Broke da Mouth! Best of Maui Dining 2017

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Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Mieko Horikoshi

ko restaurant maui
Fresh island fish gets a Chinese accent with lap cheong sausage and veggies steamed in broth.

In 1987, I met my six-foot, 230-pound Chinese father-in-law, Kingston Yee, for the first time. Although he was born in Canton and raised in Detroit and California, he looked like a local Maui boy. You know, da rubbah-slippah-and-shorts kinda guy. I learned during this first meeting that Kingston likes to eat like a local, too. A complete breakfast of Portuguese sausage, eggs and rice at Sam Sato’s could easily be followed an hour later by a couple of Komoda’s famous cream puffs. The colloquialism “broke da mouth” could have been coined by Kingston. Translated, it means, “This is the absolute best-tasting food I’ve ever eaten.”

Kingston has been coming back for extra helpings ever since — though the island’s food scene has evolved a lot since 1987. These days, Maui has so many exemplary chefs (including several who have been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City), that “broke da mouth” is as likely to refer to gourmet fare as to a local plate lunch.

Want proof? Here are a few of our readers’ favorite ‘Aipono-winning restaurants:

Kō Restaurant | Gold ‘Aipono Award for Best Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine

Ko's Pansit
A Filipino family meal is never complete without pansit. Kō’s version is chock-full of seafood and brimming with flavor.

Ask any local foodie where to eat, and Kō Restaurant at Fairmont Kea Lani Resort is sure to be recommended. At this family-friendly venue, Chef Tylun Pang has created an upscale menu of plantation “grinds” worth returning to time and again — entrées like pansit, a Filipino noodle dish with Kaua‘i shrimp and local sautéed vegetables; Chinese-style poached opah (moonfish) and lap cheong (sausage) finished with searing hot sesame oil and served with bok choy greens and white rice to soak up the broth; and crisp, lightly battered Tristan lobster tempura. (Need I say more?) Chef Pang, whose tenure at Kea Lani spans nearly two decades, is also a dedicated supporter of UH-Maui College’s culinary program. All profits from the sale of his cookbook, What Maui Likes to Eat, benefit the program. 4100 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea | 808-875-2210 | Fairmont.com/kealani 

“It’s our go-to restaurant. The food and service can’t be beat. And the restaurant is beautiful.” — Lou Weinstein, Wailea

Flatbread Company | Gold ‘Aipono Award for Best Pizza

Flatbread Pizza Maui
Meet Flatbread’s best-selling pizzas. Pele Pesto (left) has Maui basil-and-macadamia pesto, Surfing Goat Dairy cheese, Ha‘ikū organic tomatoes and kalamata olives. Mopsy’s Kalua Pork (right) features kiawe-wood-smoked, free-range pork, homemade organic mango barbecue sauce and Maui pineapple.

When our daughters, Kali and Tori, went away to college, their brief homecomings always included a visit to Flatbread with friends. Although it’s only been open since 2007, it is an institution with locals and visitors alike. Flatbread makes its memorable thin-crust pizzas with quality ingredients — organic flour, Maui produce, and naturally cured meats — and bakes them in a kiawe-wood-burning oven. On Give Back Tuesdays, a portion of pie sales has long funded local needs, from the Hawai‘i Wildlife Foundation, to Montessori School. Add a happy service staff to the mix and you’ll see why Flatbread has garnered countless Gold ‘Aipono Awards. 89 Hāna Highway, Pā‘ia | 808-579-8989 | FlatbreadCompany.com

“Their pizza is so wholesome, light and tasty. After I eat there, it doesn’t feel like I’ve eaten a house! It’s real!” — Karen Costner, Kahului

Aloha Mixed Plate | Silver ‘Aipono Award for Best Plate Lunch 

Aloha Mix Plate Maui
Korean Kalbi ribs.

Located on the ocean side behind Lahaina Cannery Mall, this is da kine ‘ono grinds plate lunch. But guess what? They have breakfast and dinner, too! Sweetbread French toast and mimosas? Check! Korean kalbi, and teri chicken with two scoops rice and macaroni salad? Check! $3.95 happy-hour mai tais? Check!  1285 Front Street, Lahaina | 808-667-7667 | AlohaMixedPlate.com

Clayton Baybayan, of Lahaina, loves the chicken teriyaki plate, but says, “All the food is good here! Great portions and good prices with an ocean view!”

Lahaina Grill | Gold ‘Aipono Award for Best Wine List

Lahaina Grill Maui
Cake Walk appetizer.

Chef Arnolfo Gonzalez’s Cake Walk appetizer is a seafood lover’s dream. One bite, and you’ll want to holler, “Home run on that one, Chef!” Imagine this: lobster, Pacific rock crab and diver scallop cake; seared ‘ahi tuna cake with ginger vinaigrette; and white shrimp cake with nutty and sweet hoisin sauce. And one can never tire of the Grill’s signature Kona-coffee-roasted Colorado rack of lamb with herbed mashed potatoes, light coffee-cabernet demi-glace; or the firecracker Tequila shrimp. If you happen to walk in with no reservation, the sixteen-seat bar serves the full menu — if a seat is available. 127 Lahainaluna Rd., Lahaina | 808-667-5117 | LahainaGrill.com

“I dine at Lahaina Grill once a week. The staff, the atmosphere, the ambiance [are] so welcoming that it feels like home to me. And, of course, it goes without saying, the food is excellent!” — Scott Olsson, Lahaina


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