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Maui report!

We had a wonderful time eating our way through Maui a couple of weeks ago. We mostly ate in South Maui, but had a couple of meals in the North and West. Here are reviews of the places we ate. All reviews for dinner unless otherwise specified.

Mama's Fish House
Good but not great. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed our meal (lunch), but we enjoyed other Maui meals more, and they were less expensive to boot. We ordered the 2 most highly recommended fish entrees, which were each $48 at lunch (I think maybe $10 more at dinner?) and both were satisfying but neither blew us away. I got Hawaiian snapper with a mushroom sauce. Very tasty and earthy, but this was basically Chicken Marsala with fish, nothing inventive or special. Husband got the mahi mahi (IIRC) stuffed with crab and lobster. It was good, but his take was that any fresh fish stuffed with lobster is going to be good, he wasn't blown away. Also, the service wasn't very good, particularly in relation to the price point. For instance, my water glass was empty for a while, whereas the other restaurants we visited never let it get less than half full. In a more striking example, at some point our toddler knocked over my husband's water glass, so that our table was covered with water and ice. The ice was very visible to anyone glancing out our table, but still no one came over to help us, and it took me way too much time and effort to flag down my waiter to get help with clean up. In short, I'm glad we went here once, but we definitely wouldn't return, and I now understand the mixed reviews this place gets. Although other hounds I highly respect love this place, I wouldn't recommend it.

Nick's Fish Market (Wailea)
Nick's was everything I wished Mama's was. The food and service were both exemplary. The tuna dish we ordered was the best fish I have had in my life (and I have had lots of great fish). The service was extremely attentive without being intrusive. A+ all the way. This was probably my favorite restaurant of the trip, and among my top 10 dining experiences ever.

Monkey Pod Kitchen (Wailea)
This was great for a more casual option. Everything we ate was excellent. Service was good, but more casual given the more casual vibe of the whole restaurant. Loved the calamari appetizer that had fried pineapple in it, I could have eaten a dinner sized portion of this on my own. :)

Spago (Wailea)
Food and service were both excellent. If you've eaten at the Spago in Beverly Hills or elsewhere you will find that this Spago's menu is quite different, with an emphasis on integrating local Hawaiian ingredients and flavors. For instance, both the Beverly Hills and Wailea locations are known for their raw fish cones, but we preferred the ones at Spago Wailea. The dessert menu, however, was the same as BH, and while deliciious, not that inspiring. However, this was made up for by an excellent selection of local coffees. :) An all around wonderful experience.

Amasia (Wailea)
This is Alan Wong's new restaurant. He is known for being one of the founders of Hawaiian regional cuisine, and this restaurant is supposed to be a fusion of Hawaiian and Asian, as the name indicates. In reality, I found that it was more Asian (particularly Japanese) than Hawaiian, which was slightly disappointing to me only because I happen to to be able to get excellent Japanese food where I'm from, and I was looking forward to more Hawaiian flavors. Still, the food was very good, and the price point was actually pretty reasonable given the location. The service, however, was pretty unpolished, especially given that we were in such a nice place (the Grand Wailea). The service did not live up to the food. It sounds silly, but the most memorable dish was actually a dessert that had a decidedly Hawaiian influence-- pineapple "shave ice" (basically pineapple that is frozen and shaved to mimic shave ice)...this was way more delicious than it had any right to be!

Duo (Wailea)
We ate the breakfast buffet here multiple times (5 times?) and ate dinner here once. The breakfast buffet is typical for this kind of upscale resort. Everything was good, nothing blew me away (pancakes are very good, btw). Variety was good but not amazing. It's $35 for the full buffet, and $30 if you don't want hot items. It's well worth it if you are staying at the Four Seasons, but I don't think I would come here if I wasn't staying there.
For dinner, we had the unlimited raw bar (note: not offered every night, call to confirm that they have it when you want to go). This was delicious, and well worth the $69 per person price. In addition to unlimited seafood, you get fries (maybe the best fries I've ever had) and a glass of Prosecco includes. The seafood includes 3 types of oysters, various kinds of pokes and ceviches, huge prawns, lobster tails, two kinds of crab claws and legs, etc. It was all incredibly fresh. The only surprising thing was that the prawns were not deveined and there was a bit of sediment in my oysters...quite strange considering how much effort the restaurant went to in providing high quality, all you can eat seafood...you would think it would be perfect. At any rate, food and service were still excellent and I would heartily recommend the raw bar (did not order off the regular dinner menu).

Paia Fish Market
Really casual place (order at the counter and they bring it to you), we ate here before leaving for the airport. Food was very good, good value, large portions. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here but would definitely eat here again if it was convenient (e.g., before airport, coming back from Hana, etc).

Pioneer Inn Grill and Bar (Lahaina)
Good breakfast, good value. Macademia nut pancakes were good but nothing special. Food that I wouldn't go out of my way for, but would definitely eat again before taking a boat road out of the Lahaina harbor.

Kihei Cafe
Excellent breakfast. Low prices (for South Maui). Cinnamon roll french toast was delicious! It wasn't listed on the menu but they had it as a special. Macademia nut and banana pancakes were very good but not special (comparable to Pioneer Inn). I would definitely come back here.

Ululani's Shave Ice (Lahaina)
We discovered this on our last trip to Maui, in my opinion this is the best shave ice on the island! Very soft ice, great flavors. Excellent.

Local Boys Shave Ice (Kihei)
We ate this on the last trip too, and it wasn't as good as I remembered it. Ice was too chunky, more like a snow cone than shave ice. I've got to find a better place in South Maui for my next trip!

