Mama’s Fish House – Maui, Hawaii

Posted on 23 January 2012

Purple Fork review by: Baron Gordon

Mama’s Fish House is the vision of Floyd and Doris Christenson. Floyd, business man turned sailor, discovered his calling. Following his passion and dream to sail with his wife Doris and son Keith (4 years old) to the south pacific. The Christenson’s set sail from San Diego headed to Tahiti in a 38ft ketch. During the journey, they left the 38ft ketch 100 miles out from Tahiti to continue on a copra boat to birth their second child Karen, born in Tahiti.

It is told, that along the Christenson’s family journey through the south pacific that they discovered the diversity of the Polynesian cultures. This later influenced the fresh and innovative menu items at Mama’s Fish House. Floyd, a master visionary was said to purchase the original location of Mama’s Fish House to help out a friend that found himself in a bit of a financial ‘squeeze’ many years ago. That would be the beginning of landmark, Mama’s Fish House. Floyd was also responsible for the founding the local yacht club of Lahaina.

One word that describes Mama’s Fish House is ’Ohana (family in Hawaiian). It’s true, the number one thing to do when visiting Maui is “you HAVE to experience Mama’s Fish House!” Is it just the amazing location? One may believe so, but there is so much more to it. Mama’s Fish House is tucked away from the tourists and hotel fanfare in the charming town of Paia. The energy of this location is that of positive magic. It was destined to reside at that exact location. And the food…oh the food!

As you you pull in the the valet circle, you are forced to notice and respect the grandiose view of a perfect northern scape of the remarkably turquoise pacific ocean. As the professional valets great you and present you with your blue claim ticket, be prepared to be warmly greeted by a pleasant maître ‘d (island style) asking if it is your first time visiting Mama’s Fish House. The maître ‘d then will invite you to travel on the path to the hostess station.

Before you arrive at the hostess station, be sure to stop and look to your right at the outrigger canoe and the breathtaking view of the ocean. As you continue to the hostess area, take notice of the relocated banyon tree roots made in to an arch way that you will pass under. You will soon be greeted by many pleasant smiling faces at the hostess station.

A helpful hostess escorts you to the table. Just after entering the restaurant, it is easy to take notice of the illustrious portrait of Floyd and Doris Christenson. The hostess will point out the direction to the restrooms before walking past the elaborate wood dressed bar that is located in the middle of the restaurant. It is decorated will many beautiful local woods such as Koa and Monkey Pod.

Our Veteran server, Chip, was a knowledgeable guide in this comestible adventure. The wait staff were uniformly professional, personable and experienced. As you look through the beautiful artwork of the different menus covers, you can take notice that the same art work that is on the cocktail menu is actual a copy of an amazing painting hanging across the room. The painting is perfectly lit as if displayed in the Hawai‘i State Art Museum. We tried the signature drinks that were recommended, the ‘Pau Hana’ and Trader Vic Bergeron -1944 Mai Tai Roa Ae (Tahitian for the best).  The drink selection was thorough. The wine list was decently robust and proudly displays ‘PRIDE’ Mountain Vineyards, owned by Carolyn Christenson Pride, cousin to the Christenson family. When asked about the Story of Mama’s Fish House some key words were continuously used by the staff: “home & family”.

To start the adventure, the Papio Ceviche and the Ahi Sashimi – Local Style were recommended and ordered. The Papio Ceviche was a accurate reminder of the traditional Tahitian dish e’ia ota (minus the coconut milk). The Papio fish was so fresh and the cilantro with the kaffir lime leaf was a smart combination to add to the mixture. The kaffir lime leaf brought in an exotic subtle flavor to the dish. The Papio Ceviche is served with fresh Taro and Sweet Potato chips. The mix of micro-greens that crowned the Ceviche dish, was a wise accent. It brought about a gentle enjoyable spice flavor of sorts.


