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As far as hotel restaurants go, this beautifully appointed, oceanfront restaurant serving modern Hawaiian fare is as cool, calm, comfortable and delicious as it gets. Start with an exceptionally creative cocktail—the martinis are superb—or a glass of wine from a long, excellent list. You then must indulge in the dreamy golden potato gnocchi with Meyer lemon cream, or the Pacific bouillabaisse with Kona lobster. Fish choices are plentiful. Tropica also offers lots of specially priced cocktail and dining options that will save you some bucks. And for the dining experience of a lifetime, reserve far in advance to get one of six tables on the beach. Yes, on the beach. www.westinmaui.com. Credit cards accepted. Closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch.
It's more "Island-style" than Hawaii, and yes, it's a chain, but the food is consistently great, the service is filled with aloha, and the ambience is just so Island refined. Try the Loki-Loki tuna poke (fresh ahi napoleon with guacamole, capers, soy sauce, and sesame oil), the Island Cowboy (a grilled eight-ounce tenderloin filet with red wine demi-glace, roasted garlic, and Maytag bleu cheese, served with grilled lemon garlic asparagus and roasted fingerling potatoes), or any of the local fish preparations, equally well accompanied. The Copper Island crab bisque is worthy of a cross-island drive, as are the desserts. www.tommybahama.com. Credit cards accepted.
Getting there is half—well, maybe a quarter—of the fun. Tucked in the back corner of a covered parking garage, Tokyo Tei is worth seeking out for wonderful Japanese food. At lunch, you'll rub elbows with bankers and construction workers; at dinner, three generations might be celebrating Tutu's (grandma's) birthday at the next table. This is a bona fide local institution where, for more than six decades, people have come for the food and the comfort of familiarity. The freshest sashimi, feather-light yet crisp shrimp, and vegetable tempura piled high are all the items that locals love. www.tokyotei.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch Sun.
The name of the restaurant comes from the three young chefs who met working at a Wailea restaurant, only to decide in 2010 to strike out on their own. Each has a distinctive style (Hawaiian, Southwestern, and Pacific Rim), but somehow it all works. The food is good, with a large selection of salads, burgers, and flatbreads for lunch; fresh fish and steaks are served at dinner. There's also a raw bar, sushi, ceviche, and poke. The space is as big as the menu with three separate dining areas, plus an outdoor patio. www.threesbarandgrill.com..
Executive chef Tom Muromoto is a local boy who loves to cook modern, upscale Hawaiian food. He augments the various fresh fish dishes on his menu with items influenced by Hawaii's ethnic mix. This casual, open-air restaurant is the only place on Maui—maybe in Hawaii—where you can have a Native Hawaiian combination plate that is as healthful as it is authentic. Sunday brunch is renowned here, and if you're around for a holiday, chow down at the amazing holiday brunch buffets. www.kbhmaui.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Fragrant tea and coconut-ginger chicken soup begin a satisfying meal at this excellent Thai restaurant, set unassumingly in the middle of a shopping mall. The care and expense that goes into the decor—glittering Buddhist shrines, elaborate hardwood facades, fancy napkin folds, and matching blue china—also applies to the cuisine. Take an exotic journey with the fantastic pad Thai, special house noodles, curries, and crispy fried chicken. Can't decide? Try the family dinners for two or four. The fried bananas with ice cream are wonderful. There's a second location in Kahului's Maui Mall, a perfect choice before or after a movie at the megaplex. www.thailandcuisinemaui.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch Sun.
In a very short time this wonderful spot has become one of Maui's best restaurants. It's way up above the highway in a light industrial park, but don't be discouraged by the location. Take the drive and you'll find a hip place and a welcoming staff that knows the meaning of "aloha." There's a communal table in the center of the room, smaller tables around the perimeter and comfortable stools for those who like to eat at a bar. Menu musts include the Ahi Avo, pan-roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and kim chee purée, and really any of the noodle dishes, especially the Lahaina fried soup (fat chow fun, pork, bean sprouts). The cocktail list is fabulous and the lychee martinis served here may be the best on Maui. www.starnoodle.com. Credit cards accepted.
It's a marriage made in Hawaii heaven. The California cuisine of celebrity-chef Wolfgang Puck is combined with Maui flavors and served lobby level and oceanfront at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort. Try the spicy ahi tuna poke in sesame-miso cones to start, and then see what the chefs-in-residence can do with some of Maui's fantastic local fishes. Finish with a little wild lilikoi (passion fruit) crème brûlée with white chocolate-macadamia nut biscotti. Oh, it'll cost you, but the service is spot-on and the smooth, Asian-inspired decor allows the food to claim the spotlight. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Come on, how can you come to Hawaii and not go to a tiki bar? And this one—tucked into Kihei KalamaVillage—is consistently voted "Best Bar" by the readers of Maui Time Weekly. During the day, sit on the shaded lanai to enjoy a burger, sandwich, or, better yet, one of their delicious specialty pizzas, crafted from scratch with sauces made from fresh Roma tomatoes and Maui herbs. Seven nights a week, the tiny bar area lights up with a lively crowd, as DJs spin dance tunes under the glowing red eyes of the lounge's namesake tiki. www.southshoretikilounge.com. Credit cards accepted.
If you're celebrating a special occasion and want to splurge, this just might be the place for you. You'll descend a grand staircase into an amber-lighted dining room with soaring ceilings and a massive artificial lagoon complete with swans, waterfalls, and tropical gardens. Must-haves on chef Geno Sarmiento's contemporary, Mediterranean-influenced menu include the seared scallops "BLT"; goat-cheese ravioli with Kula corn, edamame, and Hamakua mushrooms; and grilled beef tenderloin marinated in coffee and served with Parmesan-garlic fries. The restaurant claims the largest wine cellar in Hawaii with 3,000 bottles. www.tristarrestaurants.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
As suggested by our Facebook fans:
Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House