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Malia Island Fusion Cuisine brings tropics to islands

December 5, 2018
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

A new family-owned and operated restaurant on Sanibel brings something new and different to the islands with its hybrid of South Pacific, Hawaiian and Asian menu.

Malia Island Fusion Cuisine, run by Jeff and Kathy Samson and daughter Malia, is located at the Sanibel Island Golf Club on Par View Drive. Open to the public not just golf course members it is open for lunch and dinner and serves up appetizers, poke bowls, land and sea entrees, and more.

"We were excited to bring something new to the island," Malia Samson said.

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Sanibel residents Kathy, Malia and Jeff Samson recently opened Malia Island Fusion Cuisine at the Sanibel Island Golf Club.

Jeff Samson's culinary background dates back to 1992 when his first venture, Malia Italian Bistro, opened in Marshall, Michigan, when Malia was 2 years old. In 2003, the restaurant relocated to Battle Creek, where it became Malia Mediterranean Bistro. It used fresh vegetables, herbs and even edible flowers from local farmers and urban gardens to create its dishes.

Jeff Samson explained that his family has vacationing on Sanibel for more than a dozen years. Less than two years ago, they moved to the island full-time with the end goal of opening a new eatery.

"We wanted to be in the business down here," he said, adding that they love the island.

They sold their Michigan restaurant to a former employee and focused on their new venture.

"We wanted to do something that was more island like, but not what the other restaurants have been successful with," Jeff Samson said, adding that they did not open the restaurant to step on toes.

"We're not here to take any business away, we're just here to enhance," he added.

Malia Samson created most of menu based off what is trending in the culinary world in terms of ingredients, spices, rubs and such, with the aim of reminding diners that they are on an island.

"We're really trying to bring the tropics back to the islands," she said.

With entrees from $28 to $46, locally-sourced microgreens and vegetables, high-quality grass-fed beef and high-end seafood, and made-from-scratch pestos, sauces and flavored oils comprise the dishes.

"Each dish is different," Malia Samson said. "Each dish is its very own entity."

On the menu, diners will find black cod marinated in a sweet white miso butter with furikake bamboo rice, shaved almond haricot verts and kimchi. There is a wagu filet with sauteed brocrolini and au gratin russet potatoes and topped with black garlic miso butter and a wagu New York strip with wild mushroom asparagus farro, crispy onions and truffle mushroom cream.

Among the must-try dishes is the Moroccan chicken thighs, which consists of Moroccan spice crispy fried chicken with clove-cardamon couscous, pistachios, pomegranate ariels and hot sage honey.

"It's comfortable food, but it still pushes the boundary," she said.

Malia Samson explained that they do not want people to feel intimated by the menu.

"We want them to feel comfortable," she said, reiterating the intended island feel. "So it fits with the atmosphere."

The 38,000-square-foot space, which seats a maximum of 150, features a full bar.

"We'll have a specialty drink menu," Malia Samson said.

In redecorating the space, the family purchased a mermaid statue from an island antique shop.

"She's kind of the bar mascot, so we'll have a drink named after her," she said.

One of the local vendors the restaurant is working with is Bailey's General Store. Jeff Samson explained that they will serve several boutique wines that people can purchase at the store.

There is also a meeting space available for reservations, which can seat up to 25.

In opening Malia Island Fusion Cuisine, the Samsons were joined by their long-time chef Eric Oliphant. Also part of the culinary team is Patrick Fitz, who worked for the Blue Coyote.

"We asked him to stay and he chose to," he said.

In addition to sit-down dining, the restaurant offers a take-out menu, along with daily features. Jeff Samson noted that golfers can contact them at the ninth hole to have an order ready for pick up.

"So that works really well for the golfers who want lunch," he said.

Malia Island Fusion Cuisine is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with dinner service starting at 5 p.m. For more information, take out orders or reservations, contact 239-472-9222.

People can also visit, like them on Facebook at or follow on Instagram @maliaislandfusion.

Later this month, the family will open a second venue Spoondrift in the Bailey's Shopping Plaza.

For more information, visit or follow on Instagram @sanibelspoondrift.

Malia Island Fusion Cuisine is at 1100 Par View Drive.



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