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Mar 24, 2007 07:36 AM

Favorite Maui Restaurants?

Just wondering what people would say are "don't miss" spots to dine on Maui!

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  1. Mama's Fish House for sure. Don't miss it!!!!!

    18 Replies
    1. re: hungrygirldenver

      NNNOOOOOOO! Mama's Fish House is for foodies who follow recommendations like lemmings; it is not a Chowhound destination. You'll hear "Mama" raves from those on their honeymoons in Maui but they'd likely be wow-ed by the Golden Arches as they gaze into each other's eyes at sunset.

      Please, puuuhlleeeeze, read the CH posts about Maui's answer to an over-priced Disneyland, aka Mama's Fish House. Eeeeccchhh! If you feel that you must drive all the way to Paia, go to the Paia Fish Market and save yourself the aggravation, not to mention some serious dollars, of you-know-where.

      1. re: Sherri

        I had not planned on visiting Maui on my next trip to the Islands, but I have never eaten at Mama's on any of my trips there, and almost feel compelled to see what the fuss is about. I agree that this board is highly polarized on this one spot. I do not mind "resort" prices, or kitsch, but you gotta' have the gold in the kitchen to back it all up, and many seem to feel that Mama's does not.

        I had many divergent reviews on The Beach House, Kaua`i. I saw for myself, and all was great, as per my review last Fall. That does not mean that those, who had a less than favorable review were wrong; only that I had a good experience, that was well worth the $, and that I would return. Heck, one of my favs. in PHX, just got a bad review from a hound, whose integrity is beyond reproach, and whose palate I respect. Does his review make my fav. a bad restaurant? NO. It does mean that I must dine there soon, as I often recommend it, without hesitation, when the criteria warrant.

        Maybe I'll fly over, just to see for myself - no preconceived notions.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I am sorry to have sparked such a heated debate! I have been to Mama's only once, about 3 years ago, and I had a fabulous, fresh piece of king moi that was perfectly cooked. The prices are high, as they are over most of Maui. The location and view is killer. I had a great time there, but again, it was based on one visit.

          On the other hand, I've also been to the Beach House (about 4 months ago), and my meal was rather forgettable. Of course, the location was beautiful, but our food wasn't that great. So to agree with Bill, I think that I had a good experience at Mama's and a not so good experience at Beach House. As most of us don't have the luxury of living on the islands, our reviews are usually based on a single visit. I think, take it all with a grain of salt.

          1. re: hungrygirldenver

            Actually, the Mama's debate has been going on for some time now. Because we are usually based in Ka`ana`pali, most of our dining has been in Lahiana, or up-country at Bev Gannon's, so I have yet to try Mama's. I will remedy that next trip there. We had planned a trip to Molo`kai and O`ahu next Fall, but maybe we need to include Maui in that Itinerary, just to see what the deal is. I only hope that we hit them on a good night.

            One of my favorite Hawaiian restaurants, La Mer, Waikiki, was really off on our last visit, so it can happen.

            As you state, most of us do not have the opportunity to dine several times at one spot within a short time-frame. If we hit 'em, when they're off, that is the impression that we leave with. Same, if they are on.

            For most of our last trip, I had excellent food, and much of my wife's was pretty bleak. As I stated in that review, it was a "tale of two entrees." However, it did point out how the same restaurant can get reviews at opposite ends of the spectrum. If I was doing reviews, based solely on my wife's meals, most of the places would get panned. If they were based on my meals, they would have gotten a few Michelin stars. Oh well, that is what travel dining is about.

            Thanks for the comments,

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              I think we've decided to check out Mama's for ourselves and see what we think...

              1. re: food_for_thought

                If i may jump in and add my 2 cents. You probably know this already: call early and request a table with ocean view, to maximize your enjoyment. They've recently done some renovations - no major overhaul to the decor, just extra seating and more coherent layout, so this shouldn't be hard. One of my favourite items is ahi sashimi salad (wonderful contrast of texture with the ferns, crispy wonton strips, with subtle dressing that really allows you to taste al the things they put in this salad). I usually order the Penang curry dish on the dinner menu - i haven't been in 6 months so the menu may have been updated - because i find everything else (steaks, fish) too bland. :) Husband ALWAYS gets the Pua Me Hana. I don't know why, since he doesn't eat most of it, the pork. I think he just enjoys fiddling the coconut meat out of the shell. Their desserts i find so-so: Roys has an equally good molten chocolate cake, for tropical cheesecake - go to Costco and get the whole pie for that price, it's just as good, and Jacques down the road in Paia has a great tiramisu. But their drinks are awesome: generous sized glasses, not too much ice. I either get a couple of mai tais, or the (non-alcoholic) coconut-lime-mint cooler. I'm addicted to that drink - t's so refreshing.

