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Apr 10, 2013 03:57 PM

West and Upcountry Maui recs?

Hey Chowhounders!

I'm traveling with mostly first-timers to Maui for a wedding (and I haven't been in years). Any suggestions? We will be staying in the Kaanapali area for a week, and a few days in Upcountry (Makawao).

Looking for 1-2 "nicer" dinner options, but mostly for casual/in-between-casual-and-nicer places. Definitely looking for some gems, plate lunch, asian food, and some good places to grab a drink. So far I've got a few on the list, which are mostly in West Maui area.

- Sansei Sushi at Kapalua (any other sushi recs?)
- Ululani's for shaved ice
- Honokowai okazuya & deli for plate lunch (any other recs?)
- Star Noodle

Any help is appreciated! especially on the "grab a drink" section - last time I was there, I wasn't 21 yet ...

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  1. BEGGING you to skip Sansei!! Wasn't worth it, was mediocre at best- a major disappointment, What baffles me is that it's the " go to place" when ppl inquire about where to go, but it's rather awful.

    7 Replies
    1. re: MRS

      I find your comment lacking any sort of credibility beyond negativity with no back up. I told the Chowhound team my concerns and they didn't respond. I'm disappointed with them. Sansei is a really nice place and I have had many wonderful meals there I can provide details unlike you.

      1. re: manomin

        MRS may have been over the top re Sansei, but it is just OK-not-great in my book. Perhaps the overhyping by locals has made unreasonable expectations.

        1. re: sal_acid

          I can see an "expectations" issue.

          We have enjoyed Sensei, but never felt that it lived up to the hype on this, and a few other boards.

          Still, I would recommend it - good, but maybe not great. However, at the price-point, not sure that one should truly expect great?


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            SANSEI is the spelling and it was fabulous this past weekend. I ate there twice. I will post pictures tomorrow. Great service especially laudable as it was the Kapalua WIne & Food Festival and the resort was jammin' everywhere. Hats off to them and their chefs.

            1. re: manomin

              Thanks for the correction. Maybe I declared "wine-thirty" too early, and mixed up my A with my E?


            2. re: Bill Hunt

              I'm glad others have had a better experience than we did. I guess manomin is very passionate about this place, and that's a good thing. In our experience of eating sushi, our dining there really underwhelmed us and we were indeed perplexed by the rave reviews, but that's just our experience.
              I was merely responding to the fact that if OP wanted a really great sushi experience, I didn't think SANSEI ( spelled correctly) was it.
              The end.

              1. re: MRS

                When you write 'BEGGING you to skip Sansei' that is a pretty severe statement and most of us who live or visit often to Maui enjoy Sansei for a decent sushi place.

                Manomin is a local islander and I trust her explicitly.
                I've always had great rolls there while up in Kapalua and in HNL.
                IMO, SF, LA and SD do sushi way better than the islands.

      2. I was in Maui in March:
        Ululani's shaved ice - worth trying! I went to the one in Lahaina, they have 3 locations

        Star Noodle - I found it over-rated, but I'm from SF Bay Area & lots of Chinese food there, I thought Panda Express was better & I don't even like Panda Express, plus the wait to eat there is Insane over 1hr wait at 6pm on a Wed, we ended doing take-out at Star Noodle, overpriced Asian-fusion food, blach. Garlic noodle $10 large no garlic taste at all, 2 pork buns for $10 - it's pork belly which is mostly fat, average at best. Skip it! I took a pic of them together, but they were boxed separately.

        Surfing Goat Dairy - might be good for kids to play with the goats & if u like goat cheese, I only did the free samples, they give u about 4 tiny spoons tasting of different cheeses they have & 1 of the fancy feta cheese.

        Tedeschi Vineyards - try the Pineapple Wine - 2 tiny pours of their famous Pineapple wine - Maui Splash their best-seller. I couldn't taste any pineapple, I thought I smelled it at first, not a wine person, but I tried it. Public bathrooms available in another building, gift shop, friendly staff, no pressure to buy.

        Grandma's Coffee House - Saw in Sunset magazine. tried the Pineapple Coconut Chewy Bar $2.75 a square - nice. I should have bought a slice of the Pineapple Banana Dream Cake $4.75/slice. Coffee I didn't try, wish I did cuz it's Maui Coffee - cafe latte $3.65/3.85.

        Kula Country Farms - Famous for their strawberries. They have a food truck & casual outdoor seating. Friend liked the fried fish tacos 2 tacos for $6, I got Kula strawberry salad $8 - ok; tropical smoothie $4 fine, strawberry shortcake $7 ok. They have You-Pick Strawberry good for kids - I didn't ask how much. I got a 1lb of fresh strawberries in their shop $3 & I counted 20 strawberries - wash before eating. I ate them next day all of them, good.

