1 Ritz Carlton Drive, Kapalua, 665-7089
Open Thurs.-Mon. (closed Tues.-Wed.), 5:30-9:30pm
Don’t let the elegant decor in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton intimidate you—once you’re inside Kai Sushi it’s time to let your hair down, relax and enjoy world-class Japanese cuisine. You can even bring the kids.
The big woven grass chairs and warm wood tones set a neutral backdrop for the beautiful and invigorating fish and sushi rolls; it’s very Zen. Come at sunset when you can still see the ocean vista while you dine on their covered lanai. Another compelling reason to come is their half-off kama‘aina deal (with Hawaii ID), every day from 5:30 to 6:30pm.
Chef Tadashi Yoshino and his team have been honing their sushi prowess together for years. The style and pace is very Japanese, each plate taking on its own fleeting art form and then vanishing before your eyes (and into your mouth). “Start with the tuna tataki salad. Then the kai roll and the shrimp tempura rolls,” Chef Tadashi advises. “Those are our best sellers. But don’t forget the poke—we have the best ahi poke.”
The ahi tataki is so gorgeous when it arrives, I had an inner struggle before attacking it. The daikon and sweet Maui onion form a mountain while the expertly sliced ahi pieces lay against it, embellished with tobiko, aioli and kaiware sprouts forming a peak at the top. It’s a sashimi volcano.
If you’re up for cocktials, try the kai kumo. The drink is milky and cloudy, the color of wasabi, but don’t be alarmed. The blissfully sweet flavors of honeydew connect with sake to give you a new-experience martini. For sake purists, the sake flight is a delicious way to go.
Sushi is one of the most aesthetically pleasing foods, a kaleidoscope of color and texture, but if it isn’t delicious it’s a waste. Every morsel of sushi here is divine. The California roll, the iconic fusion starter for the uninitiated, is like a gateway drug to sushi, made here with real crab and elevated to Hollywood status.
If you sit at the sushi bar you get the full treatment from the chefs. Eating omakase means letting the sushi chefs design your meal and craft your dining experience. Chef Tadashi says the secret to amazing sushi is “fresh fish, good rice and strong wasabi with good-looking sushi chefs.” From the view at the bar, they’ve nailed it.
Kai has a small menu but it offers more than the essentials. The appetizers are a rich add-on, including braised shortrib potstickers with a citrus soy glaze and mu shu chicken, little white steamed breads with a shiitake chicken filling you scoop onto them yourself.
Self-parking is free, but even better, valet is free if you’re dining at the Ritz. It’s a short walk from the valet to the restaurant, where you’ll find yourself surrounded and satiated by stunning sushi in mere moments