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Jan 9, 2013 05:02 PM

Zagat 2013 Restaurants Top 10 Oahu and top 5 Maui

Not sure if anyone's interested but they just listed the top 10 restaurants on Oahu and the top 5 restaurants on Maui for their 2013 Hawaii Guide. I think the only surprise for me is that they have Mitch's at #2.
1. La Mer
2. Mitch's Sushi
3. Alan Wong's
4. Sushi Sasabune
5. Chef Mavro
6. Michel's
7. Hiroshi's Eurasian Tapas
8. Le Bistro
9. Orchids
10. Hy's Steak House

1.Mama's Fish House
3.Hali'imaile General Store
5.Lahaina Grill

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  1. Interesting, and thank you for sharing.

    Mitch's is not THAT big a surprise to me (Russkar took us for the first time, and it was excellent), but think that I would have had it about #5, but that is just me.

    We missed Sushi Sasabune, so cannot comment - they were closed on our free day.

    I have got to make it to Le Bistro, as it keeps coming up so very often.

    For Maui, and based on the last three trips, I might swap # 3 for # 5 (still a Bev Gannon fan), and then move the others up a notch.

    On this board, I do not feel that Gerard's gets the love, that it deserves - maybe not the love, that we give it?

    I am a bit surprised that I`o did not make the cut, but then with only 5, maybe they were number 6?



    PS - as per comments in a couple of other threads, Michel's rose in our eyes, thanks to some Hawai`i CH's pushing us. Glad that they did.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Good to see Gerard's getting some respect. I agree that it does seem to be overlooked by Chowhound. We just returned from a trip to Kaanapali, and we weren't able to find anything outstanding that we hadn't tried before, but did manage to have a dinner at Gerard's and a lunch at Mama's Fish House which were both excellent as usual.

      One of these days I would really like to try HGS but we never seem to get over to that side of the island more than once during any trip, which forces a choices between HGS and Mama's.

      1. re: Truffle Dog

        I agree, at least from MY experiences.

        Not sure why Gerard's does not get the respect, that some allow it, but maybe too many just want to do "beach dining," when on Maui, and do not appreciate a fine-dining location?

        On Maui, our favorites have been:

        Mama's Fish House
        Merriman's Kapalua


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Just made a reservation for dinner tonight at i'o based on your recommendation Hunt.

          Don't let me down on this one.

      2. re: Bill Hunt

        As always, Zagat Guide being biased in favor of sushi places.

      3. Very glad but a bit surprised to see Hy's on the list. I would have expected to see Roy's or Hoku's. I wonder how Azure feels about not making it. Still the best service I've ever had, but the food, while beyond very good just lacked that fine edge.

        Does anything know much about Fresco at the Hilton? Saw some food pics that looked really good, but food pics usually do.

        3 Replies
        1. re: KaimukiMan


          Is Fresco at the HHV?

          I have not heard of it, but have not paid much attention to that property, since Bali by the Sea went way downhill, and then became another "steakhouse."

          Mahalo, and aloha,


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Yes Bill, its been open about a year now I think. They just revamped their menu (I always wonder about that word, re-vamped - considering what a vamp is). Seems to get mixed reviews on yelp, but doesn't everything.

            1. re: KaimukiMan

              Gosh, guess that we have been doing the Halekulani to much recently. I missed that one at the HHV

              Coming back, and Hilton woo'ed me to try them again, but in the Vacations areas, so will need to scope it out.

              For about 25 years, the HHV was a great place to stay, with some realistic dining options, but then, things changed, and not for the better.


        2. Please, someone tell me why Star Noodle is not on this list. Sheldon Simeon and staff have a first rate place, and they're well-known. Merriman's is overrated and so, too, is Mama's. Try getting a reservation at either and walk out with money in your pocket. Star Noodle is a treasure of creative Asian fusion and Sheldon is currently among thre 7 finalists on Top Chef Seattle.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Snagglepuss113

            The Zagat lists are always the top scoring restaurants in that category as VOTED on by the people who actually fill out Zagat surveys. It's usually skewed towards higher end dining.

