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Three Maui Dinners You Shouldn't Miss

Article by Shannon Wianecki

A bronzed young man in surf trunks carries two huge fish up the steps from Kaanapali Beach—gold and turquoise mahimahi in one hand and silver ono in the other. Diners in a nearby restaurant watch in amazement as the fisherman marches his catch straight into the kitchen, where the chef is only too happy to filet that night's special.

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To jaded city-folk, this scene might appear staged. But it's common practice on Maui, where dinner plates are piled high with gourmet greens picked from a friend's garden and fish caught that very morning. The island's many award-winning chefs attempt to dazzle your senses with a blend of tropical flavors and fresh produce, combined with a playful passion borne of living in paradise. Don't leave the Valley Isle without sampling the best of its cuisine—particularly the seafood you're unlikely to enjoy anywhere else.

Dress up for dinner at Spago in the Four Seasons Resort Maui, where celebs snack on lavosh and behind the larger-than-life sea anenome prints, Chef Cameron Lewark works culinary magic. Ordinary tomato soup becomes a rich and savory "cappuccino" and tofu takes flight, dressed in an angelic coconut curry. No one can get enough of the ahi poke appetizer—crunchy sesame cones filled with spiced cubes of glistening fish. (In the Four Seasons Resort Maui, 3900 Wailea Alanui Rd, Wailea (808) 879-2999.

Born and trained in the Gascony region of France, Chef/Owner Gerard Reversade of Gerard's has yet to lose his Old World accent. If anything, the award-winning chef's impeccable attention to detail has only sharpened over three decades of cooking on Maui. His traditional dishes—mint-crusted rack of lamb, roasted Hawaiian snapper with fennel fondue, and ahi (tuna) stew ("Just like in the Basque Country," claims the menu) are each outstanding. While not oceanfront, the charming atmosphere of the streetside inn matches the romance of the meal. (174 Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina (877) 661-8939 www.gerardsmaui.com)

The coastal and mountain views from nearly every seat at Pineapple Grill in Kapalua are delicious enough—but once you dig into Chef Ryan Luckey's Pacific Rim menu, you'll forget to look up from your plate. Pistachio-crusted ahi (tuna) atop sumptuous coconut-scented black rice and an elegant stack of hamachi (yellowtail) and unagi (freshwater eel) with yuzu vinaigrette are but two mouth-watering choices from a list of sustainably-caught seafood entrees. The restaurant's well-stocked cellar offers many choice wine pairings—ask managing partner Chris Kaiwi for suggestions. (200 Kapalua Dr., Kapalua (808) 669-9600 www.pineapplekapalua.com)

Also try:
David Paul's Lahaina Grill
Plantation House

More casual:
Café o Lei
Café Des Amis

Ultra-casual/Take out:
Aloha Mixed Plate
Paia Fishmarket
Honokowai Okazuya
Ichiban Okazuya


Shannon Wianecki investigates the often-contentious territory dividing her two passions: sustainability and luxury travel. Her articles on food, travel, social dilemmas, and the environment have been published in magazines throughout the US and Australia. As Food Editor for Maui No Ka Oi Magazine, she takes the pulse of the Pacific dining scene in "Gossip Gourmet." She's the author of several travel books, most recently Fodors Maui 2007. Read her work at www.shannonwianecki.com.

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