Bin69: Spanish-Inspired Tapas Bar To Open On Maui

Mediterranean Morsels Paired with Upcountry Organics Tt Satiate Waileans

It's no secret that there's been a rise in the number of Nuevo cuisine eateries popping up island wide. It seems that finally, Generation X (and younger) culinary graduates have paired years of kitchen training with travels abroad and are opening conceptually diverse restaurants across the Aloha State. Whether inspired by an enoteca in Rome, a crab shack in Maryland or a wine bar in Berkeley or New York, the islands are seeing a great influx of food options that stray far from the typical Asian-Hawaiian flavor profile.

This month, Maui will get the newest European-inspired establishment, called Bin 69. Located in the recently completed Wailea Town Center, Bin 69 will be a wine and tapas restaurant that offers 69 wines by the glass in addition to small Mediterranean-inspired plates. The fare will lean heavily towards the flavors of Spain, as the proprietors make use of a longstanding relationship with a California-based, Spanish specialty foods importer. A significant number of ingredients will come from local organic farmers like Mike McCoy at Aina Lani Farms in Kula.

We caught up with Bin 69 chef Justin Pardo a few weeks back, and conducted a this interview in recent days to get the local scoop on how Bin69 came about, what the vibe will be and what patrons can expect. Along the way, we learned about Pardo's storied past – and decided that he might be Maui's most dedicated chef. Read on...

B on Hawaii: So you'll be creating Mediterranean-inspired, Spanish-themed tapas for the well-heeled in Wailea. What kind of ingredients can we expect to bring it all together"

Justin Pardo: We'll be getting imported Serano ham, Spanish goat cheese, chorizo, many kinds of hard and soft cheeses, stuffed olives – some of which I suspect people may never have seen before – some of the best olive oils produced in Europe, lots of saffron and my favorite spice to work with, smoked Spanish paprika. But let me add, B, that our tapas style plates are going to offer sizeable portions that will remain priced at under $21. We want Bin69 to be a place where people can come as often as they like, without breaking the bank. I've found that you actually can use quality albeit affordable ingredients and keep your prices down as well.

B on Hawaii: You said it. And what about the local ingredients?

Justin Pardo: We're obviously going to use whatever fresh fish we can get our hands on. We are using Maui Cattle Co. beef, and Hamakua mushrooms. But 60 percent of my herbs and veggies will come from Mike McCoy in Kula. He's awesome. I'll get from him everything from micro greens, baby carrots and spinach to beets, fennel and so on. Every time I go up there he's got something new I want to get in to the kitchen.

B on Hawaii: So tell us a few dishes we can expect to see at Bin69?

Justin Pardo: I was inspired by some of the Wailea eateries, that amazingly charge $40 for a hunk of fish and some veggies on a plate, to do a dish that includes a 5 ounce piece of Tazmanian salmon wrapped in Serano ham, served with Haiku roasted asparagus in a saffrom lemon fumホ. My "twist" is that I roast the fish bones before making the stock, which adds a smoky flavor. I then add some dry white wine, all white veggies – so the color doesn't change – and use it for the fumホ. I then finish the dish with that roasted paprika I mentioned, and some coriander seed. That dish is $19, and it's one of the most expensive we have.

B on Hawaii: I love that crappy overpriced dishes inspire you to drive down prices and make better quality grinds. That's why we're interviewing you. Gimme some more.

Justin Pardo: For $21, our most expensive entrホe, I'll serve a braised Maui Cattle Co. short rib and serve it with a crispy Big Island Goat Cheese polenta. The polenta will be crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, the way it should be. I'll then braise the ribs in red wine vinegar and brown sugar, and roast some Hamakua mushrooms to finnish the dish. It will be hearty, yet not heavy. I don't like heavy food that sits in your stomach for a long time. I feel like if you do it right, it will feel light and give people the energy they need.

B on Hawaii: O.K, you've got us salivating. What about the smaller, tapas-style dishes?

Justin Pardo: My signature dish is going to be Cabrales, a special blue cheese made with cow, goat and sheep's milk, which will be folded in to a flan. I'll serve it with Kalamata olive chutney, Serano ham bread sticks and a pile of local micro greens. We'll drizzle some special olive oil over the plate – it will be the perfect tapenade to go with just about every wine we offer.

B on Hawaii: So on to you... I understand – from your thick New York accent –you're not from these parts. How'd you come to open a restaurant at Wailea?

Justin Pardo: I've been on Maui for 5 years. I was working at the Grand Wailea for a while, and then Roy's for a little bit. While there I met Travis Takahashi, Maui's top wine guy. I made an impression on him, and he asked if I wanted to 'start something, someday.' Bin 69 is just that. The 'something.'

B on Hawaii: I also understand you have some rather interesting training from New York.

Justin Pardo: I guess. I worked in Daniel's [Boulud, acclaimed NYC-based French chef] for a number of years. But not in the most conventional manner. Being the best chef in NYC, I wanted to approach him to do an apprenticeship right after I got out of culinary school, in 1989. So I waited outside his restaurant every day for 4 months until I met him. I then worked 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days per week for free, just to learn the trade. After, I took an hour break and rolled to Mickey Mantle's Sports Bar, where I worked for rent money. I did that for almost 2 years. On my days off, I came in to Daniel's so I could work other stations than the ones he posted me at. I was so hungry for the education. Eventually, he saw it in me, and offered me a job, starting at the bottom. I decided I didn't want the money – which meant being stuck in one station – so I told him I'd rather work for free, and keep rotating around the kitchen. He thought I was nuts: I got the education of a lifetime. I was in the kitchen when he got his 4 stars. I was roasting tomatoes and cleaning mushrooms...

B on Hawaii: Amazing. I actually wrote my first culinary piece on Daniel in 2000. He really is one of the greatest chef's to date. A sheer gentleman and a professional. Most people don't know he went to culinary school in France with Philippe Padovani.

Justin Pardo: He also taught me that you have to gain the customer's respect before you impress them. It's a give and take. A lot of big chefs forget that, fast. I also had great education at Tabla, an upscale Indian restaurant in N.Y. that housed a "spice room" with over 50 different spices. Danny Meyer also greatly impacted my life.

B on Hawaii: Cooking in Hawaii is a different ballgame, eh? You can't always "go big" and expect people to be O.K. with it. You need some mellowness, dig?

Justin Pardo: Yeah, I agree. But it's such a fine line. It honestly took me 5 years to adjust. The first few restaurants I worked in here on Maui made me want to quit the food business altogether. I won't name them. But the whole laid back, "it's all good" attitude is pathetic when it comes to food. It drove me nuts. But then there's this amazing fish and produce. And I thought, 'Maybe I can show people that there's different types of food and different things you can do with it', and make some sort of difference. Maui's such a beautiful place, it should work. You just have to do it in the right way. We're certainly going to try.

B on Hawaii: What other quirky things will you do at the restaurant to "make it work"?

Justin Pardo: One thing is that Wailea Wine & Spirits, the shop next door to us, will stock a lot of the items we serve at Bin 69. From the wines to the spices and breads, right down to the anchovy stuffed olives and lamb chops. And if they don't have it, they'll special order it for you. It's real upscale, yet attainable. It should work well with the Maui foodies and what not.