 The Ahi Sashimi was the freshest ahi that you will ever sample. A delicate sashimi dish. If you have not had the chance to taste a fresh piece of ahi tuna caught off the coast of Maui you have to do so at Mama’s Fish House. Mama’s Chef, Perry Bateman has quite a unique relationship with most of the prominent Fisherman of Maul. Kevin, the manager at Mama’s Fish house, shared  the fact “ Sometimes our chef will be on the phone with the local fishermen, while they are at sea, placing orders.” If that if not fresh, I couldn’t tell you what is. The ahi being enjoyed was most likely just recently caught. Amazing.A lilikoi sorbet was provided as an appropriate palate cleanser. Simple yet effective palate cleanser and  delightful apéritif.

 Mama’s fresh poi was delivered upon request for an additional palate cleanser. For poi enthusiast, like my self, This cooked Taro corm  (between the plant stock and the root) and water mixture was ‘two finger poi’ for sure. It’s fresh so it was not of the thicker character.  Perfect palate cleanser!

As for the entrees, The signature entree – Mama’s Stuffed Mahimahi Caught by Joe Hobson off the north shore of Maui  is a generous size filet of Mahimahi which is then separated and stuffed with lobster, crab and Maui onion, baked in a macadamia nut crust. The macadamia nut crust provided a lightly sweetened approach to the  filet of Mahimahi. Then you get the opportunity to taste the quintessential medley of seafood flavors (Mahimahi, fresh crab and lobster). What a perfect course! Mama’s Stuffed Mahimahi was delightful. The second entree, the Deep-water Ahi caught aboard the fishing vessel “Captain Kevin”. A perfectly dusted Peppercorn seared Ahi steak with Hamaku mushroom sauce, on a sugar cane skewer. The balance of flavors strategically arranged display of savory with a hind of sweetness.

On a clear night in Maui it is said that watching the sunset from Mama’s Fish House is one of the islands most romantic sunset seascapes.

The creative genius of Bill Kohl, is represented all through out Mama’s Fish house. Bill Kohl is not just the brilliant builder that is responsible for relocated the front of a old house from Spreckelsville, Maui to the in closed patio at Mama’s Fish House. He is also the one responsible for all of the beautiful wood work in the restaurant. He is the guy that is responsible for the design, how the place looks and how it works. The property is creatively decorated with local industrial adornments, Polynesian fine art paintings, custom built canoes made for the dining room of Mama’s Fish House and lovely giant clam shells that give tribute to Tahiti and the South pacific. You can typically find Bill Kohl At Mama’s Fish House on any given week. His daughter Chelsea, a server at Mama’s, was sure a pleasant accent of hawaiian hospitality and adds to the family vibe.

As for the desserts, Bill Kohl’s amazing daughter Chelsea, recommended the Kuau Chocolate Pie. Chip insisted trying the signature desert the Polynesian Black Pearl. Both of the desserts we’re equally as creative and delicious as the entrees. The Kuau Chocolate Pie was a great combination of a chocolate cookie crust, a generous lining of caramel under a delectable chocolate pie filling. As for the signature desert, It is a “must try”! It starts on a pearl white plate that is dressed with chocolate and liliko’i drizzled accents which continue to the seashell pastries. The pastries open to reveal a a beautiful chocolate liliko’i mousse in the shape of a giant pearl. The pearl is covered in a high gloss chocolate cover. If  you can believe it, the Polynesian Black Pearl dessert tastes as great as it looks. Enough to share for sure.

Photo by Eldon Christenson

Once you experience the artistically reflective location and menu of the south pacific you won’t know wether or not to say Mauruuru or Mahalo (thank you in Tahitian or Hawaiian). One thing is for sure, You will fall in love with this experience!

Karen Christenson, the same Karen that was born on the Christenson’s South Pacific voyage, is now the Vice President of Mama’s Fish House shared: “Please, visit the Mama’s Fish House website to read a letter written by my dad (Floyd Christenson) to his grandson, my son Ian. It’s very special!”


Karen Christenson  and the rest of the Mama’s Fish House family share the true meaning of ’Ohana on a daily basis. Aloha, ‘Ono ‘Ai and Mahalo Mama’s Fish House! I look forward to the next adventure at Mama’s Fish House. Definitely a Purple Fork Experience! A “must do” when in Maui!!

To find out more about the coolest restaurant on Maui, Mama’s Fish House, and to make reservations:

Mama’s Fish House

799 Poho Pl

Paia, HI   96779-9708

(808) 579-8488

Categorized | Eat & Drink

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