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The best luau on Maui?

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My teenager and hubby insist on going to a luau on our vacation this summer - obviously, they're not Chowhounds. I've been to three luaus on three different islands, and the food was always over-salted and over-dressed, but maybe times have changed. Can anyone recommend one on Maui over the other? TIA.

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  1. We were on Maui about two years ago and had a terrific experience at the Feast at Lele. It's a beautiful setting right on the water, with individual tables for your party. Dinner is plated, divided into four courses to reflect the four regions featured during the luau. I found the food to be quite good, and the service was terrific. Drinks are included (at least your basic beer, wine, mai tais, pina coladas) and several in our party took full advantage of the open bar. It is a very expensive evening (over $100 a person), but we thoroughly enjoyed it and intend to go back on our next visit.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jrchambers

      I would 2nd the Feast at Lele, we were there a week ago and it was the best luau in Hawaii I have been to. Highly recommended!

      1. re: jrchambers

        Just curious - how were the wines?

        The wine list next door at Io was very, very good, and fairly priced for a resort dining destination. Not that I would expect the same for a lu`au, but would hope that the sommelier at least paid attention.

        Mahalo,

        Hunt

        1. re: jrchambers

          I also had a terrific experience at the Feast at Lele!! I found it a bit pricey, but I still really enjoyed the evening!!!

        2. I think you'll appreciate the Feast At Lele, too. I literally blogged about this last week because so many people ask me this. Old Lahaina Luau is another good choice - the show is a little better than Feast - but for food and killer drinks, I definitely recommend Feast at Lele.

          -----
          Old Lahaina Luau
          1251 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761

          The Feast At Lele
          505 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761

          1. I have to agree with the others and recommend Feast at Lele. I went a couple years ago and it was one of my favorite nights in Hawaii and definitely worth the money. They have private tables, good plated food, and unlimited drinks. If you have to do a luau definitely choose the feast at Lele. They have a website if you want to check out their menu.

            1. I'm in Maui now (*sigh*)!! Having done both OLL (2007) and Feast at Lele (just this past Wednesday night). I'd definately go back to Lele over OLL. The food and drinks were MUCH better. I liked that DH and I got our own table (front row!). Tableside service that was awesome, our drinks would have just an inch left and they'd be back asking what we wanted next. Suggested wine pairings for the courses were helpful. I actually thought even the show at Lele was better, but that might be because I had a better view.

              1. If Chef James McDonald's fare at Io, is any indication, then I would think that the Feast of Lele would be good. We were wowed by Io, and as he's the executive chef for both, things should be good.

                Remember, all commercial lu`aus will be commercialized, due to tourists' preconceptions. Still, if you get a good show, and really good food, you are ahead of the game.

                Kick back, enjoy, and do not be too critical of the "commercial" aspects.

                Aloha,

                Hunt

                3 Replies
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Thanks to everyone for the advice and comments. Personally, I hate luaus: it's touristy, the food is too salty, the sides are insipid, and being Chinese raised with food animals running around my childhood kitchen, the pig does not interest me as much as seeing people like my German husband getting grossed out when it is carried from the pit. (He thought pork comes from the grocery store, not a real animal!) We're only going because my teenager insists on it, having heard from her 10-yr-old cousin how fantastic it is.

                  So, I'm just humoring my teenager because Lord knows, she is SO bored with mom and dad's choices of activities and restaurants! I do enjoy the dancing, though - wish I could move like that.

                  BTW: the teenager chose OLL over FoL because she wants to sit at a communal table with other people and not be stuck at a table w/ just mom and dad. Anyone care to adopt her for the evening? Just kidding... Again, thanks Chowhounds!

                  1. re: Claudette

                    We have taken our kids to the Old Lahaina Luau several times and they always love it. They like the food ( I think it may be better suited to kids than Feast at Lele) and the performances are great. Go into it with an open mind and I'm sure you will have fun.

                    -----
                    Old Lahaina Luau
                    1251 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761

                    1. re: Claudette

                      Years ago, we did OLL, and it was fun. The food was about what one would expect from a commercial, tourist-oriented event, but I'd give it "eight stars," out of a possible ten.

                      Not having actually done FoL, puts me at a disadvantage, but having done the fare from their exec. chef, leads me to believe that the food would be quite good, and probably several steps about the average.

                      I do agree that one should do a lu`au, at some point. If one's expectations are not set to high, they ARE good fun. Usually, the performers take sharing their culture pretty seriously, and this desire to share usually comes through.

                      After about 15 years of Hawai`i travel, we took my M-I-L to O`ahu for the first time. Unlike other trips, we did more "tourist things." One of the highlights was a day at the Hawaiian Cultural Center on the Windward Side. We'd never done it, but loved it. Have to say that even with the VIP pass, their lu`au was pretty bleak, but the rest of the day was excellent, and unexpected fun.

                      Relax, humor your daughter, and enjoy.

                      Hunt

                      PS - in a month, we're actually doing a new lu`au on O`ahu, just to give it a try. Again, I will have dined very well, and this will be our last night on the Island, so all we want to do is see what this one like and kick back, before our flight back to the Mainland. Besides, I know some "late-night" dining spots, if the food is bad!

                  2. We are trying the OLL in a few weeks, so I'll post our experience when we return home.

                    1. This is going to be really short because I'm jet-lagged and several projects at the office are running late, awaiting my return.

                      The Old Lahaina Luau wasn't as bad as I feared. The food was really salty, but I expected that. They were very organized, the show was fine, drinks were weak, but the service was excellent.

                      Quick reports on other restos we tried:

                      Mama's Fish House - as good as everyone says; definitely our fave on the trip, and the signature stuff mahi mahi was the best fish dish I've ever had outside of my mom's steamed ginger...well, you know.

                      Spago - despite the excellent Thai curry seafood I ordered, this was as disappointing as all the other Spago's I've tried. My husband and daughter voted this the worse resto. for food and service.

                      Humu at the Grand Wailea Resort - surprisingly top-notch in food and service. Not cheap, but the setting was wonderful, and the tropical fishes in the lagoons amazing. Apps were great, as were all the fish dishes.

                      Joe's Bar and Grill (at the Wailea Tennis club) and Kai (at the Shops at Wailea) were okay, but nothing special.

                      CJ's Comfort Zone in Kaanapali had great breakfasts, but really rude waitresses, even though I said Aloha and Mahalo and tried not to be a stupid tourist. Jeez - you'd think they were working at The French Laundry or something!

                      Unbelieveably good kahlua pork and fries at the Gordon Biersch resto in the Kahalui airport - even better than at the GB mothershiip in San Jose. Great service, too!

                      All in all, a good time - Mahalo, Hawaii!!!

                      -----
                      Old Lahaina Luau
                      1251 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761

                      Mama's Fish House
                      Paia HI, Paia, HI

                      Spago
                      3900 Wailea Alanui Dr, Kihei, HI 96753

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Claudette

                        I do not recall the salt at OLL, but then it was many years ago. It was well-run, though a tad predictable, by lu`au standards. Still enjoyable. Sorry about the salt.

                        We came to Mama's, after years of reading the polarized reports here, and have loved it. So much so, that we even stayed there, to do dinners, and be able to walk to our cottage. Glad that you enjoyed it.

                        We have managed to miss Joe's on all trips, but do love Bev Gannon, so this is not good news.

                        The rest have not been possible, due to our locations, and the schedules.

                        Mahalo for the reviews!

                        Aloha,

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Always nice to hear from you, Bill. Your old posts were very helpful.

                          The salt might be just my problem, even though my family notices it, too. Some of the chefs on TV seem to be pretty heavy-handed with it, particularly the ones who smoke.

                          I love salt, and cook with many different ones, but always make sure it only enhances, rather than overwhelm, the food.

                          1. re: Claudette

                            I am a "salt fan," but only when I get to apply an interesting salt, and NOT when it permeates my food. I will often do "salt tastings," but this is to be applied to my food, after it arrives, and not during cooking. We were dining out with good friends recently, and the gentleman's wife complained about the main being overly-salty. She asked me to taste it, and she was correct - over the top. We called the server, who quickly replaced the dish with another, and it too was overly salty. We called the server aside and whispered that there was an issue in the kitchen that night. We offered her a taste, and she agreed. They quickly replaced THAT dish with yet a third, and it was fine. It was a duplicate of mine, which was excellent. Not sure what was happening that night, but things were off.

                            That lady is not a complainer, and is nearly a chef herself. She's also written a half-dozen cookbooks and is a regular guest on many TV cooking shows. We've dined with her maybe 50 times, and I cannot recall another complaint - ever.

                            That night, things were just coming out of the kitchen heavily over-salted. It happens, and in our case (a Hawaiian chef's location on the Mainland), the bill for her 3 mains was totally comped, plus they comped her dessert, against her protestations. Other than the timing, I could not have imagined more. Maybe their sous-chef was at the helm, and has an affinity for salt, or cannot detect it?

                            Hunt

                      2. I've been to Maui twice now. Both in 2009. The first time we went to the OLL. My wife loved it, and it was our 25th wedding anniversary. The second time we went to Maui, we went to FOL. Heres what both of us thought. FOL was less expensive and had better drinks. However we had to wait in a very long line, which seemed like forever. At OLL, the line was short . We thought the food was better at OLL, and the show also. All that being being said, overall, we had a fantastic time at both venues. We love Maui, and will be coming back soon.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Knwllms

                          Interesting observations, and will likely be helpful to others.

                          Mahalo,

                          Hunt