(UPDATED JUNE, 2019)
Choosing the best Japanese restaurants on Maui is difficult. There are so many great Japanese restaurants, it’s nearly impossible to choose the best. So instead of naming “the best Japanese restaurant on Maui,” we’re going to list these alphabetically. We’re also looking at Japanese food overall, not sushi. So while most of these places have fantastic sushi, we chose the restaurants based on their lunch and dinner dishes. The fact that most have outstanding sushi is just a bonus.
Nuka, owned by the same folks behind island favorite Paia Fish Market, is an upscale Japanese restaurant located upcountry in Haiku. Is it worth the drive up? We think so. But note that they do not take reservations, so we recommend you get there early or plan on waiting. Another option is hitting Nuka for lunch, though they do not have sushi on their lunch menu. The food, especially the sushi, is wonderful. Served as small plates, we recommend splitting about three dishes per person. So a party of two should get about 5 or 6 dishes, plus sushi. (Nuka)
Located in the the Hyatt in Lahaina, Japengo is an award-winning, fine dining Japanese restaurant. If you think you’ll get out of there for less than $100, you’re fooling yourself (edamame, for example, is $8), but you’ll eat one of the best meals you’re likely to have on Maui. A neat thing about Japnengo is you can order half-dishes for half the price of a full dish allowing you to try as many dishes as possible. The sushi is great, but we recommend mixing and matching from the rest of the menu. (Japengo)
Restaurant Matsu (Kahului)
Nothing fancy here, but just really good food. By nothing fancy, we mean it’s basically a parked double-wide trailer, though it’s tastefully decorated. The food is next level good. The tempura udon is fantastic. Not too thick, not too salty (a typical problem), it’s just right. Both the pork and the chicken katsus are perfectly prepared. If you can find Matsu, and it’s open, you’re in for a low-priced but excellent meal. (Restaurant Matsu)
Sansei (Kapalua and Kihei)
A longtime Maui favorite, Sansei opened their restaurant in Kapalua in 1996. Their Kihei location followed in 2002. Probably best known for their sushi, Sansei serves up a full Japanese menu that shouldn’t be ignored. The seafood, prepared in traditional Japanese-style, is always fresh and delicious. The tempuras are all light and crisp. Finally, we recommend the crab ramen with Asian truffle broth. If you order this, though, plan on splitting it. It’s not a huge bowl, but it’s rich and the pleasure of the unique flavor is best tasted in small quantities. (Sansei)
Morimoto Maui (Wailea)
Yes, you can find a Morimoto outpost in most big cities, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the food is absolutely delicious. The Iron Chef himself seems to really enjoy Maui because we’ve here twice in the last year and both times he was walking around the dining room greeting customers. Our single favorite item on the menu is the Duck Duck Goose, a “simple” fried rice elevated by its ingredients and preparation. (Morimoto Maui)
By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.