thanks to you Chowhounds, tried several spots.
for Lunch Plates ...
FORGET Aloha Lunch Plate in Lahania, it's a tourist trap for gringos like us. crappy food.
Instead, for VERY down home, Da Kitchen is great as reported (went to the Kehei hole in the wall, gotta try the Mountain View branch here on the mainland). styro plates and no ambiance at all, but Jo loved the chicken katsu, ate about 20 pieces.
i loved Tasty Crust in Kailuku better. like a local diner. gotta eat my way through their bigger menu. beam me over! perfect opakapaka, perfect shrimp tempura. jo loved the katsu here too. good won ton, pork broth, not chicken broth.
the mac salad both places was different, but both very good, fresh veggies.
for lunch, the Plantation House as adverstised is a beautiful place. food was good, but not great. still i'd go back and try dinner at sunset. very romantic.
Kimo's in Lahina is part of a multi-restaurant stable. just so-so, but the beach location is great, no question. same with Hula Grill up in the Whalers shopping mall (boring mall). overcooked fish taco. blah mahi-mahi entree. buy booze and hang out, but not food.
a friend gave us the Luau at Lele dinner show as a gift. you don't expect much for the food at a dinner show, but it was a surprisingly good sampler style dinner along with the great dancing show. i'd give as gift to friends, or take mom and dad. worth the price. by the way, there are as many very buff guys in the show/servers as pretty gals. equal eye candy for the ladies, only place i could ever say that!! jo loved it.
Sansei was much better than i expected from the recent Chowhound reports, new place up there, what's that name of that zone? got there at 5:30 and indeed got the discount on menu items, even though we had to sit at the bar with no reservations. great bar. and the ahi was just right. the several rolls we got were very very tasty - very very fresh fish, interesting spices, not like we get here on mainland. i could eat my way through the whole menu, beam me over! fair price for the fare.
wish i could say the same for Mama's famous Fish House. for $90 a person, i expect everything to be top notch, even here in SF. not so in Maui. the whatever appetizer was totally forgetable obviously, i can't recall it! my cocconut crust fish was perfect, yes, loved it, but Jo's mixed platter of two kinds of fish fillets and 'hawaiian' sides was terrible. both fish were overcooked, the sides a throw away. my sides were also totally boring rice pilaf and asparagus. i mean, come on guys, try something! where Sansei made the sides very intresting and tasty, Mama's were useless, the Lele Luau sides were better even. No excuse at this price. the place is beautiful of course on the beach, but the restuarant must seat 300+. too big for any kitchen. but to be fair, the famous "pearl" dessert was truly, really delicious. jo loved it. bottom line - you pay, i'll go again and try my luck on the entrees, but not on my own dime.
by the way, the only-one-road traffic jam getting to Mama's through Paia is incredibly horrible. add a 1/2 hour at least to your trip, even a full hour at peak dinner time.
oh, and we had some snacks at our Hyatt hotel place, Cascades - not bad if that's where you are staying, but don't go as a destination.
Here's a mini report for our visit...(We got back last night)
Aloha Mixed Plate--The food isn't very good but a great place for a pig sandwich at lunch. Great view right on the water.
Cheeseburger in Paradise in Lahaina--Excellent burger!! They even made it medium rare for me, which is so hard to get a cook to do these days. Average fries. Great view on the water and live music.
Ma'La--Great location on the water. We had hit or miss with the food. We ordered fried calamari not bad but nothing special. I had the ceviche, which was really small and boring. For $18 it was about as much as you get in a can of tuna and had really no taste at all. We also had a lamb sausage pizza, which was great! The sausage is homemade--yummmmm. Great paired with a pinot noir. We meant to go back but never made it there again.
Fish & Game Restaurant/Maui Brewing Company in Kahana--located in a strip center with Roys. Fantastic smoked prime rib and filet migon. I thought the meat was on par with any great steak house. We went twice--one night the live music was way too loud and not enjoyable; the other night it was fine.
The Fish Market in Paia--We had the fried mahi mahi and chips. It was fine but I don't think it's worth the hype it gets.
Picnic lunch from Cafe Mambo in Paia--Horrible sandwiches. A BLT with one piece of lettuce, one sliver of tomato and one strip of bacon on a roll--no mayo or anything. A hummus & falafel sandwich that could kill a vampire there were so many chunks of raw garlic. BUT, they give you a free CD rental for the Road to Hana, which was great to listen to on the drive.
Feast at Lele--see my full report on another posting. Overall, we liked it.
Our experience at Mama's (several visits over the years) is that you need to avoid the peak hours if you desire a dining experience that comes close to the prices. We now will go only in the afternoon, after the lunch rush - and never for dinner.
That said, we prefer David Paul's for general fine dining, and the Waterfront in Maalaea for fresh seafood at a better price than Mama's.