Nick’s Fishmarket Maui Offers Something for Everyone
By Vanessa Wolf
There’s something fishy in Wailea.
Although the name implies a casual corner shop where you might pick up some poke for the beach, saunter into Nick’s Fishmarket Maui in search of some raw mahi mahi filets for the grill and quickly find yourself a fish out of water.
Located in the plush Fairmont Kea Lani Resort, the upscale, romantic restaurant focuses – not surprisingly – on (prepared) seafood.
We started with the Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell ($28).
Garnished with an ahi tartare and lilikoi vinaigrette, the ahi adds an unexpected, dense texture to the otherwise understated mouthful. The lilikoi vinaigrette endeavors to balance the salty brine, but sadly the most notable flavor present is that of white truffle oil.
A trend whose time has passed, we wish we’d stuck with our instincts and asked them to hold it.
The sharply pungent oil drowns out the subtle, oceany oyster and sweetly sour lilikoi and that, my friends, is a crying shame.
If the $28 price tag doesn’t accommodate a slice of real truffle (and with Alba or white winter truffles going for $6000 or more a pound, it probably doesn’t) we recommend a cease and desist on the overpowering oil.
Happily, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
We licked our wounds over the Ahi Poi Pounder ($22).
Thinly sliced (pounded? The reasoning for the dish’s name eluded us) raw ahi is wrapped around an ice cream scoop-sized mound of delicate, mayonaissey crab salad delicately embellished with onions and tobiko.
Plated atop three small slices of fresh avocado and garnished with soy and wasabi aioli, it’s reminiscent of a California roll or the ubiquitous “crab stack” appetizer… Only better.
Holy mackerel. No need to fish for compliments, we’d eat an Ahi Poi Pounder every day of the week if we could.
It takes a village.
We’ve seen plays that involved less people than the server team assigned to our table while dining at Nick’s.
One person took the order, another was responsible for drinks, a third arrived with the food and we imagine someone is potentially on standby should you suddenly start to choke.
Truth be told, it’s kind of confusing… And if our issues getting attention from anyone but the water glass-filler server (props to you, Sir) are any indicator, it seems to be for the staff, as well.
Regardless, the ambiance is “resort romantic” with sweeping views of the palm-tree flanked ocean and a relaxed, vacation-y vibe.
No doubt caught up in the magic of it all, we ordered the Potato “Scaled” Mahi Mahi ($38), which – happily – was as enchanting as it sounds.
Topped with thin, seared potato slices layered to resemble scales and plated atop freshly grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes and a sweet red wine sauce, the fish was cooked to perfection.
Although we found the cabernet beurre rouge a bit more honey-flavored than we needed – but nothing some added salt didn’t balance – we’d order this again in a heartbeat… Minus one nefarious ingredient we’d overlooked on the menu.
Yes, there was a time when the words “white truffle oil” conveyed an air of luxury and sophistication.
But the 90’s are over.
Sure, there may be some select instances where the pungent, almost chemical flavor works, but this (yet again) ain’t it.
Hold that and you’re good to go.
The Strawberries Panzini ($25) is hands-down the most expensive dessert we’ve ever ordered, but
- It’s for two people
- Sudden, spontaneous “resort romance” fever is highly contagious, even when dining with same-sex friends.
- It’s not just a sweet finale, it’s performance art.
Ten Upcountry strawberries are brought to the table, drizzled with chocolate and set aflame by a swirling glass of Grand Marnier in a mighty display of culinary pyrotechnics.
Accompanied by a plate of sugar and cream, the net result is something of a sticky fruit fondue dish, but the flavors work well together and the fresh strawberries keep it from toppling over into sugary sweet Candy Land.
On our next visit, we gave the bar – and the wallet-friendly happy hour – a whirl.
Held nightly from 5 to 7 p.m. and available only at the granite-topped bar in the rear of the restaurant, the menu offers some unique dishes and a few (presumably) scaled-back items from the dinner menu.
We started with the Fresh Hawaiian Ceviche ($8).
Fish, avocado, and chunks of mango and papaya are cut to the same size and appear in an equal fish-to-fruit ratio, reminding us of the trendy Brazilian versions made with mango, pineapple and starfruit.
Accompanied by two fried dumpling skins and six Molokai sweet potato chips, it’s a little more mango salsa than tart and spicy Mexican tradition.
It wouldn’t be our first choice, but enter into it with your mind open and your sweet tooth front and center, and you are far less likely to be disappointed.
In contrast, the Calamari Fritti ($6) holds no surprises, and that’s a good thing.
Drizzled with chipotle aioli, the tiny squidlets are perfectly fried and the portion is generous for the price.
Service is straightforward, friendly and far more efficient than in the dining room, but the space gets crowded and stays that way.
The bartenders are clearly a draw in and of themselves: Prepare to squeeze in like sardines.
Whether you’re in the mood for an upscale, romantic dinner or some cheap eats in raucous, tight company at the bar, Nick’s Fishmarket Maui is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Nick’s Fishmarket Maui is located inside the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort at 4100 Wailea Alanui Drive in Kihei. They are open from 5 (dinner starts at 5:30) to 9:45 p.m., seven days a week.