The dining scene here is becoming increasingly sophisticated as the world continues to discover the islands…
David Paul’s Lahaina Grill
David Paul’s is still a favorite of both locals and tourists alike. Beautifully designed, it’s adjacent to the elegant Lahaina Inn in a historic building on Lahainaluna Road. The celebrated menu is revised seasonally, but you can count on finding the signature tequila shrimp and firecracker rice along with such scrumptious desserts as triple-berry pie. The restaurant has an extensive wine cellar, an in-house bakery, and splashy artwork decorating the walls. Hawaiian-Pacific Rim. $26-$42.
Little Village Noodle House
Unassuming and budget-friendly, Little Village sets a standard of friendly and attentive service to which every Chinese restaurant should aspire. We have roamed the large, pan-China menu and found a new favorite in everything we’ve tried: shredded beef, spinach with garlic, Shanghai noodles, honey-walnut shrimp, and orange chicken with actual oranges. Chinese. $7-$15.
We’ve never had a bad experience here, and we’ve never heard of anyone else doing so, either. The “Wong Way,” as it’s not so jokingly called by his staff, includes an ingrained understanding of the aloha spirit, evident in the skilled but unstarched service, and creative and playful interpretations of island cuisine. Try Da Bag (seafood steamed in a Mylar pouch), Chinatown Roast Duck Nachos, and Poki Pines (rice-studded seafood wonton appetizers). Contemporary. $25-$38.
Sansei is Japanese with a Hawaiian twist. Inspired dishes include panko-crusted ‘ahi (panko are Japanese bread crumbs), spicy fried calamari, mango-and-crab-salad roll, and a decadent foie gras nigiri (served on rice without seaweed) sushi. Desserts often use local fruit; the Kula-persimmon crème brûlée is stunning. Both locations are now popular karaoke hangouts, serving late-night sushi at half price. Japanese. $8-$30.
George Mavrothalassitis admits he’s “crazy.” Crazy because the care he takes to draw out the truest and most concentrated flavors, to track down the freshest fish, to create one-of-a-kind wine pairings might strike others as mad. The menu changes quarterly. We recommend multicourse tasting menus ($78-$137 with wines, depending on the number of dishes you mix and match). Order anything with shrimp from the aquafarms of the Kahuku area on the North Shore, Keahole lobster from the Big Island, lamb, or fresh fish. Contemporary. $32-$42.
Hidden up at the quiet Blue Diamond Resort, this restaurant is one local patrons would like kept secret. A circular stone atrium gives way to a small piano lounge, where you can find the best sunset view on the island. You can count on the freshness of the ingredients in superb dishes like the quail saltimbocca, and the saffron vongole — a colorful affair of squid-ink pasta and spicy saffron broth. Italian. $26-$45.
Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid Hawai’i
This waterfront wonder is well worth the splurge — the menu is inventive and the wine list excellent. Though you can order steak here, the seafood is really where you get your money’s worth. The crab-crusted ono is a little piece of heaven, sitting on clouds of wasabi mashed potatoes. Leave room for dessert — it’s worth the indulgence. Contemporary-Hawaiian. $31-$50.
Pahu i ‘a at the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai
Presentation here is terrific — tables are beautifully set, with handblown glassware. But the food is what matters, and what’s served here tastes as good as it looks. Asian-influenced dishes stand out for their layers of flavor. Don’t miss the three sashimi and three caviar appetizers, or the crispy whole moi served with Asian slaw, black beans, and sweet chili-lime vinaigrette. Breakfast is also superb — the lemon ricotta pancakes are so good they should be illegal.
The Beach House
Few Kaua’i experiences are more delightful than sitting at one of the outside tables and savoring a delectable meal while the sun sinks into the glassy blue. The menu changes often, but the food is consistently creative and delicious. A few trademark dishes appear regularly, such as the Local Boy paella and fire-roasted ‘ahi. Seared macadamia-nut-crusted mahimahi, a dish ubiquitous on island menus, gets a refreshing new twist when served with a citrus aki miso sauce. Contemporary. $19-$32.
One of Kaua’i’s best restaurants. Chef Vincent Pecoraro combines old-world techniques with new energy to create menu selections as enticing as the surroundings. Porcini-mushroom crêpes with Parmesan sauce, fresh tomato salad topped with his flavorful homemade mozzarella cheese, and lobster piccata on a bed of fettuccine blackened with squid ink thrill the palate and delight the eye. Italian. $26-$42.