Everyone has a food story. We all have some item or entree or ingredient that we’re passionate about eating. One of the first things I always ask people is what they love to eat and where they get it. Our island may be a small speck in the Pacific, but our food is epic. People travel thousands of miles for Maui’s dining, and we residents are lucky to get to explore it year-round.
For this year’s annual Maui restaurant & food issue, we’re exploring what Maui chefs, farmers and restaurateurs are eating when they are not working on bringing you the island’s best edibles. We asked them to describe a dish they wish they had thought of, something they wish they made, and where you can find it (as well as brag about some of their own accomplishments). Some of their answers may surprise, but they certainly won’t leave you disappointed.
I wish I made the crispy duck dish at Thailand Cuisine at Maui Mall. The dish is the perfect balance of lean meat with crispy skin. I also wish I made the carpaccio sashimi by Morimoto. The exquisite presentation, variety of fish and dressing make it a perfect dish.
Our most popular dish at Casanova is the linguine with chicken and fungi in cream sauce. We start with perfectly prepared fresh pasta and add savory wild Italian porcini mushrooms and sexy sinful garlic creams sauce topped by tender morsels of chicken breast. Let it slide. I’m also passionate about our black house-made squid ink linguine with seafood in a spicy tomato sauce. It brings me back to Venice, a town I love. Just come try it and we can smile together. It’s hot, fresh and good-looking.
1188 Makawao Ave.; CasanovaMaui.com
Ka‘ana Kitchen, Andaz Wailea
Ka‘ana Kitchen, Chef
Chef Eric Bartelome, the Andaz Maui Garde Manger chef, is a steam bun master and has just the right touch when it comes to peanut butter and jelly anything but his bao really takes PB&J to a new level. I wish I made the Peanut Butter and Jelly Bao. But, it has to be chunky peanut butter and Kula Country Farms strawberry Jam from Chauncey Monden. The soft delicate texture of Chef Eric’s steamed bun, mixed with the crunchy/nutty peanut butter and the perfect sweet and sour jam makes it “just like gramama used to” but even better.
The Roselani mac nut ice cream is another item I wish I made. One of my deepest and darkest secrets is that I can eat Eggo Waffles and ice cream five meals a day, eight days a week and 366 days a year. But it’s simple–it’s the Roselani Mac Nut ice cream that makes it so damn good! Not only is Roselani a Maui icon, locally owned and operated by the Nobriga family, but it was a regularly stocked item in my childhood ice box. Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
Currently pulling in the popular vote although I didn’t give it the “most likely to succeed” nod during conception is our Pulehu tako with watercress, olive bread and Maui olive oil. Ka‘ana Kitchen’s most popular creation by a long shot features locally caught octopus, asparagus from a boutique farm in Kula and goat cheese from the now world famous Surfing Goat Dairy.
It’s mind-boggling to me: you take Andaz Maui, a luxury destination, and mix it with an island delicacy like tako, then add goat cheese (most culinary elitists believe cheese and seafood are a culinary no-no) and you have our most popular keiki? It reminds me daily that Maui diners are ready for an experience that’s new, exciting and creatively authentic.
Ka‘ana Kitchen’s menu is modest by quantity (15 items) and we really try to keep all of our items fresh, sharp and spot-on. A typical week will consist of us changing three items and replacing them with dishes that my team and I had been planning for weeks or even months prior. In fact, a lot of what we’ve created and continue to develop we have collaborated with each other first, our local farmers, fishermen and ranchers second and lastly, but most importantly, our guests.
In all honesty, I love making all of our dishes. They all have a function on our menu and serve a purpose for the guests and community that dine at Ka‘ana Kitchen. I’m lucky to work with the best ingredients in the world, the best culinary and service team in the world and guests that can identify with our aloha, our culture and our people. That’s the most enjoyable aspect and exactly what keeps my passion vibrant.
Andaz, 3550 Wailea Alanui Dr.; maui.andaz.hyatt.com
Simpli-Fresh Produce LLC, owner
Actually I can name quite a few dishes that I wish I made. The braised short rib and the pancit at Migrant Maui by Chef Sheldon Simeon. The beef broth is rich and flavorful and beef fork tender. Chef Mark Ellman’s squash blossoms are made fresh daily when they are in season, and they are crisp, light and delicate. Then there is the Kabocha pumpkin goat cheese pizza made by Hula Grill Chef Bobby Masters. Locally grown vegetables and kiawe roasted pizza are always a winning combination in my book. Last, you have to have the Om acai bowl by the chefs at Choice Health Bar. The pure goodness of fresh Maui grown fruits and produce make it incredible.