            Like Yelp, Zagat can warn you of the really bad places, but the "wisdom of crowds" in most cases doesn't work at all. And who knows how many restaurants are encouraging their fans to vote early and often?

            I rarely agree with the Zagat crowd in other cities...

            1. re: kathryn

              Agreed. Zagat is not directed to super foodie forefront of whats hip customers. It does the job however, if you're relatively new to dining out.


              1. It is interesting.

                Mama's would not make my top 5 on Maui and while I like Le Bistro, if I am heading that way it is to Roy's.

                Sushi Sasabune wouldn't be top five in sushi for me either, so not top 10 overall.

                17 Replies
                1. re: scottca075

                  Why not Mama's and Sasabune? I had fish at both that I'll remember a long time.

                  1. re: Joebob

                    I think Honolulu has three to four better sushi spots without the drama and attitude.

                    As to Mama's I am just not impressed or at least not as impressed as so many others are. I've had good fish there, good service and its a lovely setting, but there are a half dozen restaurants that put out better food that could be on this list including Spago, DUO and Ferraro's to name a few. I think people are sucked into the "John Smith caught this fish" thing and that with the setting creates a memory whose sum is greater than the component parts.

                    1. re: scottca075

                      So which of those Honolulu sushi spots (beside Mitch's) do you prefer?

                      1. re: Joebob

                        Sushi Izakaya Gaku, Mitch's, Kin Chan Sushi, Yanagi Sushi, Sushi ii, Imanas Tei, Morio's Sushi Bistro would all rank ahead of it in terms of food and experience.

                        The quality of the seafood at Sasabune is absolutely top notch, but it lacks the scope of the incredible menus at Gaku or Imanas Tei which are also complete izakayas.

                        And it lacks the intimacy of Kona Kai, Sushi ii or Kin Chan.

                        1. re: scottca075

                          While I can understand your reservations about Sasabune since you and others have had a bad experience, judging solely on quality based on multiple visits to the majority of places on your list, I would never put Kin-chan, Yanagi, Morio's or Imanas at the same level. Also I would include Kona Kai on that list as well, but that was based on my one visit there where the quality was good, but nothing stood out. All are very good sushi restaurants, but I have never had a piece at any of them that wowed me. Which reminds me that I do need to make a return visit to Kona Kai and still have yet to try sushi ii. Thanks for the reminder.

                          1. re: killersmile

                            To me sushi has always been about more than just the quality of the fish, but the quality of the overall experience. There is a zen like component to me in a great sushi spot and generally am not fond of abusive or dismissive chefs (except Ino in SF, that crazy old chef can abuse me all he wants he is just so amusing).

                            I've been to Sasabune three times now, always with clients and always the same experience. Since I've started taking them to the spots above, they've been happier. Me too. :)

                            1. re: scottca075

                              As long as your clients are happy, that's all that matters! Nothing is as horrible as feeling like you've subjected your guests to torture.

                          2. re: scottca075

                            Many many years ago I was in Hilo on business and stopped at a small but somewhat popular Japanese Restaurant for dinner. I believe it was called KK tei, but I wouldn't swear to it. Two of us ordered a plate of sashimi to split as an appetizer.

                            I thought I had died and gone to heaven. But I'm a white guy from california and figured maybe the fish in Hilo was always that good . . . until I saw my dining companion's face. He was/is Hawaiian Japanese mix, and the look on his face told me that I was right. This was no ordinary fish.

                            We called the waitress over to see if we could cancel our order and get two more plates of sashimi. Very patiently and kindly she explained that they realized how good it was, and it was only fair that they ration it, they were only allowing each table to have one order.

                            While I agree with Scott that sushi and sashimi is about more than the quality of the fish, in rare cases the quality of the fish can trump all else. I've been to Sasabune a couple of times, it was very very good. I've had very good sushi in several of the places that have been discussed from Akasaka (closed now) to Zippy's. But nothing has ever been as good as that one time in Hilo.

