Story by Becky Speere
Maui Thai Bistro
Most Evocative Use of Flavors
Oey Meesook and Chit Tharnthong are past-life World Bank executives who decided to open a restaurant to introduce Maui to “true Thai flavors.” They hired Prakong Tongsod, a private chef and restaurant owner working in Washington, DC; she now grinds fresh herbs, roots, and spices for the mouthwatering curry dishes she creates for Maui Thai Bistro.
Lunch emphasizes traditional noodle and rice dishes; dinner offers shared dishes of seafood, meat, or vegetarian curries. Tom Yum shrimp-fried rice is so fragrant it’s like experiencing aromatherapy even before you taste the savory, tender grains; kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass permeate every breath and bite. The green mango salad, with a generous portion of crispy fish, is a delicate balance of sweet, sour, and saltiness, and just the right amount of chili spice. Try Chef’s macadamia-nut short ribs panang; the melt-in-your-mouth beef makes our list of 100 Dishes to Eat before You Die.” And for dessert, house-made black-sesame ice cream, or coconut ice cream with sugar-palm seeds and sticky rice.
2439 South Kihei Rd., Kihei
808-874-5605 • www.mauithaibistro.com
Maui Executive Catering
Most Intimate Chef’s Table
Who would think that the old Shishido Juice Packing Cannery in Ha‘iku could be the setting for luxurious dining? You and nine savvy friends! Congregate at the stainless-steel counter in Chef Jeff Scheer’s chic, professional kitchen, and prepare to be indulged. Chef prepares locally sourced ingredients, using such exotic techniques as sous vide (slow, low-temperature cooking) and “anti-griddle” — an appliance that flash-freezes food in seconds, creating lozenges with cold, crunchy exteriors and creamy centers. Don’t expect to finish in an hour; this is dining at a leisurely pace, all eight courses.
My experience began with an amuse-bouche of chilled fava-bean soup and pickled China radish presented in a shot glass. Pureed from beans grown at Kula’s Kupa‘a Farm, it was smooth and creamy with no dairy — just pure essence of fava beans picked that morning. Caramelized fennel and frilly mustard greens tossed in a light lemon-champagne vinaigrette were topped with crispy chicharrones and lush Sharwil avocado, and dusted with candied macadamia-nut crumble with a spicy attitude. Kampachi, a fish farmed in deep waters off the Kona Coast, was pan-seared to juicy perfection and laid on a bed of silky, fresh-milled polenta.
Just as you are counting on your fingers to remember what course you are on (you’ve lost track after five), here comes another tantalizing dish. Oh, since this is a kitchen, you get to bring your favorite bottles of wine!
810 Kokomo Rd, #150, Ha‘iku
808-575-9002 • www.mauiexecutivecatering.com
Sheraton Maui Resort
Most Romantic Dinner
A softly lit walkway leads to a secluded table for two and the invitation to awaken your senses. Plumeria blossoms perfume the air, and ocean waves lull the sand to sleep. This is the tranquil setting for Dining under the Stars, a romantic dinner a la the Sheraton Maui. Executive Chef Greg Gaspar has created three seasonal menus designed to evoke an amorous mood.Pu‘uwai (“Heart”) is four glorious courses whose entree is pan-roasted Hawaiian catch of the day, served with briny bay shrimp and buttery artichokes. Hokulani (“Heavenly Star”) is a five-course banquet combining a tender petit filet with sweet island prawns in a rich pinot blanc butter sauce. Ku‘uipo means “lover,” and how could you not love this chef’s delight of ever-so-decadent Maine lobster stuffed with Alaskan snow crab? On such a night, perhaps not all the stars will be in the Milky Way above you.
2605 Ka‘anapali Pkwy., Ka‘anapali
808-661-0031 • www.sheraton-maui.com
Plantation House Restaurant
Most Creative Star Chef Performance
On a hillside overlooking the eighteenth hole of Kapalua’s famed Plantation Course, the Plantation House has undergone some stellar changes since George Macklin ofTennis Magazine took ownership. Chief among them is that Jojo Vasquez, a 2012 Hawai‘i Rising Star chef, is at the kitchen’s helm. Having opened new restaurants for Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef Americafame, this young virtuoso creates seasonal menus like a master chef at his zenith. The kampachi tartare is hand-minced to order, bathed in delicate dashi-yuzu-soy sauce, and garnished with wakame, nasturtium and lime. Blood-red, vine-ripened Kula tomato is layered with buffalo mozzarella on a rich tomato gazpacho sauce, and dressed in bits of toasted hazelnut, balsamic syrup and basil pearls. Chef serves his traditionally prepared French cassoulet with a crisp-skinned, Hawaiian snapper filet; a fresh vegetable stock marries earthy white beans and mildly spiced Portuguese sausage, adding to the bucolic flavors of the dish. Desserts are a signature of Chef Jojo’s: velvety panna cotta made with a mango puree and topped with fresh coconut tapioca and berries; New York-style cheesecake with caramel swirls, simple syrup and lemon-flavored “compressed Granny Smith apple pearls.”
2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua
808-669-6299 • www.theplantationhouse.com
Most Deliciously Sustainable Dining
“We’ve been open since September 2013,” says Brent Martin, executive chef of the Hyatt’s LEED-certified, upscale Andaz Maui at Wailea.
On our recent visit, lunch delivered 100 percent Maui-sourced ingredients: Makawao-raised chicken marinated in garden-fresh herbs; a kale Caesar salad garnished with Asian pear, avocado, watermelon radish, sugar snap peas, and Surfing Goat Dairy feta; and waxy blue and yellow new potatoes in vinegar-spiked chimichurri sauce. A grilled-cheese-and-lobster sandwich, toasted to a buttery crunch, enveloped chunks (yes, chunks) of lobster meat in salty melted cheddar, running it off the charts in our book.
Also noteworthy is top-notch mixology at the bar. The Lokelani Swizzle perfectly compliments the foods and embodies freshness: white rum, rosehips, lemongrass-hibiscus tea with fresh lime and liliko‘i juices.
Every evening, local talent Chef Isaac Bancaco creates a la minute appetizers, entrees and desserts. Depending on the season, you may find a green salad and pumpkin-seed brittle with pumpkin vinaigrette, or Portuguese-style doughnuts with a center of meltingly delicious foie gras. How about vanilla lobster, or an island lamb gnocchi with goat cheese and pesto? Dietary preferences are catered to effortlessly.
This is contemporary and sustainable dining at the highest level.
Andaz Maui at Wailea
3550 Wailea Alanui, Wailea
808-573-1234 • firstname.lastname@example.org