At my farms people are loving the apple bananas, plantains, Kabocha pumpkins, jicama, field heirloom tomatoes, baby horseradish and baby garlic. We grow it fresh, natural, and convenient to our west maui community. My personal farm favorites are the fresh indigenous greens, Filipino super foods such as garlic leaves, marungay, kalabasa, bittermelon and apple banana plantains.
Private personal tours from Lahaina, Ka‘anapali, Napili, Kapalua. Showcase produce at Ka‘anapali train station, Lahainaluna and Launiopoko farmers markets; Jsimpliciano@gmail.com
Molokini Bar and Grill Makena Beach and Golf Resort
Molokini Bar and Grill, Executive Chef
I wish I made the Cubano sandwich at Maui Fresh Streatery food truck by Chef Kyle Kawakami. It’s a simple dish that has great fresh ingredients and flavor and it comes with a Kumu Farms mixed greens salad. We work with their Maui farm for our produce needs. The sandwich plus the salad really rounds out a great lunch! Coconut’s Fish Cafe fish tacos are another favorite. It’s a really good combination of flavors with a crisp shell, but beware it may be messy but it’s so ono!
I love to make the fresh taste of Hokkaido scallop and hamachi. It’s a colorful and great fresh tasting appetizer that uses the freshest island products and has clean flavors. Everybody loves the Molokai potato fried lobster salad. I take a Molokai potato on a spiral mandolin and create potato strings that we wrap a lobster with and flash fry and the lobster is still moist. Combine that with baby mache, avocado, edamame, baby tomatoes, Bermuda onions and blueberries. All that gets dressed with a Big Island vanilla citrus vinaigrette. It’s a fresh and light salad featuring wonderful island flavors and textures to delight your taste buds. Lobster, blueberries and vanilla all love each other so it’s a perfect combination.
Makena Beach & Golf Resort, 5400 Makena Alanui; makenaresortmaui.com
ANTHONY AND MELITA LABUA AND KERRY WILKINS
Maui Preserved, owners
Chef Shaanan at Alive & Well creates these raw pies that we wish we thought of. It’s made with fresh fruits, Maui Preserved Vanilla Powder, has no dairy and is full of nutrition and enzymes. It’s a guiltless dessert. What’s not to love? We could eat one everyday. They have lilikoi Kefir, strawberry and ones with chocolate cascading down the sides. Alive & Well even has pie cards and you can get punch marks to work towards a free piece. It’s as easy as pie! We also love the Paia Bay Ohana pizza at Flatbread. The sauce is fresh, the crust crisp and it’s perfect with our Hot Hot Sauce in which Flatbread stocks for the tables. Their tomato sauce is made in a wood-fired cauldron! The pizza is topped with organic garlic oil and mushrooms as well as whole milk mozzarella. This pizza is medieval epic! Open flames to cook a pizza dashed with Hawaiian chile pepper. Again, cauldrons?! You feel kingly while eating it.
In our kitchen, we love making our roasted tomato puree. It’s so satisfying to make because it fills the entire kitchen with the most unbelievably savory and delicious aromas. We get people knocking on our kitchen door. It makes us feel like we are back in our grandmother’s kitchen. Tomatoes from Hawaii are so beautiful and ripe. With an abundance of imported tomato sauces in our markets, it’s a passion of ours to offer a local option that supports Hawaii growers and our local economy. Our roasted tomato puree is so versatile from cocktails to sauces to stews to marinades. It’s a pantry powerhouse. Because of this, it allows home cooks to let go a little and experiment. Inspiring people to sit around a table together with home cooked meals makes us thrilled!
Mauipreserved.com, also available at Mana Foods, Hawaiian Moons, Maui Coffee Roasters, and Olowalu General Store
Tokyo Tei, owner
I wish I made the Bill Ebby Burgers at Cafe O’Lei Dunes, and the cheese enchilada verde at Amigo’s. Both are real food. They taste like something you would make at home but don’t have to because someone has made them for you. Our most popular individual dish, hands down, has got to be the Teishoku B. It has all that we stand for. Shrimp tempura, teriyaki steak and sashimi in a teishoku box which comes with rice, tsukemono, miso soup and hot tea. What more could you ask for? The thing I love making is actually not on our menu–it’s catering.
