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MAMA'S FISH HOUSE
799 Poho Place
Tavern on the Green meets Gilligan’s Island at the priciest, hokiest, most romantic seafood restaurant on Maui. Tiki torches, servers with flowers behind their ears, flotsam and jetsam of all sorts, and the twisted roots of a live banyan tree come together in a South Seas castaway fantasy that’s so over-the-top it's chic. Local fishermen deliver their catch to the kitchen each day and get credit for it on the menu. Sit by one of the enormous picture windows that perfectly frame the ocean waves and weigh the merits of, say, the opakapaka caught by Patrick Boteilho on the reef near Kahoolawe against, maybe, the deep-sea ono hooked by Kris Sakamoto in the Alenuihaha Channel. Mama’s has a low-key luxury inn too (see Sleep).
Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
3900 Wailea Alanui Dr.
The Hawaii outpost of the Wolfgang Puck empire bears all the celebrity chef’s high-end trademarks: creative California cuisine with Asian edges, a high-caliber wine list, a healthy dose of hip, and—oh, yeah—sticker shock. The sleek, modern dining room balances panoramic sea views with backlit macroscopic photo murals of sea anemones, all psychedelic colors and alien tentacles. From the Hana hearts of palm salad to the pan-roasted uku with lobster sauce, everything on the menu is as carefully designed and as fun to look at as the decor. Reserve an outdoor table on the broad lanai, the best spot in the house for sunsets and stargazing (both kinds).
Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa
3850 Wailea Alanui Dr.
There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet, but, boy, do the Hawaiians make the most of them. Take the little fish the Hawaiians named humuhumunukunukuapuaa, for instance. It's found swimming among reefs all around the islands. The restaurant of the same name is found at a resort hotel, in a thatched-roofed building that floats on a lagoon full of spiny lobsters. It’s way over-the-top, so bring your camera or nobody will believe you. Order a flamboyant tropical cocktail and the signature ahi traps (chunks of seared ahi served with lemongrass). Or have a couple of lobsters fished from the lagoon and thrown on the grill for you.
A SAIGON CAFÉ
1792 Main St.
Finding this wonderful Vietnamese place on a dark back street of rainy Wailuku isn’t easy, and the owner’s refusal to put up a sign doesn’t help. But it's crowded just about every night all the same. If you succeed in joining the in-the-know crowd, you’ll be rewarded by a kitchen that turns out a dozen different types of pho (Vietnamese soup), heaps of hot and cold noodles, stacks of crispy shrimp, clay pots with baked chicken, platters of opakapaka steamed with garlic and ginger, and the best goi du du (green papaya salad) east of Ho Chi Minh City. All the waiters hail from Cambodia, Vietnam, or Laos, and some of them are stand-up comics at heart—especially the guy with the Elvis pompadour.