Our chosen luau: The Feast at Lele

Our recent trip to Maui included a “first” for my wife: her first luau. As I detailed in a previous post, I selected The Feast at Lele, and it turns out to have been an excellent choice indeed.

Upon entering the luau grounds, each guest was presented with a fresh flower lei, then offered their choice of what my wife refers to as “umbrella drinks”: Mai Tais, Blue Hawaiis, or similar, or beer, wine, or soft drinks.


After being ushered to our table for two, our servers came by promptly to ask if we needed our drinks refreshed. Assured that we were fine, one of them returned a short time later with our appetizer.

Each table had two servers assigned to it, which resulted in excellent service throughout the evening.

I chose The Feast at Lele because of a number of factors, including its size – fewer than 200 guests – that guests were seated at tables according to the size of their party, and that food was served to your table instead of at a buffet.

The size of the group and the arrangement of the tables meant that no one had a bad seat. Every table had an excellent view of the stage. Seating arrangements meant that you could socialize with other diners as much or as little as you wanted, and we ended up having very pleasant conversations with couples seated near us.

First course with kalua pig

The appetizer and each subsequent course reflected the foods brought to Hawaii by immigrants from various regions who first inhabited the islands. The appetizer consisted of traditional Polynesian staples: banana, taro, and sweet potato chips served with a tropical ginger and ogo seaweed salsa. Sounds a bit odd, but very tasty with a tropical sweetness rather than the heat of Latin American salsas.

As each course was served, the mistress of ceremonies gave a bit of background on each of the groups represented. That narration was followed by a hula, dance, or other performance reflecting the origins of the various peoples.

The first full course reflected traditional Hawaiian fare: kalua pig roasted in an imu; pohole fern and hearts of palm salad; fresh island fish with mango sauce; and poi, a pasty substance made from pounded taro root.

Second course: the foods of New Zealand

The taro is the predominant carbohydrate in a traditional Hawaiian diet and is prepared a number of ways, depending on the other dishes and who is being served. Poi is often the first food a Hawaiian baby eats, in part because it is easily digested and, if served before being allowed to ferment, has a slightly sweet flavor. Many of the pois served in restaurants have been allowed to ferment and have a distinct tangy flavor as a result.

The Feast at Lele offered wine or beer pairings with each course, and we chose the wine. Our first course was paired with a Pinot Noir.

New Zealand dancers

The second course reflected the foods brought by the New Zealand islanders who arrived in Hawaii and included a sea bean duck salad with poha berry dressing and kuku patties: Maori fishcakes of mussels, salmon, and scallops. These were paired with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Third course items reflected the islands of Tahiti and included eiota, a salad of marinated fish similar to a ceviche; fafa, which is steamed chicken wrapped in taro leaves; and baked bay scallops, accompanied by a Chardonnay. Not being Chardonnay fans, we asked for a second glass of Sauvignon Blanc, which our server cheerfully provided.

Tahitian third course

From Samoa, items in the fourth course included supasi, which is grilled marinated beef; a shrimp and avocado with passion fruit salad; and palusami – taro leaves with bread fruit or squash. This course was accompanied by a Cabernet Sauvignon and a fire dance, which was easily the most intriguing performance of the evening.

Fourth course: Samoan

Finally, dessert was served. This included star fruit, a caramel macadamia nut tart, a strawberry and a small bite of chocolate, accompanied by a glass of port.

Two and a half hours later, completely satisfied, it was time to leave. However, because of the leisurely pace – and our servers’ admonition to pace ourselves – we were not uncomfortably stuffed; it was “just right.”

Delectable dessert

Having food brought to the table in courses encouraged guests to try a little bit of everything as opposed to going through a buffet line, where the tendency is to load up on those things you think you’ll enjoy while passing up other items that might seem a little odd or unfamiliar. That principle was highlighted when one of our servers told us the Feast uses about ½ a kalua pig per night, while the nearby Old Lahaina Luau goes through about six pigs per evening. The Old Lahaina Luau seats about 2-1/2 times as many guests as The Feast at Lele, but it uses literally 12 times as much pig.

The Feast at Lele is $125 per adult, plus tax as of May 2016. Guests who book online have the option of prepaying a gratuity. Gratuities are not required for parties of fewer than 10, which is a fairly standard practice.


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Photos by Carl Dombek
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