Our catering dishes are my passion. I love doing them and the solitude when I am working on them. Of course I have the help of many others especially my longest employee, Naomi and my newest employee, my daughter, Tori. We work in sync and can go for an hour without saying a word… very strange with three women in the same room.
1063 L. Main St., Wailuku; Tokyotei.com
Maui Brewing Co.
Maui Brewing Co., Chef
I wish I made the the Loco Moco at Da Kitchen. They make their beef patties meatloaf-style. I also love the smoked brisket from Iron Imu. It’s slow-smoked, tender and delicious. At Maui Brewing Co., we can’t make enough of our fish and chips. Our house-made beer batter is what really sets our fish and chips apart from anyone elses. As far as what dish I’m passionate about, it has to be the pineapple tofu curry. This dish combines so many flavors into one enjoyable dish.
Merriman’s Kapalua, Executive Chef
If there was any dish on Maui I really loved, I would be making it. However, I like the hot smoked pork belly at Whole Foods Market. It’s smoky without being offensive. I use it to flavor other dishes I make at home, such as lentils, roasted brussels sprouts or ramen. They only have it a few days a week. I always keep a back-up in my freezer. I also have to say the best thing on the menu at Mama’s Fish House is their homemade poi! It’s sweet and fresh. I eat it all day long. I can’t make that as good as Mama’s Fish House. I can’t buy it at the market either.
Most popular dish on the menu is Merriman’s ahi poke. We serve our poke on ice so it stays super cold. Next we add some Sea Asparagus for natural salt, jalapeno, limu and fresh sliced Maui onions for crunch. Tucked underneath the poke is a chunky avocado puree. The marinade includes shoyu, sesame oil and a few secret ingredients. The dish on the menu I love to make is the Cavatelli pasta. It’s made fresh everyday and reminds me of the restaurants I worked at in New York City. The pasta is added ala minute to a bit of chicken stock and butter. The stock reduces and creates this amazing glaze over the Cavatelli. The umami is unreal. We then add local mushrooms and asparagus. The dish is finished off with our homemade ricotta cheese. I can eat a bowl of Cavatelli every night with a glass of wine and be in heaven!
1 Bay Club Pl., Kapalua; merrimanshawaii.com/kapalua
GERRY ROSS AND JANET SIMPSON
Kupa‘a Farms, owners
To tell the truth, we almost never eat out for a couple of reasons. We are pretty tired at the end of the day and heading out takes a bit more energy than we have. Second, we make amazing food right here, right from our farm. Last night, we had baked Molokai sweet potato and a salad with mixed greens, watermelon radish and steamed/chilled Romanesco cauliflower. We grow all kinds of things on the farm but the sell-out items right now are the head lettuce, fresh potatoes, cauliflower and garlic. Just look at our potatoes. Most potatoes are grown on the Mainland and shipped over here. Potatoes generally are harvested in the fall and then kept in warehouse storage until sold. If they’re not organic then they’re sprayed with a chemical to retard sprouting. We harvest potatoes and wash them and they are ready for people within a few days of harvest. A fresh potato is a completely different beast than one that has travelled thousands of miles and is already months old before it even gets on the ship!
We’re passionate about our kalo. We grow about six varieties of Hawaiian taro or kalo. It’s an amazing plant: it reaches more than six feet tall on our farm and after about four months it has shaded out the weeds and creates a forest of colorful stems and large leaves. When the wind blows gently, the leaves knock against each other like a muted wind chime and it sounds like footsteps, as though someone is here within the taro patch. Our favorite variety is mana ulu, which grows distinct heart-shaped corms with a yellow flesh that’s incredibly flavorful.
Find their veggies at the Upcountry Farmers Market on Saturday mornings
Cafe Carmen, owner
I wish I made the Burgundy snails, baked in garlic-herb butter at Lahaina Grill. I love the flavors and texture–it reminds me of home. Ferraro’s Supply Di Riso–Italian-style fried rice balls–also makes my list. They are crispy, moist and cheesy, and reminds us of childhood memories.
At Cafe Carmen, our special Jaeger schnitzel in mushroom cream sauce with warm potato salad and braised Red Cabbage always sells out. It’s different and you can’t get it anywhere else. The roasted pork loin served on a creamy mushroom sauce infused with fresh herbs, accompanied by a warm German style potato salad and a tangy juicy braised red cabbage. I really love the beef lasagna on our menu. It’s a family recipe passed down to me by my grandmother and mother, who are originally from Napoli (Italy) so it has to be done in a very exact manner in order for the flavors to come together and be in the perfect consistency. It’s a very simple but great recipe which takes practice to get it just right.
