3 “Must-Visit” Restaurants in Wailea
The second installment to my “Best Restaurants on Maui” series will illuminate 3 of my favorite places to dine in the hotels around Wailea. While the damage to your wallet isn’t light, I feel the excellent food, service, and views are well worth the cost. Furthermore, each restaurant incorporates unique island flavors into their already lavish menus, creating true Hawaiian fine dining. One describes itself as, “where Northern Italy meets Southern France at the top of Wailea.” Another offers some of the freshest fish on island, prepared in Pacific-rim and Southern European styles. The last is owned by a celebrity chef, who’s restaurants receive high marks in cities across the United States.
Every table on the lanai at Capische? has breathtaking views of the Pacific
Guaranteed to be one of your most intimate, fine-dining experiences on Maui, Capische? certainly doesn’t follow the creed that bigger is better. With only 9 outdoor tables, and one spectacular view, dinner on the lanai at Capische? feels as if your enjoying your meal in a quaint, Northern Italian home. Situated on a hillside above the prestigious Wailea Highlands and Wailea Golf Vistas communities, lies the cozy Hotel Wailea. The menu changes regularly to reflect what ingredients are in-season; however, there are a few staples that never disappoint. One of the most decadent appetizers I’ve ever had, the mushroom truffle risotto is simply phenomenal. The combination of white and summer truffles, oyster mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese is perfect, and many who have sampled this dish feel it is one of the tastiest they’ve had. Another standout appetizer is the vine-ripened, Kula tomato Caprese salad – a refreshing and light compliment to the rich risotto. For entree, you can’t go wrong ordering the pasta Bolognese. Their traditional meat sauce is made with veal, beef, pork and tomatoes, and rests on top a bed of capellini noodles. If you’re in the mood for seafood, the Capische? Cioppino is outstanding. This Italian staple is essentially the entire Pacific in a stew! Here, lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, clams, and fresh local fish are married in a savory, saffron tomato broth. This restaurant also received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence three years in a row, so any dish your order can be paired with an outstanding bottle of vino.
A stone’s throw away from the luxurious One Palauea Bay and Polo Beach Club, Nick’s Fishmarket is consistently regarded as one of the best seafood restaurants on island. I would describe the flavors here as Pacific Rim/Mediterranean fusion, a truly delightful combination. This hotel is the furthest south among Wailea’s resorts, which means perfect sunsets every evening as you peek around the West Maui Mountains towards Lana’i. After the sun has descended into the depths of the Pacific, the fishponds and palm trees around the hotel shimmer under the moonlight and tiki torches. Once the stunning ambiance has made its lasting impression, the smells from around the restaurant will clench your senses next. The owner is Greek and he has infused many dishes with hints from his home country. The Greek Maui Wowie salad is one such creation. Using fresh Maui onions, avocado, and tomatoes, this well-known salad is delectable with local ingredients. Another one of my favorite appetizers is the Shrimp Cocktail. While the shrimp are always huge and taste great, the Maui Ocean Vodka infused cocktail sauce pulls the dish together perfectly. For entrees, as you probably already guessed, any of the fish preparations are outstanding. The “Day Boat Catch” is the daily fresh catch prepared with true Asian-Pacific flair. Served with a delectable Maui Pineapple ponzu sauce and sizzling peanut oil, along with Hana fern shoots, hearts of palm, and soba noodles, this dish (no matter what fish) is highly recommended. The candied peanut crusted Opah is another standout, and like Capische?, Nick’s has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for many of the years they’ve been in business. To top it all off, the service provided is exceptional and it seems as if the entire wait staff is there to help you enjoy your meal.
Our webmaster Brad Carroll and myself in the award-winning wine cellar at Nick’s Fishmarket
What do you get when you combine one of the country’s best chefs, with a stunning beachfront view and a world-class resort? Spago, one of the finest restaurants in South Maui. Conveniently located about a minute from my office at Ho’olei and next to the fine Wailea Point condominiums , Wolfgang Puck brings his superstar chef status to the favorite resort on Maui for celebrities, The Four Seasons. Spago is situated next to the upper pool area, and the setting around sundown is sublime. The pastel colors from the sun and flickering tiki torches dance on the water’s surface as a beautiful Maui day fades to evening light. Like many of the finer restaurants around Hawaii, Spago serves up the freshest local ingredients with strong Asian influences. Recently honored as Chef of the Year by top Maui Chefs and industry leaders, Executive chef Cameron Lewark changes his menu up regularly and is known to craft his daily specials only after picking up fruits and produce from local farms. Since there are numerous outstanding menu options, I suggest asking for the chef to create a 6-8 dish tasting menu. All you have to do is tell the waiter what you like, dislike, and any allergies you might have, and the chef will orchestrate a meal custom to your pallet. However, if you insist on knowing what you are eating before it arrives, there are a few “musts” on the menu. The extremely tasty, spicy ahi poke served in 3 sesame-miso cones, has the textures and look of an exotic ice-cream treat. For a main course, the whole Moi “wok-fired” Thai style, will have you eating like royalty (in ancient Hawaii, Moi was only available to Ali’i). The Opakapaka steamed in Ti leaves is a wonderful interpretation of the traditional Hawaiian Lau Lau. Served with Kula veggies, fragrant Thai herbs, and greens chili, this meal is both delicious and nutritious! Finally, Spago is the only one of Chef Puck’s fine restaurants to offer a kid’s menu, so even the little ones can enjoy the finest of flavors.
Maui’s culinary history begins in ancient Hawaii, passes through the Plantation and Missionary era, now arriving at the vacation mecca it is today. The flavors found in any given local restaurant truly reflect this diverse cultural background. We’d love to hear some of your favorite restaurants on Maui, especially if they are hidden gems! Also, what type of restaurant would you like to see me review next? Great vegetarian options? Best plate lunch? Outstanding values? Let us know in the comments below! And of course…