24, Oct 2008
Generalizations about Maui Food

So, a week of food on Maui. We had some very good sashimi, some excellent ice cream, and some great fried rice. We had one very good “fine dining” experience and a few disappointing ones. We had some outstanding Vietnamese food and some awful Vietnamese food. We laughed, we cried, etc.

The one thing that struck us repeatedly was how disappointing a couple of the “best restaurants on Maui” were. Both the General Store and Seawatch seem to be considered among Maui’s best and we were underwhelmed by both. Both were not only “award winning” but were very well reviewed on Yelp. My theory is it’s the tourism. For one thing, a number of reviewers seem to be blinded by terrific views and good service, as well as by high prices and the fact that it’s their special occasion (many are here for their wedding or honeymoon) into not noticing how the actual food is — not that atmosphere etc. are unimportant and don’t belong in a review, but don’t get too caught up in it if you’re talking about the food. But most of all, I suspect that the expensive “fine dining” places on Maui (many of them in expensive resorts) can just get away with it. People don’t come here for food, they come here for beaches etc. They aren’t necessarily foodies and they expect to pay a lot anyway. In Seattle, I think, you have to justify your high price tag with outstanding food (or something; not everything expensive in Seattle is good); here it’s just part of the scenery.
This didn’t only apply to the “fine dining”. Milagros, for example, was very well reviewed by all but we found it ordinary at best. The one exception to this general trend was Mala Wailea, a hotel restaurant where we had one of our best meals. Sansei also lived up to the hype pretty well; their poke, at least, was one of the best things I had all week. The secret while here seems to be: eat a lot of ice cream, raw fish, and fried rice.

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