535 Lipoa Pkwy., Kihei; cafecarmenmaui.com
Dazoo, Executive Chef
I have to say that I wish I made the choy sum with mustard sauce and daikon salad at Izakaya Matsu in Kihei. They’re both clean satisfying vegetable dishes that work well with beer and as a palette cleanser for fattier foods like their fried tako balls and beef tongue. I admit that I don’t have time to eat out much but I’ve especially want to try the food trucks–most notably Slightly Salty.
At Dazoo, the Kalua stuffed mochi with cho jang sauce and herb salad flies out of my kitchen. It’s my unique take on a savory mochi, pan-fried, so it’s crunchy and chewy with a hint of heat from cho jang and freshness from the herb salad. It’s handmade with dough from all mochiko flour and kalua pork stock, stuffed with our kalua pork and sesame oil. Cho jang is that ubiquitous bibimbap sauce and the herb salad accompaniment is a simple mix of fresh, Maui-grown herbs.
For me, Kalua pork is always a pleasure to make. I enjoy breaking down pork shoulders and then wrapping in banana leaves before putting it in the oven overnight. Then the next morning, the entire kitchen smells of smoky deliciousness wafting from the slow-cooked pork.
71 Baldwin Ave, Paia; dazoomaui.com
Hali‘imaile General Store
Hali‘imaile General Store, Chef and owner
The Duck Fajitas at Cafe Mambo are one dish I wish I made. Duck is one of my favorite things. At Cafe Mambo, they cook it with oranges, spices and carmelized onions. They serve it with black beans, feta cheese, guacamole, salsa and perfectly dressed salad greens. You roll it up in a flour tortilla. So good! The combinations of those flavors hit my palate with perfection. Pita Paradise makes a Mediterranean chicken pita at both of their locations. The way they grill the pita makes it crispy, yet soft, and the chicken is always juicy, the cheese is perfectly gooey. It tastes so good.
At Hali‘imaile General Store, the coconut seafood curry is really popular. We make our own curry paste, and simmer it with coconut milk, vegetables, and scallops, shrimp and pieces of fish. It’s not too spicy, but it’s incredibly fragrant and hard to leave any in the bowl. Eating it is kind of like eating potato chips–once you start, you can’t stop until it’s is all gone.
I’m really passionate about the brick pressed roasted chicken at Hali‘imaile General Store. It’s such a simple dish but very hard to cook perfectly. I love the balance of the warm lemon vinaigrette, the crispy chicken skin and the moist texture of the chicken. It fits my palate to a T. All the different flavors and textures come together to perfection. Right now we serve it with Brussels sprouts with bacon and caramelized onions. The whole dish is so well-balanced. I eat that dish more than anything else on my menu.
900 Hali‘imaile Rd.; bevgannonrestaurants.com/
Lipoa Street Farmers Market
Lipoa Street Farmers Market, owner
I wish I made the Pono Pies by Chef John Cadman sold at Mana Foods, Mama’s Fish House and others. I get mine direct. The pies come in many flavors, but chocolate and lilikoi are my faves, and they taste like awesome cheesecake but they are not cheese! They are made of ulu, healthy breadfruit, and they are vegan! The other amazing Maui product I love are the pastas from Maui Pasta Company. Patricia and Ron Inman make them and sell them at the Lipoa street market. You can’t beat locally made fresh raviolis and pasta with some even gluten-free. They even fill them with in season local ingredients like the butternut squash ravioli.
At the Lipoa Street Farmers Market, the fresh organic Maui produce like greens, kale, tomatoes and fruits like citrus, exotic fruits and apple banana are all bought from farmers people can meet and talk to at their stands. It really makes a difference. Everything is grown locally at this market. Most items have been harvested within two to 48 hours of purchase and all are non-GMO.
I’ve been passionate about setting up and organizing the Lipoa Farmers Market to bring this community these wonderful products. I love to “grow farmers.” Seeing them prosper and be able continue good organic non-GMO growing practices is awesome, and our customers tell them each week. Getting fresh local produce to South Maui each week means many locals and visitors get to taste and eat the best of Maui’s farm output each week. Being on a mostly plant-based diet for the past 30 years myself, I’m proud to say 50 to 80 percent of what I and many of my customers eat each week now comes from the market. Taste has everything to do with it.
