It was a stroke of genius when Tri-Star Restaurant Group – owner of Aaron’s Atop Ala Moana, Sarento’s Top of the “I” and Nick’s Fishmarket on Oahu as well as Sarento’s on the Beach on Maui – decided to open Nick’s Fishmarket Maui in the lovely Fairmont Kea Lani Resort in sunny Wailea.

A 30-minute drive from Kahalui Airport, each of the hotel’s spacious one-bedroom suites ($525-$1,200 daily rate) feature a living room with a double sofa and full entertainment system with DVD player and high-speed Internet service, a private lanai and spacious marble bathroom with a deep soaking tub. The two- and three-bedroom oceanfront villas ($1,500-$2,900) offer the ultimate private getaway with private lanais, plunge pool, barbecue grill (where on request the chef will create a personalized barbecue dinner) and kitchen.

With three outdoor pools, luxurious spa and warm, courteous service, the Kea Lani offers something for everyone with world-class golf at Wailea Golf Club located directly across the street from the resort.

Entering the hotel’s open-air hotel lobby, your eyes take in the resort’s 22-acre lush, tropical grounds rolling gently down to pristine Polo Beach. With its Mediterranean-inspired architectural elegance, it’s as if you were transported to an exclusive, private island.

As you descend the lobby’s makai staircase, Nick’s Fish-market sits on your left with its welcoming vine-covered overhead trellis and twinkling lights.

I love dining outdoors, but only if I don’t get windblown and assaulted with noise. Not a problem at Nick’s. The warm, soft breeze felt like a caress as we perused the menu. If you prefer indoor dining, the aquatic-themed interior has a special charm, right down to the shell-shaped lighting fixtures, and the curved, granite-topped full service bar welcomes guests for cocktails and pupus.

My husband and I are pinot noir fans, so we selected a bottle of MacPhail 2005 Pinot Noir from Nick’s extensive wine list (from the restaurant’s impressive 2,000-bottle wine cellar) to accompany our meal. Although white wine is a more popular choice, I think pinot noir, with its berry flavors, also pairs beautifully with seafood dishes.

Since Nick’s is well known for its classic seafood preparation, we started with Nick’s “Original” Tiger Eye Sushi made with prime ahi, and I admit I’d never had anything quite like it. Served tempura-style, it’s nestled in a smooth mustard sauce aside greens and cherry tomatoes – a colorful, melt-in-your-mouth delight not to be missed. I could have been happy with just that, but our servers awaited our further desires. By the way, the service is top notch.

The seafood chowder was chock full of fresh fish in a delectably savory broth that was neither too thick nor too thin. Nick’s boasts the finest in local and Mainland seafood as well the freshest local produce, and the chef backs up that claim with this heavenly soup. The Greek Maui Wowee salad – a meal itself with feta, shrimp, avocado, romaine, tomatoes and Maui onions – had just the right balance of textures and flavors.

We were celebrating a special occasion, so we ordered lobster as our main course, and shared the roasted one-pound Hawaiian Spiny Lobster Tail. Cooked to perfection, it was served simply with a “loaded” baked potato and butter-laced vegetables, enhancing its delicate flavor. Divine.

Alas there was just no room for dessert, although I admit the offerings were tantalizing.

If you’re craving a well-prepared, fresh seafood dinner in a charming outdoor ambiance, it doesn’t get much better than this.


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