Food at KO, Maui, Hawaii


Since it opened in 2012, the brightly decorated restaurant at the Fairmont Kea Lani has caught everyone’s attention, winning rave reviews. Ko means sugarcane in Hawaiian, and Chef Tylun Pang focuses on dishes handed down from Maui’s 19th Century sugar cane plantation era, and the various ethnic groups – Hawaiian, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese and Chinese – that populated the island. Portuguese bean soup might be followed by Maui-raised beef ribs in Korean seasonings. Desserts include pão doce frito, fried Portugese sweet bread with coconut gelato and black raspberry jam. Ko also has a popular bar with tempting, not-too-sweet tropical cocktails.

Food at Koiso Sushi Bar, Maui, Hawaii

Koiso Sushi Bar

Maui's best sushi and sashimi is served at this small but acclaimed restaurant, which is also one of Maui's most difficult spot to get into. Like many of the top sushi bars in Tokyo and Los Angeles, Koiso is tucked in the back of a non-descript shopping plaza in Kihei, and the well-lit dining room is nothing special. But the super-fresh, beautifully presented, traditionally prepared fish here is nothing short of extraordinary, and the rice alone will make sushi lovers weep. A white board behind chef Hiro-san lists the day's offerings but it is best to trust his picks and indulge in the omakase here, letting the chef decide on a combination of dishes. Koiso can seat about 15 people, so follow the advice of the locals who told me before my recent trip: "Call as soon as you know your dates on island and take whatever night and time they offer. It's that good."

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Food at Monkeypod Kitchen, Maui, Hawaii

Monkeypod Kitchen

The name Peter Merriman is synonymous with Hawaiian cuisine; the chef and restaurateur has championed the island cooking style for more than two decades and his empire includes numerous restaurants on Maui, Big Island and Oahu. This venture, opened in the hillsides of Wailea, is large, loud and congenial. There are surf boards suspended from the ceiling, sleek wood paneling and the tables are close together, making diners instantly feel like they are part of the scene (request to be seated upstairs on the terrace). The menu is pure Merriman: full of options that celebrate the local bounty, from Upcountry vegetables and fresh herbs to Keahole lobster and mahi-mahi. The menu is long (burgers, noodle dishes, wood-oven pizzas are all represented), and there are some 35-plus draft ales on tap.

Food at Star Noodle, Maui, Hawaii

Star Noodle

The homemade noodles, steamed pork buns and other pan-Asian specialties have made this a Maui hot spot. The location might be strange (on the edge of an industrial park near Lahaina), but the light-wood space with a large communal table running through its center is congenial and modern. Make a reservation or be prepared to wait, even at lunch. Pre-dinner wait time is made happier with sake cocktails.

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