95 Lipoa St., Kihei, Saturday Mornings
Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante and DUO Steak and Seafood, Four Seasons Wailea
Ferraro’s Bar e Ristorante and DUO Steak and Seafood, Executive Chef
Star Noodle’s Filipino bacon and eggs is one dish I wish I made. The dish has the perfect combination of richness, saltiness, and texture–and it’s still sizzling when it gets to the table. Then there is the Awabi Takoyaki by Morimoto. It’s the sauce that makes this dish, a delicious brown butter-soy sauce for abalone dumplings. It’s Japanese street food at its best.
The Pappardelle–lamb ragout, red wine-braised lamb shank, tomato and ricotta salata–is winning the popularity contest in my kitchen. Our house-made pappardelle is cooked al dente; the lamb shank is slowly braised in copious amounts of red wine, herbs and vegetables until it falls of the bone. When tossed with semi-dried Haiku cherry tomatoes and finished of with ricotta salata, the texture of this dish is just amazing. It has a depth of flavors absorbed by the fresh pasta, including a sweet acidity from the tomatoes and the saltiness of the ricotta, that linger and leave the diner wanting more.
I also really love the vegan burger, it’s one of my favorite creations. But the recipe needs to be followed exactly to get the right consistency. It’s a deliciously healthy alternative to meat, served with fresh avocado and Portobello mushrooms.
Four Seasons Resort Maui, 3900 Wailea Alanui; fourseasons.com
Cliff Dive Grill, Sheraton Maui Resort
Cliff Dive Grill, Executive Sous Chef
I wish I made the pad thai by Nutcharees in Hana. The simplicity of combining basic fresh ingredients and perfect seasoning makes this dish memorable. I’ve had my share of pad thai and Nutcharees’ pad thai is the best one yet. The other dish I wish I made is the Matsushisa’s Miso Butterfish at Sansei. The combination of sweet and salty with a soft buttery texture of the fish is a perfect match that you can’t resist.
What do people order up in Cliff Dive Bar? That will be the BBQ skewers from Cliff Dive Grill. We start marinating the beef, shrimp, chicken, fish and vegetables with our house-made marinades 24 hours in advance so that the flavor permeates through the ingredients completely and then we assemble the ingredients on a skewer with fresh vegetables. Once cooked, it’s accompanied by three sauces and each guest can have fun experimenting with their own flavor combination as they dip each skewer in the different sauces. I think that’s why people love it. It’s a great dish for sharing, especially if you order the Ke‘alii or Kamali‘i combo.
I love to make the skewers. It’s hard to pick just one since all the skewers are created with one purpose in mind: to create a great experience for our guests. You often see families gathering on the beach, having a good time grilling their favorite food. This is the experience I’m recreating at Cliff Dive Grill. Food is always enjoyable when there is someone that you can share it with.
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, 2605 Ka‘anapali Pkwy.; sheraton-maui.com
Sangrita Grill, Chef and owner
I wish I made the vegetarian frittata at Sea House Restaurant for a breakfast dish. For dinner, it’s the coffee-crusted rack of lamb at Lahaina Grill. Both dishes have layers of flavors that I appreciate. They’re both consistent and always done right.
The avocado fries and the Mother Clauker flautas are the popular items at Sangrita Grill. They are different and delicate, so I think that’s why people are drawn to them. I’m really passionate about the whole opakapaka with Veracruz sauce–it’s light and delicious. Our duck carnitas with the fig mole enchilada is another dish I’m loving because of the complex and layers of flavor with rich chocolate and fig. Then there’s the fish taco with tamarind garlic aioli…
2580 Keka‘a Dr., Ka‘anapali; sangritagrill.com
Adoboloco Sauces, owner
The pork and beans by Chef Jojo Vasquez at the Plantation House is one dish I wish I made. It’s sweet glazed Pork Belly Adobo over fresh beans. Need I say more? So good. Then there’s the saba nigiri by Chef Hiro at Koiso. I grew up eating akule, which is in the same family, and still love it. But the way that he prepares saba is pure perfection.
Trying to figure out my most popular Adoboloco sauce is harder than you think. It really comes down to personal preference so they all sell pretty evenly. When someone latches on to a flavor they really go back to the same flavor quite often. Our Hawaiian, pineapple and Hamajang sauces sell out. But we also make less of these flavors due to a lack of available ingredients. We love making all of our sauces and playing with new flavors. We gather all of our fresh ingredients, mix, cook and immediately bottle. Once the bottles have cooled down, we label them and pack the cases ready for delivery.
