feast at lele: a musical, cultural & culinary journey through polynesia

FeastDancersPart lu‘au, part dinner show, part international dance revue, Feast at Lele is in a class all its own. A musical, cultural, and culinary journey through the Pacific Island nations of Hawai‘i, Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), Tahiti, and Samoa, Feast at Lele is a spectacular fusion of sumptuous cuisine and superior entertainment that is, indeed, a feast for the senses.

Upon arrival, Susan and I are presented with fresh dendrobium orchid lei, and escorted to the bar, where she selects a Mai Tai, while I opt for POG. One of the aspects that sets Feast at Lele apart from other Polynesian dinner shows is private-table seating. The hostess shows Susan and me to our table for two that’s situated in the second row, front and center of the performance stage. Our table has been pre-set with some goodies to munch on while we enjoy our drinks: tasty banana and Moloka‘i sweet potato chips served with an addictive tropical salsa that I can’t seem to stop eating!

Seating at Feast at Lele is on the beach with your feet in the sand. Lele is the ancient name for Lahaina, and this particular beach was where the royal family of Maui would feast and entertain. Behind us, the sun is beginning its descent, and the island of Lana‘i looms in the background. The Feast at Lele musicians, a trio of young men whose three-part harmony is spot on, get everyone in the mood for what’s to come. Friendly, efficient servers (ours is Kawai, ably assisted by Mike) are colorfully dressed in orange, red, and white tropical-print pareo tied at the waist and, for the ladies, at the shoulders.

Let the feast begin! Kawai and Mike bring our first course, featuring cuisine from our island home of Hawai‘i: Bamboo Pineapple Rice, Lomi Lomi Salmon and Kalo Puree, and Kalua Pua‘a (pork). The rice is pale green, like bamboo, and it’s served with juicy chunks of caramelized pepper pineapple. The savory salmon has been sous vide cooked and salted, and it’s accompanied by pickled onions, green onions, and island tomato, and sprinkled with Hawaiian black sea salt. The rich, succulent kalua pork has been prepared in traditional lu‘au style in an imu, and is garnished with pohole fern shoots.

Feast at Lele features an open bar, so you can imbibe to your heart’s content on tropical drinks like Pina Coladas, Lava Flows, and Blue Hawai‘is. Or you can choose to go a more conventional route with nine types of beer, 11 wines by the glass, and liquors like Pau Maui Vodka and Maui Rum (light and dark). Non-alcoholic selections include cola, lemon lime, root beer, and tropical juices.

Our hostess for the evening is the lovely and gracious Leimomi, who begins the performance portion of the evening with a brief history of the Islands, before introducing the Feast at Lele dancers, who take the stage for a hula kahiko (traditional hula). The male dancers are clad in traditional malo (loincloths); the females in earth-tone fabric blouses and tiered skirts—both are adorned with kukui nut and haku lei. After the hula kahiko, the beautiful Ka‘ealani takes the stage for a mesmerizing solo hula ‘auana (modern hula).

Next, the Feast at Lele dancers perform a spirited tribute to the island of Kaua‘i, accompanying themselves with ipu (gourds), pu‘ili (split bamboo sticks), and ‘uli‘uli (feathered gourd rattles).

Our journey moves on to Aotearoa (New Zealand), home of the Maori people. We’re presented with three rich and flavorful dishes: Rakiraki Salad (duck tenderloin slow cooked in organic coconut oil accompanied by island mixed greens with poha berry dressing); Harore Kumara (medley of stewed mushrooms over baked orange and purple sweet potato); and Miti Hangi (five-hour island scented braised short ribs in a kiwi fruit soy jus).

While we enjoy the cuisine of Aoteroa, the dancers entertain with the Haka, a war dance that was used by the Maoris to intimidate their enemies. Leimomi explains the facial tattoos sported by the dancers are representative of those in ancient Maori culture that displayed one’s genealogy and legal identity. It’s easy to see why the Haka was an effective intimidation method—the numerous facial gestures demonstrated by the male dancers, especially those utilizing the tongue and eyes, certainly appear threatening! Red and black costuming adds to the drama. To calm things down, the female dancers perform utilizing poi balls, which tell the story of their dance and song, and the mood changes from scary to joyful.

Moving on to Tahiti, our servers have brought E‘iota—Poisson Cru (fresh island diced fish and vegetables marinated in coconut milk and lime juice); Baked Scallops (jumbo sea scallop with butternut squash, spinach and lobster cream); and Moa (grilled mango-ginger chicken with Tahitian vanilla aioli and mango relish). All three tasty dishes soon disappear, while the dancers reappear in traditional Tahitian costuming: plant-fiber skirts belted with tassels, and elaborate headdresses. The Feast at Lele percussion team pounds their hearts out, and the passion of Tahitian dance is palpable. Who can resist its excitement?

Paying homage to the annual Tahitian dance competition Heiva I Tahiti, held every July, the colorfully costumed Feast at Lele dancers perform for us solo and in pairs and trios, while Leimomi encourages us to cheer for our favorite. Who can choose just one? They’re all absolutely delightful.

The last stop on our musical and cultural journey this evening is Samoa. This country’s cuisine is represented by Gufe‘e Salad (sliced calamari steaks with farm-fresh greens and tomato with spiced ‘ulu turmeric dressing); Palusami (braised coconut cream corned beef with baked breadfruit wrapped in young taro leaf); and I‘a (freshly seared island fish served with a locally grown lime leaf sauce).

The accompanying dance celebrates Flag Day, an annual two-day Samoan festival showcasing many different styles of cultural dance. Orange and green costuming, lapa lapa sticks, and coconut shells work together in a joyful, friendly style of dance characterized by exuberant jumping that’s reminiscent of American square dancing.

For dessert, Susan and I are swooning over hibiscus velvet cake and chocolate coffee flourless cake with haupia whipped cream, coconut mac nut caramel, island fresh fruit garnish, and mango sauce. We both get a whiff of port wine passing by on its way to a neighboring table, and decide to snag ourselves a glass. I can’t think of anything that pairs better with chocolate than port, can you?

For the evening’s grand finale, Leimomi asks us to turn around to face the ocean, for the riveting Samoan fire knife dance. The performer keeps his audience spellbound with his daring twirling, throwing, and acrobatics.

While the Feast at Lele musicians serenade with their rendition of “Honey Baby,” our server Kawai has brought hot towels infused with lemongrass for freshening up, and the pleasant scent lingers on our hands as a fragrant reminder of an extraordinary evening of food and entertainment.

Executive Chef Adrian Aina, assisted by Sous Chef Manuel Flores, have created a culinary journey to remember, and the dancers, musicians, hostess Leimomi, and the skilled waitstaff bring it all together, making Feast at Lele a not-to-be-missed experience.

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Feast at Lele, a musical, cultural, and culinary journey through the Pacific Island nations of Hawai‘i, Aotearoa, Tahiti, and Samoa. The cost is $125 per person for ages 13 and above; $95 for keiki 13 and under.

WHERE •

On the beach at 505 Front Street, Lahaina.

WHEN •

One seating nightly at sunset:

6-9pm February-April & September; 5:30-9:30pm May-August;

5:30-8:30pm October-January.

HOW •

Reservations are essential: 667-5353 (LELE); feastatlele.com.

Advertisements

maui_concierge twitter feed


%d bloggers like this: