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Best Fine Dining on Maui and Kauai?

Planning a trip to Hawaii in October, what would you recommend for some of the best fine dining places on Maui and Kauai? Thanks.

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  1. It's been a while, since we were on Kaua`i, but were impressed by Dondero's at the Grand Hyatt, and also Beach House (does not get a lot of love on this board, but they delivered on every count for us). Tide Pools, also at the Grand Hyatt, should have been better, but we were underwhelmed, though we wanted to fall in love with it. We've never made it to Merriman's Kaua`i, but both Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong highly recommend that location.

    On Maui, I am a big fan of Merriman's Kapalua, and Mama's Fish House over in Paia. Bev Gannon's Hali`imaile General Store is great, over that way, upcountry.

    We also liked Lahaina Grill (once named David Paul's Lahaina Grill), and also the Banyan Tree at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, but it has been redone, since we last dined there, so cannot comment on the new iteration. If you go, ask for Roger (Ro-gher), who is also the sommelier. Will add both I`o and Gerard's in Lahaina, as two more, that delivered.

    Enjoy,

    Hunt

    PS - places that really left us cold were:
    Plantation Gardens - Kaua`i
    David Paul's Island Grill - Maui
    Mala - Maui
    Chez Paul's - Maui (was once good, but last visit will be our last)

    PPS - I have done fairly extensive reviews of nearly all of these restaurants over the last 4 years, and they should be on the board, just a Search away - be sure to alter the time frame from the default.

    Note: the link that appeared for Plantation Gardens is for a different restaurant on Maui, in Kapalua, which is good, but I cannot find a way to change that.

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    Alan Wong's Restaurant
    1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

    Lahaina Grill
    127 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina Maui, HI 96761

    Banyan Tree
    1 Ritz Carlton Dr, Lahaina, HI

    Mama's Fish House
    Paia HI, Paia, HI

    Plantation House Restaurant
    2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua, HI 96761

    Merriman's Kapalua
    , Lahaina, HI 96761

    David Paul's Lahaina Grill
    127 Lahainaluna Rd, Lahaina, HI 96761

    Beach House Restaurant
    5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

    David Paul's Island Grill
    900 Front St Ste A101, Lahaina, HI 96761

    10 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Bill - Chez Paul closed in 2009 so that won't be an issue of consideration for PorkBelly. The chef Patrick Callarec will oversee the new Disney resort Aulani at Ko Olina. I was talking to him the other night and Alan as well. This was announced in January.

      I really enjoyed Plantation House last July it was most impressive and very creative. They used their own farms for produce and such. I wish I could remember the name but there is a new little place in Kapalua (along the lines of the Honolula General Store) for breakfast, lunch and light snacks. I also agree that HGS is an amazing place I like that it is open for lunch, easier to drive in and out in daylight!

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      Plantation House Restaurant
      2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua, HI 96761

      1. re: manomin

        I guess that we dined there right before the closure then. Gotta' check my notes. Once, Chez Paul's was really good, and worth the difficulty of pulling out of their parking lot, just up from the big curve. Last time, however, everything was very tired, and the prices were about +50% above anything else, with no good reason. Who wants to have a US$ 150 Montrachet, in tiny Libby wine glasses? Same for the food. Interesting turn of events.

        We have ONLY done breakfast and lunch (around golf) at Plantation House, and all was very good to great. Never done dinner there, but have no reason to believe that it would differ that much.

        For breakfast/brunch, we enjoyed Sea House, in Napili, but again, have never done dinner there.

        Mahalo for the info,

        Hunt

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        Plantation House Restaurant
        2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua, HI 96761

        Sea House Restaurant
        5900 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina, HI 96761

      2. re: Bill Hunt

        Thanks for the great recs Bill. I really enjoyed Alan Wong's when I was in Honolulu, how do these places compare?

        Does anybody have any thoughts on Jean Georges' Kauai Grill? I'll be going to his flagship restaurant in NYC and was curious about this outpost.

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        Alan Wong's Restaurant
        1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

        1. re: PorkyBelly

          Relative to AW's King St., I would choose Merriman's, Kapalua. Alan and Peter, along with Roy Yamaguchi, Chef Mavro, Bev Gannon and Sam Choy, were pioneers in contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, and are all still good friends. While each is unique, there are some aspects of their cuisine, that is fairly common.

          Though I highly doubt that there is any tie, other than being Hawaiian restauranteurs, between AW's and Mama's, but at a purely culinary level (totally different feels between the restaurants), there are major similarities. Both chefs follow local produce, where from the land, or from the sea. Both are respectful of historic preps., but both innovate well. Chef Gannon is right up there too, especially as she came up with those other folk.

          Now, Dondero's has a slightly more "corporate feel," but their execution of some dishes was so over-the-top, that I cannot hesitate to recommend them. They provided me with one of the all-time best beef filets, that I have ever had, with an Italian-inspired treatment. I think that I ranked theirs as my # 3. However, and with all of that said, my wife's Osso Bucco was just not up to snuff. One grand slam, and one strike-out. I covered the two in my "Tale of Two Entrees" post, about 5 years ago. How an Italian-influenced restaurant could have such a winner with a less-than-traditional dish (though a "signature"), but miss so badly on a staple, the Osso Bucco. Maybe that can be traced to the "corporate" aspect?