I am truly passionate about adobo… I love adobo! Chicken adobo is my absolute favorite. There are so many variations to this dish. You can use chicken, pork, tofu, squid, coconut and the list goes on. You can make it wet or more dry.
Our sauces are really inspired by adobo–it’s that vinegary tang that brings out the flavors of all those ingredients. My mother taught me how to cook adobo when I was 12, so that I could cook it without having to ask her to make it all the time. Adobo is comfort food, and now I get to make it for my kids and they’re requesting it all the time. That’s what makes it so enjoyable.
Found islandwide including Aina Gourmet, Costco, Tutu’s Pantry, Ulupalakua Ranch, Down To Earth; adoboloco.com
Banyan Treats, co-owner
I wish I made the Seafood Saimin at the lunch truck opposite the Salvation Army on Halekuai in Kihei. Wow! Ruined me for any other saimin anywhere! I wish I knew the name of it! They park behind the chain link fence opposite the Salvation Army store. The owner and her son man the truck and they pack the saimin with lots of ingredients, not just broth and noodles with a bit of meat floating around. It’s chock-full of goodness. Veggies, shrimp, surimi, lots of noodles, all floating in a delicious broth. The other dish I wish I made is Hard Rock Cafe’s creme brulee. Yum! The crunchy crust of caramelized sugar on the top and super creamy, full-bodied custard with streaks of chocolate sauce underneath… I don’t like to eat too much dinner so I’m sure I have room for this.
The Mo‘o Special at Banyan Treats is gaining recognition and repeat customers. People are ordering it instead of a waffle cone, as it’s the same price. We take one scoop of Roselani Ice Cream, and you know how good that is! We top it with any of our eight flavors of freshly baked, made-from-scratch Hula cookies, then add candy eyeballs and a smile. It takes after our mascot–Mo‘o–the Hawaiian word for a gecko. We think people like the Mo‘o Special because it’s a good value for our customers, they get to choose their ice cream and cookie flavors and it always brings a smile to their faces.
We’re pretty passionate about making kids smile! That’s why we also love to make Mo‘o cones for the kids. We just put candy eyeballs on their keiki-sized scoop of ice cream, explain they’re mo‘o eyes and point to the mo‘o hanging in the window. If the ice cream doesn’t bring a smile to their faces, the eyeballs certainly do.
658 Wharf St., Lahaina; banyantreats.com
GIOVANNI STEVEN CAPPELLI
Bistro Casanova, owner
I wish I made the Stuffed Mussels (Muscoli ripieni) at Matteo Osteria. It comes from where I was born, Cinque Terre. It brings me back to my teenagers years. I did offer it in my restaurant as a tapa, but nobody bought it. Thanks Matteo for reproposing it. I can drive to Wailea to feel young again. Then I also wish I made the Caramel Miranda at Mala in Lahaina. It’s the ultimate dessert plate. Good for two… or three or four.
At Bistro Casanova, the paella for two is winning. People love this dish, and it’s a complex operation. Start with the saffron rice. Do not overcook. In a skillet, cook the good stuff: assorted seafood (mussels, clams, scallops, fresh fish, shrimp), chunks of chicken with their bones braised with peppers in tomato sauce, spicy sausages, Greek olives. Time each ingredient as they need to. Then toss with rice and present it moist and juicy, flavorful and balanced. Repeat 10 to 20 times a night…
We are passionate about our tapas: all of them. Small plates to start the meal (and sometimes finish it). We change them weekly and it’ so much fun to get in touch with our inner child cook. My personal favorites: lobster casserole, artichokes tempura, spinach gnocchi in walnut sauce, Romaine wraps with New York steak in kalbi sauce, shrimp kebabs, etc., etc. Some evenings, that’s all I eat.
33 Lono Ave., Kahului; bistrocasanova.com
Son’z Steakhouse, Hyatt Maui
Son’z Steakhouse, Corporate Chef
Jennifer Ngyen’s Pho Thai is one dish I wish I made. It’s obvious Jennifer takes the time and effort in making the broth. It’s so flavorful! Next would be Eskimo Candy’s barbecued ribs by Jeff Hansen. The sauce is full of flavor and the ribs fall off the bone.
At Son’z, there’s a tie for the most popular dishes. It’s between the 22-ounce bone-in rib eye and the opakapaka. The rib eye is hand-rubbed with Hawaiian sea salt, cracked pepper and fresh garlic and grilled according to the guest’s specifications. The meat is of the highest quality and the presentation unmatched. The fresh opakapaka filet is lightly sauteed with garlic, butter, white wine, lemon, capers and tomato concosse. It’s served on a bed of Molokai sweet potato hash browns and broccolini and topped with a caperberry and 24-hour tomato puree.