        Some pics I took below.

        6 Replies
        1. re: hhc

          Excellent list and pics too..

          In regards to Sansei at Kapalua, its decent and fine for what it it the best, no, but good rolls and happy hour is fun, albeit a little crazy.

          Hula Grill and Duke's for happy hour

          1. re: hhc

            those strawberries ... look amazing.

            adding grandma's coffee house, putting surfing goat dairy/vineyards/kula country farms as a "swing by," i think we'll be passing through all those places at one point or another.


            1. re: ellenmellen

              The Kula strawberry pie at Monkeypod Kitchen near Wailea is great... The strawberries themselves I bought and I thought they were fine, but not as good as some of the NY state ones I've had (Tristars).

            2. re: hhc

              We loved Foodlands Farm Grocery Store for poke with or without rice. We got just poke, then got a made-to-order salad & ate that for 2 dinners, had poke with rice another dinner, & got got more poke w/ rice to eat at the airport. Wish I bought another bowl for plane ride back - there isn't any liquids really just fish & rice!

              Get Kona coffee glazed Mac Nuts - I wish I bought more cans to take home. Costco near the airport sells mixed containers or the plain ones. Wish I bought the mixed containers. Costco also sells Hersey Kisses Mac Nuts - only sold in HI someone said, so if you like those get them at Costco.

              1. re: hhc

                The rice probably soaked up all of the sauce :) some places make their poke "wetter" so I you just get poke in a container, there will be liquids at the bottom.

              2. re: hhc

                I haven't been to Star Noodle in 2.5 years, but it breaks my heard to hear it compare to Panda Express. For starters, while I would call it Pan-Asian, the best dishes I had there (ate there twice, once dinner, once lunch) were not Chinese (although I did like the garlic noodles). Best Banh Xeo I've ever eaten, anywhere. I'd go back in a heart beat.

                Here's my report:


                and a report on upcountry Maui, in Part II of that trip:


                although I haven't been back so no idea how some of these places are doing now

              3. I second Grandma's for lunch- just charming. Bev Gannon's Hali'imaile (lunch), Kula Lodge (check out the Cost Gallery while there) and Makawao Steak House are favorites for dinner. Casanova Italian restaurant in Makawao is excellent as well. Enjoy!

                3 Replies
                1. re: kristen923

                  Absolutely love Kula Lodge. Have never been there when a fire wasn't roaring in the fireplace. And to have a view of the ocean ALL AROUND Maui is wonderful. What is the name of that wonderful bakery in Makawao? I always forget the name but I can drive right to it. Learned during our annual sojourn to Maui last year that it is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays, and, of course, we went Up Country on a Wednesday. Didn't make that mistake again this year!!!

                  1. re: pilotgirl210

                    Komoda Store & Bakery
                    Address: 3674 Baldwin Ave, Makawao, HI 96768
                    Phone:(808) 572-7261
                    Monday 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
                    Tuesday 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
                    Wednesday Closed
                    Thursday 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
                    Friday 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
                    Saturday 7:00 am – 2:00 pm
                    Sunday Closed

                2. Sansei is good for half priced fusion sushi rolls. The cooked items are hit or miss. The positive reviews are more for the value/price than pristine fish or level of craft. The rice is kind of meh. If you come from a large city (looks like you've lived in Chicago & Boston?) with excellent/authentic sushi, you will be disappointed.

                  Best sushi I've had in Maui is at a place in South Maui, called Koiso. Tiny and reservations absolutely required. I don't think they can do more than 4 people (there is a small sushi bar and literally 1 table). But it's a bit of a drive from where you'll be staying.

                  I like Local Food a lot for plate lunch. Lahaina Grill for dinner. Makawao looks to be about a 20 min drive to Mama's Fish House in Paia, for a nicer dinner with great atmosphere.

                  Cocktails on Maui leave much to be desired, if that is what you seek in terms of "somewhere to grab a drink." There are places with great atmosphere, though.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kathryn

                    thanks, this is super helpful!

                    good to know about sansei, i'll move that to a skip and add koiso - our group is a bunch discerning palates (esp. when it comes to sushi).

                    for drinks, not looking for anything in specific - just a good vibe / atmosphere, not too chain-y or tourist-y. if you have any suggestions, i'd love to hear!

                    1. Hula Grill and Duke's in Ka'anapali are great for happy hour on the beach.

                      Drive to Kihei is about an hour each way from West Maui, so I would do your sushi when you are in Makawao.

                      Jawz food truck at Makena beach has some good grub after snorkeling all day..Maui Tacos are pretty decent too.

                      Mama's Fish House for nicer dinner options..pricey but very good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Beach Chick

                        awesome, thanks for the recs. we're staying right near duke's when in west maui, so that's perfect to hear.