                1. re: TanQ10

                  Thanks for your 2 cents. We're not big dessert eaters so I appreciate the info - maybe we will put that $$ into other parts of the meal. The ahi sashimi salad sounds right up my alley. I like bold flavors - if you could be more specific about what to avoid if you don't like bland, I'd really appreciate it. Also...thanks for the drink recommendations. We don't always go for the tropical drink thing but if they're big, not too much ice, and good, we may just do that. We'll call it dessert. ;) Thanks.

                  1. re: food_for_thought

                    Ok, but keep in mind Bill Hunt's comments, above, about differing tastes. :)

                    The fish @ mama's is fresh catch, but this is not unique. I go to Valley Isle fisheries in Kahului for my fresh catch, pay way less per pound, or get fresh catch from fishing friends, and toss it on the grill - tastes just as good to me as it does at Mama's. So that's the type of thing i find 'boring'. Having said that, the Lobster stuffed Mahi with Macnut is delicious. The Ono with carmelized onions and rice is ..not thrilling. Neither is the steak - go to Makawao Steak House instead. I have ordered the duck 2x at Mama's (i love duck) but it's always too dry. Too bad Maui doesn't have a Chinatown. I like the Penang curry because they accomodate my request for 'spicy' and i like the sambal - it doesn't overwhelm and contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the wild fish, which retains its moisture because it's slow-cooked in the coconut base. Everything is balanced in the curry dish.

                    1. re: TanQ10

                      Very well pointed out. That is one of the reasons that I shy away from "steakhouses," I can do as well with the dry-aged filet on my grill and my wine list is head n' shoulders better than all but Bern's. If I can do just as well, or better, at home, why dine out?

                      That's why I love so many of the great restaurants in Hawai`i - I cannot come close to Alan Wong, Chef Mavro, et al, back in AZ. The same would go for Mau`i. Go for the unique, not the mainstream.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Those are our top picks for Honolulu! I am sad to say (and this is just *my* taste buds talking) Maui does not have dining options in that calibre. For special occasions we head out to Chez Paul, Gerard's, David & Paul, Nick's Fish Market - i think those places *could* comapre, i know you had a miss at Gerard's. Husband really likes Mama's - again, i still think it's because he can fiddle with the coconut at the dinner table and part of it is nostalgia as he's been going there for ages with friends. And to borrow the other poster's phrase, i really want to like Haliimaile, but it has THE most boring menu. Yes, everything is fresh, very high quality ingredients, but it's nothing i haven't had before in Boston, NYC, LA, San Francisco..etc. I really wish we had a Chinatown. But if I could measure 'favourite on Maui' in terms of how often I actually eat out at a place, it would be Jacques in Paia: reasonable prices, fresh catch (except when they catch cow), great sushi and the best, most unique sush rolls i have had on Maui and a very good dessert menu. They have about 17 items on their app menu which makes this joint an easy choice for hanging out on any given night. I work on the south side, so for lunch the places i most frequent are Cafe O'Lei, Matteos (italian) and if i'm late, Tastings (tapas & wine).

                        1. re: TanQ10

                          Thanks for all this useful advice. I appreciate the tips on what to eat, although I know to each his/her own, I too hate to order anything at a restaurant that we can make in our own kitchen. Also, when we travel to Hawaii, we like to order things that are not par for the course in the NY dining scene, or things that are just better that usually means a lot of seafood and Pacific Rim-type food.
                          I'm curious - we've heard mixed things about Nick's Fish Market. We have a reservation there anyway but were debating changing it... I'd love your opinions. Also, while I'm asking two more questions...what are your thoughts on Sansei? We have heard that it's unbelievably great...and we've also heard it's not "real" sushi and it's a tourist trap. Second question - I heard that a new restaurant called Duo opened at the Four Seasons recently. Any word on whether it's any good? Thanks so much. I appreciate the advice.

                          1. re: food_for_thought

                            My take on Sansei is that you don't go there to order sushi. The prepared dishes are much more interesting and much better. The Asian Rock Shrimp Cake with the ginger lime chili sauce was so good that I bought the cookbook for the sauce recipe (and I've made it several times -- it has a LOT of butter).

                            1. re: food_for_thought

                              Sansei in Kihei should not be on your list of 'must-dos'. I've been told by friends who live on the West Side that the Kapalua one is way better, but I haven't been so cannot comment on that location. We like Nick's Fishmarket - great view, good fish, haven't had a bad experience there yet. The servers (they have a lot, perhaps too many) tend to be over-attentive sometimes. It *is* a tad more expensive than it should be.