Poolside service, Four Seasons
I think this is the same menu as room service. I have to say, my expectations for poolside food were low, and they were continually exceeded. We ordered lunch and cocktails poolside multiple times, and everything was consistently excellent. It is of course expensive, but there is nothing like relaxing in a poolside cabana and having good food and drink brought to you (it worked particularly well for us because our toddler napped during this time). We were having big breakfasts and dinners so for poolside lunch we ordered 1 dish to share and 2 cocktails.

I think that is it! It was a great trip filled with great food! Even the places that disappointed me a bit were still good, they just weren't as good as the other places I was so fortunate to visit.

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  1. There is now an Ululani's in Kihei.

    1 Reply
    1. Forgot to mention the Feast at Lele luau. The food was a little inconsistent this time (eg, kahlua pork too salty), but it's still the best luau food I've had, not to mention the outstanding show, good service, and lovely beachfront location.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Nicole

        Sorry to hear that.

        We have not done the Feast of Lele, per se, but have dined at I`o, by the same chef, and enjoyed that greatly. The Feast was right next door, so maybe we had the "best of both worlds?"

        Hunt

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          All in all, it was still excellent. I just had extremely high expectations based on our last visit.

          1. re: Nicole

            One would have high expectations when going to a fine restaurant, That involved decor, service and fairly complete supply of drinks. That's why we are willing to spend more in these restaurants. Lack of those, we might as well go to regular restaurants. I sometimes of the opinion that these fine restaurants are over-rated without delivering the real service. This is just my opinion.

            1. re: roro808

              Service was below expectations at mamas fish house and Amasia, but exceeded my rather high expectations everywhere else. Nicks fish market in particular had extraordinary service.

            2. re: Nicole

              Thank you for this list! Do you need reservations at any of the places listed?

              1. re: lavendula

                I made reservations everywhere, but I'm a planner. Not sure if they were always needed, but then again September tends to be a less busy time in Maui. You absolutely need reservations for the feast at lele, a friend tried to make them about a week in advance and couldn't get in. Both times I went I made the reservation about 6 weeks in advance and got seated in the front row in front of the stage. So for that one at least it pays to plan.

                1. re: Nicole

                  I don't think we will be doing a luau because I am vegetarian and it probably won't be worth it food wise - unless you think it still would be?

                  1. re: lavendula

                    I don't think it's worth it if you are a vegetarian.

        2. This is a great report! Thank you!

          I was all set to go to Mama's on our November trip to Maui, but now I'm not sure it's worth it. What do others think?

          8 Replies
          1. re: cbn456

            If you do decide to do a special meal elsewhere, I would recommend nicks fish market on the south side of the island, or based on my last trip Merriman's on the west side (it has been a long time since I was there though). I'll be eager to hear what others have to say about mamas, in my opinion it's not worth it, but other people love this place.

            1. re: Nicole

              We're actually attending a wedding with the reception at Nick's (and we're staying at the Fairmont), so I'm very excited about that. Still on the fence about Mama's. Spago is creeping up on my wish list. Maybe surpassing Mama's. We have 4 dinners to plan, but I'm going to have to limit the high-end dinners to 2-3. I was thinking Amasia too, but if we're going to Alan Wong's in Honolulu, maybe I don't need to do Amasia too...decisions decisions.

              1. re: cbn456

                I definitely preferred spago to both mamas and Amasia. And it's very close to where you'll be staying, to boot. I've also read good things about Ko in the Fairmont, we didn't visit but it was next on my list when I was planning.

            2. re: cbn456

              We thought it was worth it but we went right around sunset, so the atmosphere was quite special.

              1. re: cbn456

                I've been going to Mama's for many years and one report saying service was an issue is NOT the norm!
                Mamas is fantastic with some of the best fish selections on the island.
                It is expensive and I prefer lunch to dinner since I enjoy the view and I stay in the Kapalua area and that is a long haul after mai tais and wine.
                Sunset for dinner is lovely.

                IMHO, luau's are a waste of $$ and with below average food, watered down drinks.
                Spend the $220+ tax and tip for two at other great resto's and you can always catch a fire/dance shows in any of the resorts.

                Aloha

                1. re: Beach Chick

                  Totally agree on the luau.

                  I did enjoy my trip to Mama's. Nothing wrong with the food and the view was great but it is a bit high $ considering other options and fresh fish should not be hard to find on Maui. I would recommend someone going at least once and lunch is a wonderful option to keep cost down.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Have you been to the feast at lele? It's not a typical luau, it's a seated 5 course dinner (not buffet) with high quality food that is generally on par with the restaurants from the same owner (i'o, pacific i'o). And the show is excellent, way better than the hula shows at the resort. It's supposed to be a journey through 5 areas of the south pacific, you experience the food and the dance of the region.
                    Again, not saying that the food at mama's is not enjoyable, it certainly is, I just think there are several places with better food on the island, at a lower price point. Mama's was good, but ultimately disappointing because I expected great.

                    1. re: Nicole

                      And at the price point I will agree it isn't great. It's good but not great. No doubt you are paying for more than the food

              2. Excellent report Nicole! Thanks for taking the time to post it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Joebob

                  It's my pleasure. Thanks all for taking the time to respond. :)

                2. It's been a long time since I've been to Mama's but the only thing that stuck in my mind was the number of Mai Tais they were cranking out per minute, non stop, times $12 each. The amount of money charged per minute boggled the mind.

                  1. Great report, I agree on Mama's. We like it for the setting, but it is a poor value and food wise, probably not top ten on Maui, but we still go, most often as our last meal on the way to the airport. I wouldn't do it over most of the ones mentioned already and a couple like Plantation House and Merriman's.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: scottca075

                      .... good discussion However, sometimes we overlook the not so superb food and service when we dine with stars in our eyes.. Hence all the different perception on the subject :)

                    2. awesome post! makes me miss the islands even more!