If you’re holidaying on the Hawaiian island of Maui you’ll be spoilt for choice by all of the fine dining restaurants in the posh resort of Wailea. This means it can be a tough call knowing where to go for a special occasion. I’d heard that Ko restaurant in Wailea, part of the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel, was a pretty good bet, especially as the hotel’s restaurant had undergone a $5.1 million makeover. And when the restaurant invited me to check it out as their guest I jumped at the chance. Lots of the dishes at Ko restaurant, created by executive chef Tylun Pang, come from family recipes. The menu consists of fusion food, influenced by the many cultures of Hawaii’s plantation era. On arrival we were greeted by our waiter Ronnie (he introduced himself) who was incredibly knowledgable. I’d expect nothing less from this Wailea fine dining restaurant. Ronnie was happy to make recommendations as Sharps couldn’t decide on his main course. While we deliberated over the menu Ronnie brought over a selection of breads to our table – Portuguese sweet rolls, seaweed and sesame seed rice cakes, edamame humous, garlic salt and lavender honey butter.
Fresh fish, as you might expect, features heavily on the menu in Maui so I decided to go for a fishy sushi starter. My oishi sushi with spicy tuna at Ko restaurant was not only the best sushi in Hawaii, it was quite honestly the best sushi I’ve ever eaten. The combination of fresh tuna, enveloped in soft rice and coated with a light tempura batter, which added an unusual crunchy texture, was divine. Sharps went for seafood, lightly fried wok vegetables with huge king prawns which he said was light and fresh (as he helped me out with my sushi). I stuck to fish for my main course too and had the fish of the day, opa (moonfish), caught by local fishermen. This was topped with a salty macadamia crust and served with ginger butter and a deep purple sweet potato mash. Sharps, on Ronnie’s recommendation, went for the lamb chops marinated in coconut cream accompanied with pak choi and potatoes.
Quite where Sharps found the room to fit it in is beyond me but somehow he also managed a dessert of chantilly cake, layers of sponge and sweet cream topped with profiterole. I was a bit gutted he didn’t go for the ginger cheesecake so I could try a mouthful or two as I don’t really like cream – especially not when it’s set and more like custard in texture. Probably a deliberate ploy on Sharps’ part as he thoroughly enjoyed his pudding and didn’t have to share it.
Ko restaurant is fairly big as far as Maui restaurants go. There was a bar in the centre and both indoor and outdoor seating, with umbrellas on the tables outside. Play live Hawaiian music four or five days a week. Part of Ko restaurant overlooks the Fairmont Hotel’s swimming pool (we had a view out into the car park). Ko restaurant has won various awards, it won best Maui restaurant 2013. But it was the sushi at Ko restaurant that for me makes this restaurant a Maui hidden gem as I reckon it serves the best sushi in Hawaii.