Maui - Restaurants
A Saigon Cafe
(tel. 808/243-9560): Jennifer Nguyen's unmarked dining room
in an odd corner of Wailuku is always packed, a tribute to her
clean, crisp Vietnamese cuisine--and the Maui grapevine. Grab a
round of rice paper and wrap your own Vietnamese "burrito" of tofu,
noodles, and vegetables. Lemongrass shrimp, curries, and Nhung Dam,
the Vietnamese version of fondue, are among the solid hits, but the
spicy, crisped Dungeness crab is tops.
David Paul's Lahaina Grill (tel. 808/667-5117): Tirelessly popular and universally appreciated for its high quality, David Paul's is still most folks' favorite Maui eatery--even without David Paul. No one seems to tire of the kalua duck he turned into a Maui institution, or the Kona coffee-roasted rack of lamb, or the much-imitated tequila shrimp. The menu changes often, but thank goodness the room doesn't; its pressed-tin ceilings and 1890s decor continue to intrigue.
Gerard's (tel. 808/661-8939): Proving that French is fabulous, particularly in the land of sushi and sashimi, Gerard Reversade is the Gallic gastronome who delivers ecstasy with every bite. From the rack of lamb to the spinach salad and oyster mushrooms in puff pastry, you will never forget his cooking. Like Piaf on the sound system, his food has integrity and excellence. The fairy lights on the veranda in the balmy outdoor Lahaina setting are the icing on the gāteau.
Hula Grill (tel. 808/667-6636): You can wander straight off the beach into this Whalers Village restaurant in Kaanapali, where you'll be met by the welcoming embrace of Peter Merriman's firecracker mahimahi, crab and corn cakes, and, at lunch, down-home sandwiches and salads. During the day, watch sailboats bob on the horizon; at night, flickering torchlight warms the koa walls and Hawaiian canoes. Hula Grill is not intimate--in fact, it's big and bustling--but it's an upbeat place to enjoy top-notch island cookery with a storybook view.
Mańana Garage (tel. 808/873-0220): It's great fun dining here, and the food is fantastic, too. Tuck into fabulous arepas (cornmeal-cheese griddle cakes with smoked salmon), fried green tomatoes, excellent ceviche, and a host of new flavors in an ambience of spirited color and industrial edge. You'll dine among vertical garage doors, hubcap table bases, cobalt walls, and chrome accents, with Buena Vista Social Club on the sound system and very hip servers who will bring you the best desserts in this neck of the woods--Kahului, of all places! The chef, Tom Lelli, came here from Haliimaile General Store.
Nick's Fishmarket Maui (tel. 808/879-7224): Hawaii's newest Nick's has the perfect balance of visual sizzle and memorable food. This is a classic seafood restaurant that sticks to the tried and true (not an overwrought menu) but stays fresh with excellent ingredients and a high degree of professionalism in service and preparation. In a fantasy setting on the South Maui shoreline, Nick's offers ample choices for diners, such as the Greek Maui Wowie salad, the signature opakapaka, the fresh salmon, and a host of other great seafoods.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant (tel. 808/669-6286): Furiously fusion and relentlessly popular, Sansei serves sushi, and then some: hand rolls warm and cold, udon and ramen, and the signature Asian rock-shrimp cake with the oh-so-complex lime chili butter and cilantro pesto. This Kapalua choice is flavor central--simplicity is not the strong suit, so be prepared for some busy tasting.
Haliimaile General Store (tel. 808/572-2666): More than a decade later, Bev Gannon, one of the 12 original Hawaii Regional Cuisine chefs, is still going strong at her foodie haven in the pineapple fields. You'll dine at tables set on old wood floors under high ceilings. The food, a blend of eclectic American with ethnic touches, puts an innovative spin on Hawaii Regional Cuisine, like the sashimi napoleon and the house salad, island greens with mandarin oranges, onions, toasted walnuts, and blue-cheese crumble, items on a menu that bridges Hawaii with Gannon's Texas roots.
Casanova Italian Restaurant (tel. 808/572-0220): Yes, we still love Casanova in upcountry Makawao, and for more than one reason: garlic spinach topped with Parmesan and pine nuts, polenta with radicchio, tiramisu, and the spaghetti fradiavolo. This is pasta heaven and the center of nightlife on this half of the island.
Pacific'o (tel. 808/667-4341): It's on the beach, literally, with a great view of Lanai across the channel. The excellent food ranges from prawn wontons to award-winning seafood dishes, all with hints of India and Indonesia in the flavorings. The savvy chefs use Maui's legendary produce to great advantage, creating nightly vegetarian specials that are fresh, creative, and tasty.
Plantation House Restaurant (tel. 808/669-6299): There are teak tables, a fireplace, open sides, mountain and ocean views, and chef Alex Stanislaw's love for Mediterranean flavors and preparations. It's a friendly, comfortable restaurant with great food from breakfast to dinner, from sublime eggs Mediterranean to polenta, crab cakes, several preparations of fish, pork tenderloin, filet mignon, and other delights at dinner. The ambience is superb.
Henry Clay's Rotisserie (Hotel Lanai, Lanai City. tel. 808/565-7211): Henry Clay Richardson, a New Orleans native, has made some welcome changes to Lanai's dining landscape with his rustic inn in the middle of Lanai City. The menu focuses on French country fare: fresh meats, seafood, and local produce in assertive preparations. The decor consists of plates on the pine-paneled walls, chintz curtains, peach tablecloths and hunter-green napkins, and a roaring fireplace.