Articles Accolades & Awards

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Travel & Leisure
November 1999

Hippest restaurant design: I'O.

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Best Luau:
Hot chef James McDonald, owner of Pacific'O and the new I'O, has started a revolution with his
Feast at Lele (505 Front St., Lahaina; 808/667-5353: $89 per adult) What distinguishes the luau is that food is an integral part of the performance: each of four acts is coordinated with a tasting menu of traditional dishes such as fafa (steamed chicken and taro leaf in coconut milk) and eiota (raw fish). Desserts are divine: banana-coconut haupia; truffles made with locally grown chocolate. This is the most fabulous cooking on Maui, which is saying a lot.




Travel Holiday
Vol. 182. No. 9

Lahaina: From the heart

You thought you knew luaus---sappy theme meals for bus-crazed tourists. But no: The luau is an old Hawaiian tradition, and the
Feast at Lele aims to rescue it. On the sunset strip of a Lahaina beach, chef James McDonald creates an intimate experience with up-to-date Polynesian cuisine. And the entertainment is top-notch and truly authentic. This is what luau was meant to be ($89 per person all-inclusive, without tax and tip: 808-992-4532

Nation's Restaurant News
Culinary Currents

September 20, 1999

Hawaiian chefs join forces to support cooking schools

chefs.jpg (20357 bytes)    Honolulu, Hawaii---Eight leading Hawaiian chefs have formed and alliance to support the state's contemporary cuisine by creating scholarships at the community colleges.

    Preliminary plans are under way for the group, called Hawaiian Island Chefs, to hold its first event, a public buffet at which guests will visit the chefs' various stations to sample their dishes, at Kapiolani Community Colleges.

    The group's long-range plan is to set up a full scholarship each year for the culinary programs at each of the community colleges.

    Co-chairs of the group are D.K. Kodama, executive chef-owner of Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar on Maui, and Wayne Hirabayashi, executive chef of the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Oahu. The other members are Chai Chaowasaree, executive chef-owner of Chai's Island Bistro and Singhai Thai on Oahu; Hiroshi Fukui of L'Uraku, also on Oahu; Teresa Gannon, Pastry chef at Haliimaile General Store and Joe's Bar and Grill on Maui; Edwin Goto, executive chef at the Manele Bay hotel on Lanai; Jacqueline Lau, executive chef of Roy's Waikaloa Bar and Grill on Hawaii; and James McDonald, executive chef at Pacific'O, I'O and the Feast at Lele on Maui.

Maui News
Best of Maui
November 29, 1999
You're favorite restaurants, menus, chefs & more...

Restaurant contest results

Best Overall, Honorable Mention: Pacific'O in Lahaina

Best New Restaurant: I'O, Lahaina

Daring diners tired of the same old thing will love I'O in Lahaina. It rockets you into a world of post-modern funk. It's futuristic cuisine screams 'bold, imaginative and wild'

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James McDonald is executive chef
and partner in I'O.

What he said: "Ahhhh, YES!" says chef-partner James McDonald, an MCC Food Service Graduate and chef at two other Lahaina eateries. "This was my goal when we opened our doors on Nov. 13 of last year."

What we said: "Innovative style, and environment," says Nancy Montoya. "The food was spectacular." "Great presentation. Atmosphere is the best! Yum." says Melanie Swanson of Richboro, PA. "Truly the best meal we have had in a long time. We are from Southern California with no shortage on restaurants and there is no comparison to I'O! Thank you for an incredible memory!"

Silken Purse: Steamed wontons are stuffed with roasted peppers, mushrooms, spinach, mac-nuts and silken tofu set on jalapeno scented tomato sauce and basil yogurt puree. Wine lovers may want to try the wine pairing of tropical flavored Bonny Doon, dry Riesling.

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Mingle at the martini bar, which draws a fun, younger crowd. Sip the classic cocktails in colorful glasses with fun shapes, the best collection of martini marvels on the island

Tropical Seafood Cocktail: A blend of fresh seafood's prepared ceviche style, with assorted tropical fruits, Maui onions and chipotle tomotillo sauce. They suggest a Mosquito Martini with vodka, Cointreau, Tabasco and lime.

Tiger by the Tail: Wok roasted giant tiger prawns with oyster mushrooms and asparagus, fresh Kula pea shots and lilikoi sauce. We suggest a glass of rich, fruity, complex Conundrum by Camus.

Partners: Stephan Bel-Robert, Louis Coulombe and James McDonald.

The Look: Dado the famous Maui artist helped to give it sexy curves and archways, made from gleaming Stainless Steel and subtle cement. Check out the 'Lost in Space' light fixtures.

For star gazers: Sit outside in the intimate patio setting just steps from the ocean and gaze at the night sky. When the wind is howling all over the island, this is a peaceful mecca.

Send offs: How about a caramelized Maui pineapple and coconut goat cheese ice cream with almond ginger truile?

Best Vegetarian Fare:
Honorable Mention: I'O
in Lahaina

Best Luau:
Honorable mention: Feast at Lele

Best Chefs:
Honorable mention:
It's no surprise last year's Best Chef,
I'O Feast at Lele and Pacific'O chef-partner
James McDonald is still lurking in the wings of culinary greatness.

