Story by Becky Speere
The Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai
When my friend Maria said, “OMG! Her food reminds me of [a certain Top Chef’s] creations,” I knew I had to taste chef Sam Basques’s dishes. And her steak crudo* and ‘ahi poke-tini (pronounced po-kay-tee-nee) definitely met the criteria for onolicious delight.
For the steak crudo, the New York strip was cooked rare then sliced thin and served with Guamanian finadene, a Chamorro sauce akin to salsa. With just the right amount of tartness steeped in umami, the sauce tastes of tamari, vinegar, jalapeños and onions, and the dish is finished with a seven-spice chili oil.* It paired perfectly with an ice-cold Bikini Blonde from Maui Brewing Company.
The poke-tini consisted of a martini glass filled with fresh ‘ahi, avocado and furikake — a sesame and nori-flaked condiment — which was embellished with white truffle oil and wasabi aioli. It definitely hit all the marks for freshness, flavor and fun.
Now imagine noshing on these dishes while admiring the expansive beachfront at Napili Bay. That’s a recipe for perfection.
Napili Kai Beach Resort, 5900 Honoapi’ilani Hwy., (808) 669-1500
*Go to MauiMagazine.net/steak-crudo for these recipes.
A Saigon Café
Consistency. That’s what you’ll find at Jennifer Nguyen’s Saigon Café. I know this because I’ve been eating her food ever since she was a one-woman show on Lower Main Street in the early 90s.
I recommend the Vietnamese burrito, a fun, interactive dish served with chargrilled marinated beef or tofu, rice paper wrappers and a mountain of fresh veggie condiments. My other go-to is a specialty of the house — the Tom Ram, a.k.a., Garden Party Shrimp. The prawns are fried crisp then sautéed in a highly-seasoned sauce with nam pla, onions and other secret ingredients which, when blended together, simply cry out for a bowl of rice. Either dish will leave you with a happy opu (belly).
1792 Main Street, Wailuku, (808) 243-9560
Miso Phat Sushi
The chefs at Miso Phat Sushi — who won the 2020 ‘Aipono Gold Restaurant Award for Best Sushi — do not skimp on the fish, and you’re always guaranteed to get your money’s worth when you visit.
Try the TNT Roll — a shrimp tempura and crab delight topped with ‘ahi poke, unagi sauce and agave honey — which owners Joy and Shawn Steadman say is so big you might explode! Or indulge in a torched salmon roll topped with tobiko, ginger and kabayaki sauce for the ultimate in blended savory flavors. Want to really experience their expert sushi service? Go for the Miso Phat Omakase (Chef’s choices) and leave feeling, well, Phat.
Azeka Shopping Center Mauka, 1279 S. Kihei Rd., (808) 891-6476 | IG @misophatsushi_kihei
4310 Lower Honoapi’ilani Hwy., Kahana, (808) 669-9010 | IG @misophatlahaina
The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua
Your lunchtime burger has left your tummy but it’s not quite time for dinner — what to do? Grab a light snack at the Alaloa Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua. Their new food and libations menu features a bevy of global tastes, such as hulihuli (Hawaiian-style brined and kiawe-smoked) chicken or a creamy Mediterranean hummus served with a rainbow of fresh, locally-sourced Maui vegetables, which are brought over daily from a nearby farm. After a day of sun and fun, the culinary team at the Ritz knows just what you need. Enjoy a nibble, watch the whales and know that life is good.
1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Kapalua, (808) 669-6200
Very few restaurants in Hawai‘i can boast having a resident pizzaiolo, a certified Italian-schooled pizza chef, but Maui’s 2020 Gold winner for Best Italian food is one of them. After years of handson dough-time, owner Michele di Bari has perfected a recipe that corrects for humidity and tropical temperatures. Using 100-percent, imported “OO” flour, he mixes and kneads the dough early in the day and lets it rest nearly eight hours. When it’s time to get cooking, the dough is rolled out and prepared to make what I consider to be the best pizza on-island.
After a spell in the 800-degree oven, a piping hot pizza lands on your table, crisp and bubbly, yet with a nice chew and just the right amount of saltiness from hand-pulled mozzarella (which Michele makes daily). From creamy gorgonzola and pears to prosciutto and rosemary to a classic Margherita with house-made marinara and sweet Genovese basil — whichever pie you choose is sure to satisfy. Andiamo a mangiare!
878 Front St., Lahaina, (808) 667-7667 | IG @salepepemaui