                        2. re: scottca075

                          Now, I AM a Mama's fan, but that has been because of the great seafood, service and wines, that I have encountered there. The "caught by" is just an interesting tid-bit, and might well be fiction, as some intimate. Still, I have had, up-to-the-minute addenda to the menu offered, after it was first presented, with changes involved, both about the fish and the fisherman. Show? Could be, but in the end, it has always been about the food, the service and the wines.

                          I have not done Spago, and it IS highly-recommended by trusted "Hounds." DUO and Ferraro's were both a bit of a let down, but with ONLY one experience per restaurant, I should not judge too harshly. Heck, my second trip to Michel's at the Colony Surf was the polar opposite from my first - thanks to Russkar for prodding me to go back.

                          Based on comments on CH, and nothing else, it seems that the biggest complaint was the price at Mama's. Going back many years, there was a battle raging on this board, regarding them. It was truly a love/hate thing. Because of that, we ventured across the Island, to see for ourselves. As the drive from West Maui was a bit of a trek, we could only do lunch. That was fabulous. I reported. We did that again, and again. We were so impressed that we gave up two free nights at the Ritz-Carlton, in a 2800 sq. ft. condo, to pay to stay at the Inn at Mama's, just to do dinner, which we did, three nights in a row, plus two lunches. In the end, it was well worth passing on additional nights at the Ritz, just to be within 20' of the restaurant, and not have to drive back to Kapalua. The closest thing to a "disappointment" that I had, was when they ran out of the "Phillipe Colin Montrachet '05." They had some others, but just not that one. Would I pass on the Ritz (for free) again, and pay to stay on-site? Yes, and my wife agrees.

                          Obviously, and at this level of dining, much comes down to personal preferences. My vote is still for Mama's Fish House, but who knows how they might have changed in 18 mos.?


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            I like Mama's, don't love it. I do think it is more expensive than it should be and that irritates me, but not enough to stop going.

                            I think what gets under my skin are the gushing "OMG, this is the greatest restaurants ever" reviews it gets. I get that folks from places that don't have the setting and ambiance of Mama's are bowled over by it, but would Mama's get a Michelin star? Is it a chef driven restaurant with amazing tastes and combinations that you have never experienced before? Unique methods of cooking? Any sous vide, liquid nitrogen or anything creative? I am not saying anything is bad there, the food tastes yummy and the service is great, but it is not more creative than Hula Grill (ouch! I know that is a low blow, but consider it hyperbole).

                            I think Mama's is a great place for the quintessential Hawaii experience, I just don't think it deserves the price they command and if they can bring you an "updated" menu before you've ordered, they can certainly figure out a way to put prices on the menus :)

                            1. re: scottca075

                              At a restaurant, like Mama's Fish House, I would not anticipate (and probably not appreciate) a bunch of cryo-techniques. Same for being fed by blind eunuchs in total darkness. I will leave that for other venues.

                              As for the total dining experience there, it has always been very, very good to great. Stars? I do not think that they deserve one, but then, where in Hawai`i, would you suggest. La Mer comes the closest, but still is a tad short, at least in my book. OTOH, we just did two 3-star restaurants in Paris. One earned those stars easily, where the other should not have had one, by my experience. At another restaurant (chef does have several 2-star locations, but not that one), I was underwhelmed. Such is life, and one must roll with the punches.

                              As for the prices, maybe we have just been inoculated to "resort prices," due to our travels. I have never had an issue there, and even with the wines (we usually delve into the higher-end Burgs), based on being in a "resort." Their prices are about what I pay in San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, DC. They are less (though with fewer selections), than London, Paris and NYC.

                              As for "prices on the menu," I do not recall any presented menu - existing, or via an addendum, where there were not prices, but maybe I missed something.

                              They are not Restaurant Daniel, Joel Robuchon's La Masion, La Bernardine, French Laundry, Per Se, Guy Savoy's or Everest. However, they are right up near the top for Hawai`i restaurants, by my experiences. In general terms, I would rank them right behind La Mer and Chef Mavro's, and fighting with AW's King Street, depending on the night. Not really bad company.

