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When it comes to Hawaii restaurant destinations, Maui rivals Oahu as the island of choice. Credit goes to Maui’s savvy chefs, who are responding to trends by cultivating relationships with local farmers and food purveyors. They’re also drawing from Hawaii’s mixed plate of cultures while keeping the dining atmosphere friendly and casual, in sync with their laid-back surroundings.
These five must-try Maui restaurants have landed on the foodie radar as of late, and rightfully so. Pull up a chair. You won’t leave hungry.
Humble Market Kitchin (Wailea Beach Resort-Marriott, Maui)In his newest venture, Hawaii Regional Cuisine super-chef Roy Yamaguchi channels his roots at this Wailea Beach resort restaurant. Inspired by Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and Hawaiian cuisine, Yamaguchi’s menu is an ode to his grandfather Henry, who immigrated to Hawaii.
Signature offerings include a special poke (seasoned raw fish) recipe prepared tableside; a raw bar; claypot black cod with lup cheong sausage, ginger and soy chili; and scallops with kalua pork fried rice, charred cabbage and lomi tomato. Perched high in the hotel, it features indoor/outdoor seating with mouthwatering ocean views.
Mill House (Maui Tropical Plantation, Waikapu)For produce, Mill House executive chef Jeff Scheer focuses on what’s fresh in nearby prolific farmlands. For meat and seafood, his sources are just a text or phone call away. The result is an ever-changing menu of seasonal dishes such as kalbi beef with green papaya and smoked macadamia nut butter.
The ambiance is pure Hawaiian, with wood tables on a lagoon-side lanai looking out to fields and mountains. Some weekends, Scheer hosts nine-course Maui Chef’s Table dinners where guests watch as each course is created, plated and presented.
Paia Fishmarket Front Street (632 Front Street, Lahaina)With its origins in the plantation town of Paia, this hang-loose eatery recently added a location in Lahaina. Fans can count on receiving the same high-quality seafood served with a heaping dose of aloha spirit.
Order one of its popular fish plates and choose either mahi mahi, ono, snapper, ahi, salmon or opah, prepared grilled, sauteed, Cajun-spiced or blackened. Seafood pasta is teeming with fish, scallops and shrimp, and the ahi sashimi tastes so fresh it practically swims off the dish.
Shearwater Tavern (Azeka Mauka Shopping Center, Kihei)Chef D.K. Kodama is well-known around the islands, so whenever he opens a new restaurant, heads turn. His latest creation is a Kihei-based gastropub named after one of Hawaii’s native birds, the wedge-tailed shearwater.
A contemporary wood-and-brick decor sets the stage for Maui-style comfort food. The Shearwater burger is loaded with bacon, garlic aioli, caramelized onion jam and a sunny-side egg. The “Farm to Table Pasta” thrives with Kumu Farms greens and veggies. For bar fare, try the nachos featuring Hawaii Ranchers ground beef and chorizo.
Tin Roof Maui (360 Papa Place, Kahului)Chef Sheldon Simeon rose to fame on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” but he’s a Hawaii boy through and through. His new, no-frills and mostly-takeout cafe bills itself as a “new generation mom and pop shop.”
Many dishes are served in food tins, modeled after 20th-century plantation lunch pails. They’re filled with either chicken, pork belly, garlic shrimp, poke, fish or steak flavored with various spices and ladled over rice, kale salad or noodles. Other lures include delectable, roasted, flash-fried beets and pies of lilikoi, mango, mocha or banana coconut.