                              1. re: food_for_thought

                                I used grew up on Maui, many years ago now residing in las vegas for the last 15, I agree that Sansei is a tourist trap with poor quality sushi. Seriously,
                                In the same shopping certer as Sansei you'll find a better quality sushi at the foodland for loads cheaper.
                                No knock on Foodland Locals are pickey about sushi and fresh fish thier selection at Foodland is one to consider for beach snacks as it is very inexpensive and the quality is out of this world compared to anything in the mainland.
                                When we visit we load up on sushi,musubi's, edename,fresh cinnamonbread,Freash fruits, and other items made fresh daily store it in our fridge. We have teenagers and this cuts down on costs considerable.
                                We save the resturant outings to Makawao for select nights

                                1. re: EricM.

                                  ok Eric.... can you PLEASE move to the NJ/NYC area so I can enjoy this!!!!! haa haaa! :) One love............

            2. re: Sherri

              I'm so confused about Mama's Fish House! People seem to have very strong feelings about it one way or the other!

              1. re: Sherri

                I ate at Mama's a few years ago. Thought the food was okay but way over priced. I remember watching this lady make drinks, Mai Tai's to be exact. She made about 10-12 in 60 seconds. All I could think about was the money made per minute by this one bartender. The drinks averaged $11-12 for a lot of ice.

              2. re: hungrygirldenver

                I went to Mama's fish house every time we go to Maui, long before I heard of chowhound. I think the food can be great or so-so depending on what you order.

                The best dish no questions asked is the seafood stuffed mahi mahi. It's mild, light, ultra fresh and delicious. I had been disappointed with some sort of white fish cooked in soy sauce before. If you see it on the menu, don't order it. My mom liked the seared tuna. But honestly aside from the generally high price in Hawaii, the reason they can charge so much for Mama's and the reason anyone goes there is because of the view and the atmosphere of the place. It's just very relaxing, and if you can get a table overlooking the beach area that's perfect. I like going there for lunch, usually right after our plane arrives in OGG, to kill a few hours before we can check into our timeshare. You can maximize the view in the day light, and they are not as crowded as during dinner hours.

                I've tried David Paul's. We each got a sampler menu. Not impressed with either the food or the atmosphere. This place is extremely loud and you can't even hear yourself talk. Pass.

                I like the flower sushi at Sansei more than the taste of the food in general there. It's not unreasonably priced if you arrive early.

              3. I loved Vino (food and service both fantastic), and the Paia Fish Market. I didn't love Mama's Fish House, and for the extraordinarily high prices, I thought I should have loved it.

                1. On Maui, the best meals that I experienced were: David Paul's (I hear that he is no longer affiliated with the restaurant), Pacific O's and Chez Paul's, all in, or very near Lahaina. I was less impressed by Avalon and Gerard's. The only BAD meal that I have had (excluding Cheeseburger in Paradise) was at the A'nui nui Room at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua. I was also not impressed by the two Roy's on Maui, though, at the time, I really loved his spot in Waikoloa, Big Island. That exec. chef has moved on, and it's now ho-hum, like most of the other Roy's.


                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Avalon was sold long ago by Mark and Judy Ellman. However, they now own

                    Here are two links:



                    1. re: Jesdamala

                      My visit goes back to '99, so I do not know the ownership, at the time. I have not heard of Mala!, but will definitely include it on the next trip. It will also be interesting to see what has happened to David Paul's Lahiana Grille, since its sale.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I don't remember the exact year Avalon closed, the Ellman's sold it and it was closed not all that long after. Mark Ellman also is owner/partner in Maui Tacos and a more silent partner in other restaurants in Hawaii. His newest is Mala, where I believe he is hands on...and while I have not been, it gets fabulous reviews. If you liked Avalon, then certainly worth checking into...although it is a different concept.

                    2. Mala in Lahaina is not to be missed.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          I 2nd DA KITCHEN. I'd also throw in PACIFIC O'.

                          1. re: OCAnn

                            We really enjoyed our meal at Pacific'O -- lots of fresh local ingredients (they have their own fishing boats and own upcountry farms). We also enjoyed Sansei up in Kapalua, though the ambience wasn't as nice as Pacific'O.

                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                              thanks - I heard there's a Sansei in Kihei now, which we're definitely going to try out, since we're staying in South Maui. I heard I'O is good too - I was trying to figure out which of I'O or Pacific'O to try...