          I was totally unaware that JG had a Kaua`i presence. The Phoenix, AZ iteration has gotten some bad reviews, and from some top reviewers around these parts. I have not been, so cannot comment. Also, when looking at some recent AZ additions, many corporate resorts have nixed chef-driven restaurants, with unique cuisine, for the "absentee grand chef's steakhouse," and I have yet to experience one, that was worth doing again. However, I am not much of a "steakhouse guy," so am not the best source of info. Not sure what JG has with his Kaua`i restaurant. Could be a hands-down winner, or maybe not. Please report.

          Now, going way back, Jean Marie Josselin had a wonderful Kaua`i restaurant, A Pacific Cafe at Kapa`a, and has recently opened a new restaurant, not too far away. Unfortunately, on our last visit, they were not yet open, so do not know how great, or otherwise, they might be. Going way, way back, he was a principle in The Beach House, but that was very long ago.

          Good luck, travel safely and please report back - aloha,

          Hunt

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          Chef Mavro restaurant
          1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

          Beach House Restaurant
          5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

        2. re: Bill Hunt

          Aloha Bill..
          Agree about Dondero's at the gorgeous Grand Hyatt Kauai but Tide Pools, even after the remodel last year is still meh..
          Beach House is oceanfront in Poipu has been great for us too.
          Have not been to Merriman's on Kauai..
          St. Regis in Princeville if your up in North Shore.

          Maui..
          Mama Fish House is excellent for lunch or dinner..
          Plantation House at Kapalua for us is best before hitting the links and you can't beat the breakfast of ahi benedict..
          Bev's General Store is great but I don't consider it 'fine dining'..great food!
          I miss Chez Paul..

          Don't do much fine dining in the islands..
          Have a great time and Mahalo..

          1. re: Beach Chick

            Aloha,

            We really, really wanted to love Tide Pools, and I promise that we tried, and tried, and tried. It just never happened. It had a wonderful feel, and I felt that staff was really working hard to please us. We were definitely in the mood to be pleased, but it never happened - unfortunately.

            I agree that Bev's is not "fine-dining," but is good to great, none the less.

            We also miss Chez Paul's, but began doing so, on our last visit. Everything was very tired, and not up to what we once knew. I can easily see why/how they closed down. Maybe we have become jaded, and the spoon in our mouths is now platinum, but I do not think so. I believe that some principles just lost interest, milked the history for all that it was worth, and then just checked out.

            Now, as we are talking Maui here, I have to say that friends, whose dining reports I respect, just returned. They were armed with my Maui recs., and made some. Merriman's was very good, but there was one black spot on the evening. These folk did David Paul's Island Grill, though we did not recommend it, based on our previous experience, but this couple loved it. Everything was great. Maybe we hit them too soon, after opening, or maybe we hit them on a bad night, and our friends hit them on the up-stroke. Oh well, I was so glad that our friends had a great meal and dining experience!

            As I am an avowed hedonist, most of our dining is "fine," even in the Islands. At my age, I feel that I don't have that many good years left, that I never want to miss an opportunity. [Grin] However, this does contribute to our missing some great food, that is not served over linen tablecloths. Life is full of trade-offs, unfortunately.

            Aloha,

            Hunt

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            David Paul's Island Grill
            900 Front Street, Lahaina, HI 96761

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Aloha Bill..
              Great post as always..you are the man..linen tablecloths and all.. ; )
              We'll be in PHX for the Memorial Day week at Wild Horse Pass resort..can't wait..
              I'll raise my glass to you!
              Mahalo..
              Beach Chick

              1. re: Beach Chick

                Welcome to my world! When at WHP, please treat yourself, and do Kai's. Relax, and enjoy. You will not be disappointed. Definitely not your ordinary fare.

                Enjoy, and travel safely,

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Thanks Bill..

                  Porky..Dondero's at the Grand Hyatt had a wonderful 4-5 course meal for around $75pp that was an incredible deal..food was sublime.
                  Stevenson's Library is cool too.
                  Depends on where you are in Kauai since getting to North shore from Poipu is about an hour each way.
                  Aloha

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    We never did make it to Stevenson's, though I wanted to for the Ports, as the crowds were just too big every night of the week.

                    Thanks for telling me what we missed... [Grin]

                    I also agree about the drive from the North Shore, especially as we both love our wines. On Maui, that was one reason that I was so glad to find out about The Inn at Mama's Fish House - we only had to walk about 20 feet to our cottage!

                    With food and wine, one cannot say too much about proximity. Drive safely.

