Hawaiʻi is renowned for its food, which spans cuisines. The state’s buzziest restaurant opening of the past decade — Senia — shed a spotlight on the region’s various food cultures by giving them the fine-dining treatment from two Per Se alums. But the islands’ next destination restaurant is taking cues from home kitchens. In Maui, chef Sheldon Simeon’s Lineage — open tonight — will celebrate the recipes and cooking techniques that have held strong for generations of Hawaiʻi families. “It’s quirky and it’s us,” Simeon says. “It’s just something different for the island.”
Simeon grew up in Hilo on the Big Island, but he’s grown his career in Maui. It’s where the Top Chef star opened his hit Tin Roof with his wife Janice Simeon in 2016. Lineage, a restaurant that will appeal to locals and tourists alike, is its long-awaited follow-up.
The 80-seat restaurant is located in a shopping center on the dry side of the island. There are no ocean views. Instead, the restaurant faces a road. There’s a kitchen supply store on one side and a cosmetics store on the other. In other words, it doesn’t feel like a restaurant on Maui. “It kind of reminds me of those restaurants/cafes in Italy we’re you’re in this weird alleyway,” Simeon says.
The food, though, is firmly rooted in Simeon’s home state. “We’re actually cooking food that represents our family and our community,” Simeon says. He’s most excited for dishes based on his own family recipes, like the pork guisantes, a Filipino dish of pork and peas that his family has been serving for three generations now. At Lineage, the dish looks fittingly homespun. Simeon notes that he’s only recently gained the confidence to cook this way for restaurant-goers. The chef says, “I would think I would have to deconstruct it and make it something that is worthy of the ‘gram, but this is just straight from my heart and the lineage of my family, and we’re putting it out there.”
The restaurant is designed to make it feel a little like eating at home. There’s a cart service that lets diners have a bite as soon as they walk into the restaurant. “When you get invited to a relative’s house, a friend’s house, or an auntie’s house, before she even says hello she says ‘Hey, make a plate, there’s food on the table,’” Simeon explains. “We really wanted to get food on the table and have a moment to relax before you walk into our house.” When lineage opens, the carts will feature pickled and fermented items representative of multicultural Hawaii, including Portuguese-style picked onions, kimchi, and foraged and pickled chayotes.
A take on the flying saucer, a cross between a sloppy Joe and patty melt popular at the annual Maui Fair, will also make an appearance on Lineage’s menu. To Simeon, it’s as valid a representation of Hawaiʻi culture as his own family recipes. “These recipes that have been passed down, and these moments and memories, are just as important as the songs and dances and chants that we have here in Hawaiʻi,” he says of the food at Lineage. “It’s cool to represent that in a restaurant.”
[Disclosure: Sheldon Simeon is host of the Eater video series Cooking In America.]
• Lineage [Official]