their website for more information at: http://www.joesmaui.com.

 

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