My favorite dish to make is the blackened ahi. The sashimi grade ahi is dusted with a variety of Moroccan spices and lightly sear it with red onions, poblano peppers and served with avocado and a spicy mustard soy sauce. It’s fresh, simple and fun!
200 Nohea Kai Dr., Ka‘anapali, sonzrestaurant.com
Bistro Molokini, Grand Wailea
Bistro Molokini, Chef
The dry mein at Sam Sato’s is a dish I wish was mine. The noodles from Paia’s Iwatoma Natto Factory are a great foundation to a very satisfying, flavorful dish. Nothing fancy, just good eats. My three-year-old daughter always eats some of my dry mein and then a couple of the BBQ beef sticks as well. Chef Michael Lofaro at Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a also makes a carpaccio of Japanese hamachi, yuzu, Hawaiian chili and celery ginger granite that I wish I made. Such clean, great flavors make this a great dish after a nice day spent in the Maui surf. It’s refreshing and powerful with flavor without being heavy. The texture and temperature of the granite are perfect with the fresh hamachi, my favorite fish to eat raw.
Our Surf & Turf at Molokini Bistro is our best seller. Grilled American Kobe flat iron steak with mushroom and bacon stew, seared sashimi grade ahi with cilantro emulsion and wasabi-soy froth. It’s a great dish for someone who wants a full meal without getting a heavy plate. The grilled Kobe is served on mashed potatoes with roasted Kumu Farms vegetables and a red wine demi. The tuna is rolled in blackening spices, seared, chilled and served sliced over a bed of local wonbok tossed with Thai chile sauce and herbs. Who wouldn’t want to get that put in front of them?
I love that we feature Malama Farm Berkshire pork from Haiku. It’s amazing! We buy whole pigs so it isn’t like we just serve the ribs and chops. The menu says to ask for the daily preparation, since we change it as we go through the different parts. We try to pair it with local vegetables and starch to really keep the total dish as local as can. It’s awesome meat, I love supporting local farmers and the story sells the dish for the servers. It’s a win all the way around. We just finished a run of a dish that featured broth from the roasted bones of the pig and dashi, Iwatoma Natto Factory noodles, local bok choy, baby carrots, broccolini, chili peppers, pear tomatoes, braised belly and grilled loin. I think I ate some every night it was on the menu.
Grand Wailea, 3850 Wailea Alanui; wailearesortdining.com/bistro_
Wailuku Coffee Co.
Wailuku Coffee Co., Owner
I wish I made the roasted beet and chevre salad at Haili‘imaile General Store by Bev Gannon. All the flavors and the salad dressing complement each other perfectly. Oh, and the Mediterranean Platter at Café Des Amis. I love all the different combinations you can make with one awesome plate of tapas.
Our most popular item at Wailuku Coffee Company is our Build Your Own Sandwich. People love to create their own sandwich with all our delicious fresh options. Any new specials we run keep our chefs happy because they’re breaking away from the norm and getting to be creative and try something new. Right now we’re offering a Life Foods Superfood Burger on gluten-free bread. It’s delicious, simple and clean.
26 N. Market St., Wailuku; wailukucoffeeco.com
Be Nutritious, Owner
I love the miso eggplant at Nuka. I wish I made that dish. It’s a perfect blend of sweet and salty flavors, chewy and soft textures. The skin of the eggplant is cooked to a slight crisp, but it melts in your mouth. It’s perfect for sharing.
My company Be Nutritious shares my love of Chinese and Ayurvedic models of wellness, with prepared cleansing health dishes and nutrition strategy. My Ayurvedic-spiced kitchari is one of my most popular items. Kitchari is an Ayurvedic dish from India. A simple, porridge-like blend of yellow split mung beans and white basmati rice. Depending on the client, I incorporate my Ayurvedic spice blends, ghee or coconut oil, fresh local turmeric, fresh local ginger, and a variety of local leafy greens. When mixed with fresh lemon and cilantro, it’s so delicious. People love it because the preparation is very nourishing for the digestive tract and I cook it specifically for their Ayurvedic dosha (body type). Having balanced doshas, according to Ayurveda, maintains quality health.
