Maui Must-Eats :: Insider Dining

maui must-eats insider guide

[trip style = food + wine + sun + luxury]

"This water before you was gathered from a mountain spring and carried for two hours on my back through the island brush. Please enjoy; it has been infused with flavors we foraged in our journey preparing for tonight's celebration." - Kainoa Horcajo at Ka Malama Dinner, Grand Wailea

Going beyond the typical trademarks of resort diningsunset perch, local fish, umbrella drinksa handful of pioneers are taking Maui dining into new territory. Executive chefs are getting down and dirty with the land. Wait staff are contributing family heirloom recipes to menus. Legendary food institutions are ever-honing their craft. You could say the current culinary coup is a recipe for success.

Here's why.  

Until my recent month-long stay on the Valley Isle, I thought I knew Maui's must-eats. With more than a baker's dozen visits, I've dined everywhere from roadside shave ice shacks to the island's it culinary coordinates, not just once but multiple times. You could call me a poke professional, a coconut connoisseur or a mai tai maven, but I'll just stick with Trip Styler.

This time was different; you could say I got more intimate with food and its origins. 

Ka Malama Dinner
At the just-launched Ka Malama Dinner, a five-course feast based on the ancient Hawaiian Moon Calendar, water took on new meaning and eating out looked within. Going beyond knowing the fisherman's name or the farmer's best crophallmarks of today's locavore dining movementthe Grand Wailea's best pairing is its people: An ocean-loving chef and a off-grid-living cultural advisor who set off on epic journeys to fish and forage for the feast.

In a throwback to the roots of eating seasonally and sustainably, the once-monthly celebration is an ode to the island's bounty and beginnings. From the grilled 'opelu {mackerel} to the ferns garnishing my place setting, the celebration—which I can only describe as raw and reverent—connected me the land as if I'd caught the dinner myself.   

In keeping with the Hawaiian tradition of "talking story" about the past, about life and about learning, every course was accompanied by the story of its origin. Let's just say I'll never sip water without savoring it ever again {see opening quote}.     

Details: The Ka Malama Dinner, located in the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a restaurant in the Grand Wailea takes place the third Thursday of every month from 6-8:30pm, and costs $150 USD per person, including cocktails, wine pairings, tax and gratuity. This Maui-insider feast can only be booked by calling (808) 875-1234.

 Chef Mike Lofaro and Kainoa Horcajo introduce the Ka Malama Dinner

Chef Mike Lofaro and Kainoa Horcajo introduce the Ka Malama Dinner

 The earthy, hand-gathered table decor

The earthy, hand-gathered table decor

 Kai Momona: wana, shellfish coconut emulsion, ogo, sea beans

Kai Momona: wana, shellfish coconut emulsion, ogo, sea beans

 Dessert: Violet meringue, mango shave ice and fresh coconut water in a coconut husk

Dessert: Violet meringue, mango shave ice and fresh coconut water in a coconut husk

 Ka Malama cocktail pairings

Ka Malama cocktail pairings


I have a "krush" on . While The Fairmont Kea Lani's flagship restaurant mixes all the right ingredients for a trip styled eateryplace, panache, palatewhat sets it apart is its commitment to culture and cultivation.

Translating to "sugarcane" in Hawaiian, Kō fuses Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese and Hawaiian influences from the plantation era, coupling staff's family recipes with a touch of flash. Think: Pacific Ahi dusted in local sea salt served alongside an oven-heated piece of granite for sear-it-yourself perfection.

Led by local Hawaiian and celebrated chef Tylun Pang, the restaurant's raison d'etre is a reflection of the cook and the man. With a keen focus on local eats, culinary artistry and giving back, Chef works each of these passions into his preparation whether he's sourcing ingredients from his flock of 16 local farmers, participating in the Best Hotel Chefs of America series at the James Beard House or giving all the proceeds from his cookbook, "What Maui Eats", to the Maui Culinary Academy.

 Sear-it-yourself Ahi on the Rock at Kō 

Sear-it-yourself Ahi on the Rock at Kō 

 Kō restaurant in The Fairmont Kea Lani

Kō restaurant in The Fairmont Kea Lani

 My other favorite Kō dish: Tempura-battered ahi Oishi Sushi  

My other favorite Kō dish: Tempura-battered ahi Oishi Sushi 

Malasadas
Described by my friend, fellow Expedia Viewfinder and Hawaii guidebook author, Matt, as the best baked goods in the South Pacific, malasadas are donut-like delicacies brought to Hawaii by the Portuguese. Some are served in their pure form, doughy and sugar-topped, whereas others are filled with chocolate, vanilla or tropical custard, such as guava or pineapple. Moi, I'm a fan of the chocolate varietyespecially when paired with Hawaii's own Kona coffee. 

Maui's most legendary address for aloha {in food form} is at Komoda Store & Bakery. The family-run business is as legit as they come; malasadas have been their main squeeze for almost 100 years. According to Matt and Mr. Trip Styler, the shop is smack in the middle of the Upcountry town of Makawao and exemplifies the saying "it's what's on the inside that counts."

Trip Styler Tip: Read more about the island's best malasadas in Matt's article in the Expedia Viewfinder. 

 Mmmmmmmm...malasadas

Mmmmmmmm...malasadas

Related
5 Fabulous Food Splurges on Maui
Conquering the Road to Hana
Jetset Style: Aloha Wear
Maui: A Space-Age Spa

[top photo by @tripstyler, ka malama photos via grand wailea, kō photos via fairmont kea lani, malasada photo via pillsbury]