The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, January 14, 1999

Elegant dining
that’s well worth
the price

GEORGE Mavrothalassitis -- Mavro for short -- has created something quite rare, a boutique restaurant that puts food above the fashion of the day.

What you get here is cuisine that is masterfully prepared, classic and understated. But not everyone is ready for dining without theatrics.

The chef is past the days when he may have had something to prove. Having worked as executive chef at the Halekulani and Four Seasons on Maui, these days he is more willing to allow fine food to just be. He does not believe in poking and prodding ingredients until the results bear no resemblance to their original forms, textures or flavors. Says the chef, "The older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity."

Star Rating

He has managed to create an intimate, softly lit space, the likes of which we haven't seen in about 10 years. It almost feels as if you are a guest in someone's home, until the bill comes.

So, are you ready for Mavro's? Answer this: Would you prefer to savor the nuances of a single succulent scallop sliding down your throat, or could you really go for a massive plate lunch? If you chose the scallop, follow me:

MAVRO has taken the liberty of ordering for you, offering three degustation or tasting menus for dinner. The menus are fairly standard, but a few new entrees are likely to appear, depending on the chef's whims.

Dishes are available a la carte, but I love the degustation menu because 1) I don't have to make any decisions. 2) I get to see a chef's unique vision at work through many dishes. 3) I get to feel pampered, for once.

For light eaters, there is a three-course menu for $48 without wines, $66 with a different wine for each course. The next menu has four courses for $57 without wine, $81 with. And the six-course menu is $72 without wine, $106 with.

Although the largest menu boasts Mavro's greatest hits, such as his Ahi Tartare and Sevruga Caviar ($18 a la carte) and award-winning fillet of onaga baked in a fish-shaped Hawaiian salt crust ($34 a la carte), I think one of his best dishes is on the four-course menu. This menu starts with a rich Foie Gras Pate ($16 a la carte), though I didn't understand the pairing with King Estate Pinot Gris from Oregon. You'll have to ask the chef about that.

(Which reminds me, with six courses going to this table and four to that, waiters are having trouble keeping up in matching wines to courses. I don't blame them as I couldn't even keep track of my orders, but this is something to pay attention to.)

Next on the menu is my favorite dish, the Crispy Fillet of Moi ($30 a la carte), dressed with a sauce with the barest hint of Madras curry. From the subtle we move on to the macho Beef Tenderloin topped with a Pacific Oyster ($32 a la carte). Then for dessert there is the Tarte Tropezienne, which will amaze anyone who thinks pineapple and coconut are only for the tourist set.

Some coming out of the restaurant talked about the cost. If you stick to the a la carte menu and go easy on the wine, it'll cost the same as any fine restaurant in town. I returned on my own dime -- not company $$ -- to test the "ouch" factor that comes with shelling out close to $200 here. To me, the total experience was worth the cost.


Chef Mavro's: 1969 S. King St. (formerly site of Hanamizuki)
Hours: 6-9:30 p.m. nightly
Prices: $100 to $130 for two without drinks
Call: 944-4714

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

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