Toronto·SURESH DOSS

This Hamilton tiki bar serves Detroit-style pizza and fun cocktails

MaiPai Tiki Bar is located at 631 Barton St E in Hamilton, Ontario.

MaiPai Tiki Bar is located at 631 Barton St E in Hamilton, Ontario

The owner of MaiPai, Salar Madadi. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Metro Morning Food Guide, Suresh Doss: Today we're heading to a Hamilton restaurant called MaiPai. This is a place that opened literally weeks before we went into our first lockdown.

Many of us go to restaurants not just for the food; we go for the experience and the service. To be whisked away for a few hours. 

Metro Morning Guest Host, Jason D'Souza: Oh my gosh, dining in is half the fun of going out to eat. 

Suresh: Exactly. A lot of restaurateurs design spaces with this ambiance and experience in mind. So Salar Madadi, the owner, went to considerable lengths to create this very unique atmosphere with his mash-up bar, MaiPai. He spent about a year trying to perfect this Detroit-style pizza that he's doing.  And he wanted to serve the pizza in —the best way I can describe is— this really immersive Polynesian-style bar. 

Jason: So let's talk about the Detroit-style pizza first, shall we? 

The 'Secret Pickle Pizza' at MaiPai. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh: So the pizzas look different. They taste different. And in my opinion, there are very few places in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area that do it really well. Here is the owner, Salar, explaining what Motor City pie is. 

Salar: "So with a Detroit-style pizza, they're cooked in a rectangular pan. Ideally, it's like a seasoned steel pan. It's like a hydration dough with a higher hydration. Like when you bake it off, you'll get more air into the crust and it'll come out crispier. Your sauce goes on top, if you're using a sauce, and you have cheese that goes edge to edge. So you get like a crispy cheese crown all the way around. I enjoy eating foods where each bite is different and different in texture and flavour. The crispy cheese crust was, I think like the first time I had it, I was like, 'Oh, this is awesome.'"

The 'Do you Wanna?' pizza at MaiPai. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Jason: I love Detroit-style pizza. And I think a description of a "crispy cheese crown" is the best description ever. 

Suresh: It's so great. So you picture a rectangular pie, it's kind of tall. It's about two-and-a-half inches thick. And Salar cold ferments his dough for two days because it gives that airiness in the dough. So it's got a somewhat fluffy centre. Another signature of the pie is that the sauce goes on after it comes out of the oven.

Oh, and that cheese crust. Picture this lacy, crisp cheese that borders around the pizza, which gives us this nice crunch and that oily, crispy cheese flavour. 

Jason: It's amazing. There's no bad part of the pizza. But I would argue the crust can sometimes leave some to be desired. This pizza kind of flips it on its head, where it makes the crust the centrepiece in a lot of ways. 

The 'Mala Honey Pizza' at MaiPai. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh: Yeah, generally when I eat pizza, I tend to avoid the crust. But with a Detroit-style pie, the crust is the best part.

I think another really great thing about this kind of pizza is that I find that chefs in general get really creative with the toppings. It's not like Neapolitan-style pizza where there are some rules. I'm generalizing here, but I find that the combinations of toppings can be really interesting and appetizing.

Here are some of my favourite pies: Probably he most popular pie is the "Pepperoni pile-on".

The pie's base is brick cheese. Then you have an excessive amount of locally cured pepperoni from a Hamilton shop. There's red sauce on top of that, Romano cheese, and mozzarella to finish. It's really great.

The 'Pepperoni Pile On' pizza at MaiPai. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

There's the "Secret Pickle Pizza," which started off as a hidden menu item, as I understand. It's got dill pickles and bacon and this intense roasted garlic aioli. And it is finished with dill

Jason: I can't say I've ever had a pizza with pickles before.

Suresh: There's tangy and sour flavours. I've never had a pizza like this anywhere. My partner Esther loves it.

There is another pie called the "Do You Wanna?"  This has nduja sausage and its complemented by fig marmalade, so you have this nice, sweet spicy combination going on.

The 'Secret Pickle Pizza' at MaiPai. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

One of my favourites is the "Mala Honey Pizza." Salar makes a Mala spice in-house by grinding together Sichuan peppercorns, fennel, cumin, and Chile flakes. That goes on the pizza along with this hot honey they make by mixing black-bean chili paste, with honey, and scotch-bonnet peppers.

Jason: Oh my goodness, my palate is doing cartwheels right now. I love the spice. 

Suresh: It is incredibly spicy. But again, you get that beautiful tingling sensation from the peppercorn. As I mentioned, Salar spent a good amount of time getting the dough right. But also these combinations and toppings, they're not just complementary. They actually make for a really enjoyable pizza. 

Jason: You mentioned earlier, the joy of getting to dine in now. You mentioned the Polynesian theme of this restaurant. Can you can you tell us more about that? 

Suresh: Yeah, so MaiPai is a very unique-looking restaurant, as I mentioned. Salar spent a good amount of time sourcing Polynesian art to decorate the place. He built a considerable amount of the furniture himself. He was buying bamboo from all over Canada to carve and build some of the posts, assembling vintage lamps. There is even a booth in the restaurant dedicated to Spam and all the variations of Spam. I don't know where he found all those cans.

MaiPai tiki bar in Hamilton serves up Detroit-style pizza and has a large selection of rum. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

In his bio, Salar says, "Our whole experience is built around escaping the world. So take a moment for yourself. Come visit and forget everything outside of our walls for a brief respite."

It is a gorgeous restaurant. And after operating for a year-and-a-half in a take out model, they finally started taking reservations in a limited capacity.

We haven't really talked about the cocktails. They have probably one of the largest collections of rum in the country and there are some really fun-sounding drinks on the menu. So personally, I'm looking forward to going back to trying some cocktails. 

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