Mi’s Waterfront Bistro Offers Contemporary Italian Cuisine
At 14 years old, Morgan Starr, owner and chef of Miʻs Waterfront Bistro in Kona, got a job washing dishes at Macaroniʻs Ristorante in Ashland, Oregon. Two years later he was running the kitchen and supervising staff.
With dreams of going into musical theatre, Starr was encouraged by the restaurantʻs chef and owner to take his creative ambitions in a different direction and apply for culinary school.
“I walked into the guidance office when I was 17 and said I wanted to go to ‘coronary’ school, and the counselor said, ‘Oh, you mean culinary school.’ So you can tell what a good student I was.”
In fact, Starr was an exemplary student and ended up graduating from the Culinary Institute of America at the top of his class in June 1997.
“As a kid, I mostly wanted to go into musical theatre,” said Starr. “I wanted to either go to San Francisco Conservatory, Chicago or Juilliard in New York. I had the words to almost every musical memorized. I was totally geeky about it—I loved it that much. But instead of studying to be a starving artist, I decided I would study to be a well-fed artist. That’s how I ended up going to culinary school.”
Starr went on to hold a chef position at the Venetian in Las Vegas, and a couple of years later, met and married his wife, Ingrid Chan. The two moved to Hawai‘i, where Starr took the position of sous chef for the residentʻs restaurant at Hualālai Resort in Kona.
In the summer of 2007, the two purchased the property for Mi’s Italian Bistro in South Kona and opened in October to immediate success. Ready for a new adventure and a new location, Starr and Chan served their last dinner at Mi’s Italian Bistro in April of 2016 and opened Miʻs Waterfront Bistro in downtown Kailua-Kona this May.
“When it came to finding a location that was more suitable for what we wanted to do, we knew it had to be down here on Aliʻi Drive,” said Starr. “What we love about Hawai‘i is that it’s ‘local kine’ and Kona has that ‘local kine’ flavor.”
In addition to “local kine” flavor, Miʻs Waterfront Bistro offers up delicious “Italian kine” flavor as well. One of the highlights on Miʻs menu is the Duck Confit alla Puttanesca.
“I have this vision of Northern Italians duck hunting and sharing with the ladies of the night,” said Starr. “For some reason, that seemed funny to me at the time. The duck has a little bit of that game to it and can really stand up to the flavor profile of a bright puttanesca—the olives, and the peppers and the anchovies—you get a bit of each flavor. Itʻs difficult to find a large, balanced dish, but if you can make it happen, itʻs a really fun dish.”
One of Chef Starrʻs favorite dishes is the Pappardelle of Beef.
“Pappardelle of Beef is the odds and ends of the tenderloin that we sear in olive oil then take out of the pan when itʻs still rare,” said Starr. “Then we make a sauce with chianti and our veal demi-glace and reduce it down with onions, mushrooms and peppers before we finish it with fresh rosemary and butter.”
With stunning second-story views of the Pacific Ocean, this upscale Italian bistro maintains a family-friendly atmosphere. Itʻs not uncommon to see one of Starrʻs three children hanging out in the restaurant, or his youngest daughter in his arms as he comes out to talk story with guests.
“This is the Italian restaurant that a non-Italian married to an Chinese from Malaysia might own—if that could be possible,” joked Starr. “Thatʻs whatʻs so great about contemporary Italian cuisine—anything goes. This is America and we get to do what we want with our food. Kind of like, what came first, the chicken or the egg. I think Italian food was first and then the French added a whole lot of butter.”
Miʻs is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Happy Hour from 2 to 6 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m..
Miʻs is located in the WaterfrontRow Building on the second floor at 75-5770 Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona.
For reservations, call (808) 329-3880.