When visiting Maui, my husband and I abide by two strict food rules: Eat simply by day and dine decadently by night, and always ensure meals are accompanied by sunset vistas. We came to this cuisine conclusion after years of Hawaiian palate-testing, restaurant-hopping, and finding the sweet spot between taste and ambiance.
If these two rules seem a little too “silver spoon” for your taste, let me assure you: We’re the ones who pick up pineapple chunks and a banana from the ABC Store for breakfast and share a salad for lunch. All said, our 9 a.m.-5 p.m. food bill usually comes out to US$17 with tip, leaving us with a range of financial wiggle room in the evening.
To make the most of nightly occasion, we always dress up (mingling island-style and urban), and, once in our seats, order a mixture of appetizers, entrees, drinks, and desserts—if we have any space left—to share. Our food-sharing philosophy means there’s never a dull moment, and we can taste almost every surf-and-turf dish that makes our eyes flutter.
Bon Appétit; savor sustenance and sunsets at these top five Maui restaurants.
Mama’s Fish House
Rated one of the top Maui restaurants by food critics and aspiring foodies alike—in 2013 it won best restaurant in a Zagat reader survey—Mama’s Fish House is where tropical and taste come together. Mingling rustling palms, a secluded cove, flickering tiki torches, kitschy ocean finds, vintage Polynesian-print tablecloths, and a fresh catch (as in, caught that morning) this famous restaurant-come-dining-institution is located just past Paia on Maui’s North Shore. Splurge-worthy entrees calling the fisherman by name such as “deep-water ahi caught ten miles offshore from Hana by Matt Smith with Hamakua mushroom sauce and Molokai sweet potato mash” only add to the ocean-to-table, candlelit atmosphere.
Named after Hawaii’s state fish, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, in the Grand Wailea – A Waldorf Astoria Resort, embodies all that is exotic, with its thatched-roof bungalows, seafood-forward menu, and sundowner exposure. Set on wooden stilts and slats above a million-gallon saltwater lagoon teeming with tropical fish, dining at Humuhumu will make you want to freeze-frame your life and linger in the moment (which I do every time I’m on the island).
Alan Wong’s Amasia
Alan Wong’s Amasia, also in the Grand Wailea, is the only exception to my dining-with-a-sunset-view rule because the dishes are a perfect example of delicate dance between art and sustenance, and it is helmed by Chef Alan Wong, recognized by Bon Appetit Magazine as the “master of Hawaiian regional cuisine.” Located in a Japanese Tea House brought over piece-by-piece from Japan, the East-meets-West dining concept doesn’t spare any expense—even the surrounding rocks are quarried from Mt. Fuji. Make sure to arrive early to snap a few exterior photos in the Japanese garden as the golden, end-of-day light reflects off the koi pond and illuminates teahouse with a mystic glow.
Viewfinder Tip: If you’re unable to make reservations for these hot-ticket restaurants in advance, sit at the bar, or talk to the host about last-minute cancellations or dining at off-peak hours.
Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante
When I’m dining in a destination I always try to eat local dishes. Though I make an exception for Ferraro’s alfresco, seaside perch and Italian fare since I can’t eat tuna poke or macadamia-encrusted mahi mahi every night of my Maui-cation. As the only completely open-air, beachside restaurant in Wailea, Ferraro’s wind-in-your-hair setting and tiered seating (so everyone gets a ocean view) speaks to my sun-deprived soul, while the kiawe wood-burning oven speaks to my stomach. Intimate and approachable, leave this Italian eatery in the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea for a date night, and make sure to get there just before sundown to toast your beau with a bottle of Prosecco and hand-cut pasta.
Ever since the Renaissance Resort closed shop and a 15-acre piece of northern Wailea Beach real estate sat empty for half a decade, I’ve been obsessed with what hotel will take over the coveted space, and what nouveau restaurants it will feature. As a fan of all things sleek and stylish, I was elated to find out the Andaz Maui at Wailea (Hyatt’s hip brand) would undertake a mega renovation and open in mid-2013, and the modern masterpiece would house the Maui outpost of one of my favorite Iron Chefs, Masaharu Morimoto. Serving locally-sourced ingredients from the land and sea, Morimoto Maui’s multi-page menu serves everything from Chef’s famous tuna pizza (which I’ve gushed about before in “Honolulu’s chic eats“) to hand-rolled sushi, noodles and raw bar fish. Request a seat on the grey- and cream-colored terrace to pair Chef’s custom-brewed Junmai sake and sushi with the ocean view.
What restaurants do you splurge on when you visit Maui?