                              You mention "unique methods of cooking," but then one IS in Hawai`i. It would be like looking for New Orleans Cuisine, but with strong examples of molecular gastronomy - not likely to happen. I want fresh seafood, prepared very well, with wines to pair with the dishes, and at a fair price. For me, they meet those criteria very well, or have, on all of my visits. For "creativity," maybe El Bulli? - no wait, they closed.

                              Just my culinary observations,


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                i couldn't find a way to private message you, so i'll post here:

                                you're a professional food/wine critic?
                                could you explain about the michelin stars?


                                1. re: indelibledotink

                                  No. I am not a professional food, or wine critic. I am just a person, who enjoys great food, and fine wines, and will try to mold my travels to suit my tastes, plus those of my loving wife.

                                  As for the "stars," I do not "collect" those, though my wife might have a different opinion. Still, she is a beneficiary of my longings. She is also as critical, or maybe even more so, than I am, when things are less than perfect. Some of that might be because she is a great cook, and could be a chef, were she not so focused on healthcare. If I hit the Lottery, I would open a restaurant, just for her, and send her to any culinary school, that she chose, before hand.

                                  I have a couple of hobbies, in my retirement, and two are close to one another - great food, and great wines. Because she still travels the globe on business, I get to pick the restaurants, and usually do pretty well. Some major hits, with but a few misses.

                                  In Hawai`i, we have several favorites, on different islands, and then try to add in some new places, many choices based on CH responses.

                                  I seldom plan an Hawaiian vacation, that does not include at least 3 nights on O`ahu, as we love to dine there. Depending on the available nights, we might only be able to hit some of those "favorites," but if the trip has more night on O`ahu, we try to add in something new. Same for Maui, Kaua`i, and the Big Island. We have not been to Lana`i, since some major changes have taken place, so we are not current on it. Unfortunately, we have never made it to Molo`kai, and fell that we might have missed a lot.

                                  We are in London 2 - 3x per year, and besides our personal dining, we usually host a number of "board dinners," so get to really pick and choose our restaurants. Same for Paris, though those excursions are all personal. Still, our dining is paramount to our travel experiences. Same for Rome, where we get to pick most meals, though a few have been for business, and sort of out of our hands.

                                  While we seldom do pure "culinary vacations," all DO feature food, and wine, to a great degree. Now, we ARE doing a trip to Burgundy (Dijon, and its environs) in the Spring, and we have booked our dinners, and even most lunches.

                                  We also do culinary/wine events at Blackberry Farm, about 2 - 3x per year, depending on the events.

                                  No, I am an amateur, but do love my food and wine, and try to schedule things around those loves.


                              2. re: scottca075

                                A single Michelin star denotes "a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard." Mama's certainly fits that description.

                              3. re: Bill Hunt

                                Who caused them to run out of the Montrachet, Hunt? Considering your fondness for white Burgundy, I think we both know the answer, don't we.

                                1. re: Joebob

                                  Well, they were doing OK, until we shucked two free nights at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, to pay to stay at the Inn at Mama's Fish House, and did two lunches and three dinners, only having to walk about 15 yards to our cottage (they need better landscape lighting, for wine drinkers!), and then, they started running low. Same for several restaurants in San Francisco, and also Blackberry Farm, with their 200,000+ wine cellar. The '05 Montrachets are no longer recommended, unless one specifically asks for them, as they are running low too. I think that all the restaurants in Paris must have demanded "CARE packages," after our last visit - only walking, or cabbing it, with zero driving involved. We did major damage there too.

                                  In San Francisco, Farallon, Le Jardinaire and Campton Place are now out of '05's, and moving on to the '06's and '07's, thanks to my young wife. Only so much wine, and given the time, those will soon be depleted. [Grin]


                                  PS - in Dec., La Mer still had one '05 Montrachet (at least when we got there), and so did Michel's at the Colony Surf. Not sure about now?