I’m passionate about this dish because I’ve witnessed healing happening for my clients when they incorporate this dish into their daily or weekly regiment. I enjoy cooking it because it’s intentional cooking, meaning I put my mana into each preparation technique. I believe it’s just as nourishing for me to cook the kitchari as it is for my clients to receive its benefits.
COREY A. WAITE
Monkeypod Kitchen, Executive Chef
At Amasia, Alan Wong has come up with the most amazing soy-braised short ribs. They have great flavors for short ribs, and Alan Wong is one of Hawaii’s best chefs. Another dish I wish I made is the spicy tuna poke at Tamura’s Maui. I love poke, it’s simple and yet so good. The flavors all match, and no one flavor goes over the other, which makes it really good. You want to taste all the ingredients, not just one or two.
Our fish tacos are hands down, all day, every day, our most popular dish. Then our fish special is pretty close. It’s fresh mahi with local tortilla, served with fresh tomatillo salsa, Zuhair tomatoes and avocadoes. Then there is the Jalapeno Kick. The pizza’s are fun to make but all our dishes are great at the restaurant. When you make everything from scratch, you put passion in all your dishes. From the apps to the dessert pies. You start great and end great.
10 Wailea Gateway Pl.; monkeypodkitchen.com
Plantation House Restaurant
Plantation House Restaurant, Executive Chef
Morimoto Maui makes an uni carbonara that I wish I made. The uni carbonara is a decadent, playful dish with big uni flavor. I also wish I made the macaroons at Fabiani’s. There’s a wonderful assortment of flavors in their bakery case.
At the Plantation House, the kamapachi tartare with wakame, local nasturtium and lime is one of my most popular dishes. The natural oils of the finely diced kampachi are mixed with a flavorful seaweed salad, bites of jalapeno and a fresh pepper bite coming from beautiful the ornamental nasturtium flowers. People love it because it marries ocean flavors and represents our local ingredients.
For me, the sautéed monchong with bok choy Napili-Flo farms petite watercress and tomato and tamarind-coriander broth wins every time. Making the broth fills the kitchen with the smells of Filipino cuisine–floral scents of toasted coriander and deep, rich smells from the tamarind and fish sauce. I love that guests enjoy the broth knowing that they’re also expanding their likes of different heritage cuisines.
2000 Plantation Club Dr., Kapalua; theplantationhouse.com
Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Kapalua), Chef
One of the dishes I wish I made is Fu Lin’s Cold Ginger Chicken. It’s moist and full of flavor. My son and I always fight over the last piece. The other dish I wish I made is the Tako Poke at Pukalani Superette. It’s the tako poke of all tako pokes! It’s tender but still has a nice chew, and is seasoned with just the right amount of salt and spice. It’s the perfect pupu just as is, or it’s delicious over hot rice. No matter how you eat it, it will make your day.
Our most popular dish at Sansei by far is the Shrimp Dynamite. Its a tempura-battered rock shrimp tossed in garlic masago aioli and finished with an unagi drizzle. It’s crunchy, rich and full of impact. Our guests can’t resist it–it’s DYNAMITE!
I love to make our smoked duck breast. I know it may sound funny because we’re so well known for our sushi and seafood, but it’s my personal favorite dish on the menu. Every time I make it, I want the guest who ordered it to enjoy it as much as I do. I think it should win an award–it has my vote!
600 Office Rd., Kapalua; sanseihawaii.com
Maui Tacos, Vice President/Executive Chef
I wish I made the Lau Lau at Da Kitchen. It’s always fresh and moist, and I love the flavor of the luau leaves. For me what makes it so good is mixing it with lomi lomi. Muy bueno. I also love the Caramel Miranda at Mala Ocean Tavern. The hot caramel sauce melting the Macadamia nut ice cream… do you know Carmen Miranda? Well, it’s that good. I love the combination of caramelized fruits and Ice cream.
Our fish tacos are, by far, our most popular dish, and are available at our six locations on Maui. We use our own fresh made lime and garlic marinade for our fish and serve them on corn tortillas with cabbage and our fresh-made cilantro/jalapeno sauce. More and more people are looking for healthy choices and our fish tacos are fresh, healthy and delicious.
I like to make salads and Mex bowls. They are naked burritos! You get all the good stuff of the burrito without the tortilla. I want to change people’s perception of Mexican food as just being greasy and spicy hot. Our Maui Tacos dishes are fresh, healthy and very flavorful. It’s because I insist on eating healthy and I love our Maui Tacos food!
Located islandwide; mauitacos.com