Award of distinction 2001, 2002 Honolulu Magazine

2001 Taste of Lahaina “Best Seafood”and “”Best of Show”

Wine Spectator award of excellence 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

2001 The Honolulu Advertiser (O’ahu’s 100 Best Restaurants)

2001 HONOLULU magazine Hale’Aina Restaurant of Distinction

Taste of lahaina best of show and best seafood 2001

"Table of Choice" Sept 2000 travel & leisure

1999 Maui News: Best New Restaurant

1998 Maui News: Best Maui Chef

The Honolulu Advertiser
Island Life
Wednesday, October 6, 1999

James McDonald
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Executive Chef
Pacific'O, I'O and The Feast at Lele, Maui.
James McDonald washed dishes and prepared food at a friend's restaurant in high school, then went on to vocational school for data processing training. "I didn't realize it entailed math, which I hate with a passion," he remembers.
He enrolled in a baking course and worked a couple of restaurants. A stint in the Army brought him to Hawaii, where he joined a Westin Maui apprenticeship program. He helped open the Ritz Carlton Kapalua before going off to Switzerland for a year of European training. McDonald landed the executive chef position at Pacific'O owned by Louie Coulombe and Stephan Bel Robert. Since then the three have become partners in I'O and with Lahaina Luau in the Feast at Lele
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Grilled Fish in Banana Leaf

A Popular dish at Pacific'O restaurant in Lahaina, Maui, this recipe by chef James McDonald can be made with whatever fresh fish is at hand.Make the pesto ahead of time and have it on hand in the refrigerator for fish or chicken

2 1/4 pounds of fresh firm white fish, cut into 6 once portions
Banana leaves
Lemon grass pesto:
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup toasted macadamia nuts
1 large stalk lemon grass, root end smashed and rough chopped
1 .bunch fresh basil, leaves only
1 cup olive oil
Place all ingredients in blender and process into a smooth paste. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to one month.
Vanilla bean sauce:
1 fresh vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 stalk lemon grass, smashed
1 bulb ginger, smashed
3 clove garlic, smashed
1 small bunch basil, rough chopped
1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 cups clam juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
In a sauce pan, place vanilla bean, lemon grass, ginger, garlic, basil, Chinese parsley and turmeric and sauté for about 2 minutes. Strain mixture and reserve.
Assembly: Cut Banana leaves into 4 inch wide strips. Place a piece of fish on each banana leaf strip. Spread a small amount of lemon grass pesto on each end and roll in leaf. Place on grill and cook until fish is half cooked. Turn over and continue cooking until done. Ladle sauce on plate and place fish on top of sauce. Serve with rice and stir -fried seasonal vegetables.
Serves 6

Hawaii Westways
October/November 1999

The Land of plenty
New restaurants make their mark on Maui
By Jocelyn Fujii

Here sunsets are a big deal. And so is the decor: a fantasy of sleek curves, etched glass, and hard, gleaming surfaces to set off the fiery sunset just beyond the terrace. You're greeted by an "aquarium" of etched glass and a bar with a way, curved top made up of colored concrete that was hand-poured and hand-carved in place over a three week period. Clearly, someone had as much fun designing the interior and the show piece kitchen (visible but nonintrusive behind a wall of etched glass) as executive chef James McDonald had in concocting his innovative menu.
    I'O is the newest of a triad of restaurants---all owned by McDonald---that anchors the southern area of Lahaina. Award-winning Pacific'O, where McDonald made his entrance into the inner circle of Maui chefs, has steadily gained momentum since its 1993 opening. Next door, in the former location of the Old Lahaina Cafe, The Feast at Lele offers an upscale concept in cultural entertainment and dining. The food is prepared in I'O's kitchen and presented with authentic Polynesian entertainment---a Lu'au with table service. In between the two restaurants is I'O, with its stellar menu by McDonald, named Best Maui Chef by the Maui News last year.
    McDonald's strong suits are seafood and appetizer, so if you order a seafood appetizer, it's likely to be sensational. you could dine here on appetizers alone. The fresh oysters, a special, arrived in lobster butter with a touch of tarragon and garnishes of shrimp and kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage). Tri-colored potstickers filled with tofu, spinach, roasted peppers, and macadamia nuts were brilliantly textured and flavored, as well as aesthetically pleasing. And the Box, a lacquered container of miso sabayon (a foamy custard sauce), was a triumph. Pay attention to the dips; the watercress and yogurt-basil dips are worth the price of admission. The entrees, including foie gras crusted fresh catch, grilled fresh fish, chicken, grilled lamb, steak, pasta, and a vegetarian special, come in ambitious preparations, but it's the appetizers that steal the show.
    I'O, 505 Front Street., Lahaina; 808/661-8422
Open daily 5:30-10 p.m. Dinner for two, food only: about $80


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See more about Chef James McDonald at our Pacific'O site! Click on logo to view.
Executive Chef  - James McDonald

Award winning Chef.

Click on the Chef below for Best of Maui article

Chef James McDonald  - Best Chef 1999!
Maui News - Best of Maui

Front Page of the Maui News

Click on Chef's picture to see the Best of maui article

At 505 front Street Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Call (808) 661-8422 for Reservations and info.

E-mail Chef James McDonald

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