                    Hunt

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                    Mama's Fish House
                    Paia HI, Paia, HI

        3. In Poipu Kiahuna Plantations restaurant was wonderful when we were there last. Beach House gets my vote too.

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          Beach House Restaurant
          5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

          1. Generally the most popular higher end restaurants in the Poipu area are:

            Josselin's Tapas
            Merrimen's
            Red Salt
            Beach House
            Plantation Gardens

            I haven't been to the Merrimen's upstairs (just the cafe) or Red Salt. None of them are really fine dining, just higher end.

            I would say that Kauai Grill at St. Regis is the only fine dining on the island.

            I love 22 North which is a local farm to table restaurant in Lihue. Definitely worth a visit!

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            Plantation Gardens Restaurant
            2253 Poipu Road, Koloa, HI 96756

            Beach House Restaurant
            5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

            Red Salt
            Koloa, Koloa, HI

            1. Where are you staying on each island? NSEW?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Bellachefa

                We haven't decided where we're staying yet, but most likely in Ka'anapali on Maui, not sure about Kauai yet.

                1. re: PorkyBelly

                  well my recs for Wailea area on Maui will be of little use as there is plenty of great options in Kanapali. We are HUGE fans of Hailimaile General Store, but it is not really fine dining. If we ever return to Mama's after reading BHunt's tr a few years ago, we will go for a long lunch!

                  And we most always stay on the NS of Kauai, where there is little fine dining, but some great dining options. Poipu will have more options but Hanalei is one of the most beautiful places in the world

                  I'd eat on Maui and then head to NS of Kauai and enjoy a more laid back island style food scene Good for you!!!.

              2. Didn't want to start a new thread for this, but along the lines of fine dining in Hawaii -- what is the proper attire for most "nice" restaurants? My wife and I will be on Oahu and Kauai soon for a trip and we're eating at a few places that are nicer, but not quite La Mer Fancy. (Roy's Waikiki, Hau Tree Lanai, Josselin's, Plantation Gardens).

                At a nicer place here in the Twin Cities, I'd wear nice slacks and a button-down shirt, or maybe a jacket. But I know Hawaii is much more casual, especially when it's 85 degrees. Can I get by in jeans and a nice shirt? I'd assume shorts are a no-no.

                Sorry if this is a dumb question; I just wanted to make sure we appropriately reflected the local customs. Thanks for any help.

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                La Mer
                2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                Plantation Gardens Restaurant
                2253 Poipu Road, Koloa, HI 96756

                Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
                2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                3 Replies
                1. re: Flenderson

                  Our first trip we brought some fancy clothes. Never again. Our last trip we carried on for 22 nights. Simple and tasteful. Nice shorts - think linen and a nice shirt will be appropriate as will nice slacks and shirt. Nice capris or skirt and a shell top with a linen shirt works everywhere for a woman.

                  1. re: Bellachefa

                    We loved Mama's Fish House in Paia and Lahaina Grill for fine dining meals. These places are pricey, plan on between $40-$50/entree. :)

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                    Lahaina Grill
                    127 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina Maui, HI 96761

                    Mama's Fish House
                    Paia HI, Paia, HI

                  2. re: Flenderson

                    There is no place on Maui or Kauai I would wear long pants for, these are tourists area first and foremost.

                    Different on Oahu. I wear long pants at Orchid's, Alan Wong's, Chef Mavro, Hau Tree Lanai, Michel's and 3660 on the Rise. La Mer I wear a coat too of course.

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                    Alan Wong's Restaurant
                    1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                    Chef Mavro restaurant
                    1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

                    La Mer
                    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                    Hau Tree Lanai Restaurant
                    2863 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                  3. Top Spots on Kauai:

                    Red Salt at Koa Ke'a, Merriman's, Roy's and Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt, all in Poipu. Dondero's probably has better food than Tidepools, but we like Tidepools setting better.

                    Up at the North Shore, the Kauai Grill at the St Regis and Mediterranean Gourmet.

                    Hukilau Lanai in Kapa'a.

                    On Maui:

                    West side, Merriman's, Plantation House, David Paul's Island Grill, Japengo & I'o Restaurant.

                    South Maui, Duo, Ferraro, Nick's Fishmarket, Joe's Bar & Grill and of course Hali'imaile General Store in Hali'imaile.

                    My take on Mama's Fish House is that is has okay food, an incredible setting and has been marvelously marketed since it isn't really worth the price you pay.

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                    Plantation House Restaurant
                    2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua, HI 96761

                    Joe's Bar & Grill
                    131 Wailea Ike Pl, Kihei, HI 96753

                    Mediterranean Gourmet
                    5-7132 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714

                    Nick's Fishmarket
                    2070 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

                    Mama's Fish House
                    799 Poho Pl, Paia, HI 96779

                    Hukilau Lanai
                    , Kapaa, HI 96746

                    David Paul's Island Grill
                    900 Front St Ste A101, Lahaina, HI 96761

                    Red Salt
                    Koloa, Koloa, HI

                    1. Has anybody done the chef's table at david paul's island grill? Is it worth the $150 for the chef's table or should we do the tasting menu for $75?

                      I've had dinner at the kitchen's table at Providence in LA and it was great. Is it anything like that?