Isana Brave Fish Kitchen Reopens with Fresh Concept

July 2, 2019, 4:52 PM HST · Updated July 2, 4:52 PM
Kiaora Bohlool · 18 Comments
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The boy who turned 16 at a favorite Kīhei restaurant is now the man who owns it, decades later!!  Let’s step back in time for a moment…
The original Isana, a Japanese/Korean restaurant considered a staple in Kīhei’s dining scene for 29 years, was a top choice for Christine and John Arabatzis, a longtime couple who were both raised here on Maui.  In fact, they went there for the first time during its initial ownership to celebrate John’s 16th birthday; they even remember that chefs even used a huge amount of salt to spell out “Happy Birthday” on the Teppanyaki grill! 

“There was always something very special about this restaurant, from the sweeping ocean views and good food, to the friendship we made with the owners Cindy and Andy,” says co-owner Christine Arabatzis.  

After Isana closed in 2018, the Arabatzis’ saw an opportunity to revitalize and modernize a nostalgic landmark restaurant, reopening the doors in February 2019 under their new ownership as Isana Brave Fish Kitchen.  And THIS Isana prides itself on having its own, unique identity, with fish as a focus.

“We are now excited to offer fresh local fish, sushi and island-style cuisine, including local favorites, such as Oxtail soup and Kalbi ribs. The interior renovation we completed creates a modern, clean, open, welcoming atmosphere with the addition of a full bar with specialty craft cocktails, draft beers, wine and a variety of sake,” explains Judah Griffin, Assistant General Manager at Isana Brave Fish Kitchen. “We have a fish market-style atmosphere featuring a fish display with whole fresh caught fish, warm and welcoming wood, bamboo and stone bringing the sea to table concept from the food to the ambiance.”

There’s also a traditional Japanese “Great Wave of Kanagawa” picture posted behind the sushi bar, which showcases fisherman in boats with huge capsizing waves, exemplifying what our fisherman do out there in the ocean every day; risking their lives to catch us fresh fish. That’s where the “brave” comes in with their new name.

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And the owners should know:  John isn’t only a restauranteur — he’s a fisherman and supplier, so the catch of the day IS truly that!  It’s the same rule of thumb at Pita Paradise, which the Arabatzis’ also own in Wailea.  At Isana Brave Fish Kitchen, they don’t know the featured fish until it comes in on the boat, as John and other local fishermen provide the freshest as fresh can get.  In my experience of their food, the sashimi platter is simply outstanding,  sushi is excellent (a pickle sampler adds to the experience) and fish entrées offer a variety of delicious preparations.

“Being a fisherman-owned restaurant, we are able to deliver a freshness and variety of fish available nowhere else on the South Side,” says Griffin.  “Combined with the creative passion of our chefs, top-notch service, and a stunning ocean view,  Isana Brave Fish Kitchen truly offers an experience not available anywhere else in Kīhei!”

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    Sashimi, sushi and cocktails at Isana Brave Fish Kitchen in Kīhei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Isana Brave Fish Kitchen menu. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Assortment of kimchi and pickles at Isana Brave Fish Kitchen in Kīhei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Fresh catch of the day at Isana Brave Fish Kitchen in Kīhei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Fresh-caught sashimi at Isana Brave Fish Kitchen in Kīhei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    Kalbi beef ribs at Isana Brave Fish Kitchen in Kīhei. Photo by Kiaora Bohlool.

    I asked the folks at this new Isana to describe some of the menu favorites in their own words.  Here are some of the highlights:

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    Signature Cocktails

    Li Hing Mui Mango Margarita – “A sweet and tangy take on a local classic”

    Lilo n Sip- “An adult style refreshing smoothie with mint, lilokoi, and coconut flavors”

    Shiso-cool- “A crisp cocktail with shiso and tropical flavors”

    Kitchen

    Rib Eye Steak – Served pūpū-style in a sizzling pan (perfect to share)

    Oxtail Soup- Our take on the classic with a generous portion of oxtail

    Garlic Shrimp Noodles- Featuring Kaua‘i prawns, locally-made noodles, seasonal veggies, and a delicious garlic sauce.

    Fried Chicken- Our secret recipe creates the perfect fried chicken with a thin crispy crust, tender meat, and loads of flavor paired with our flavorful dipping sauce.

    Kalbi Ribs- We marinate our ribs for days to create a tender and delicious take on this dish. Modeled after Maui’s famous “Azeka Ribs.”

    Raw bar

    Washington Oysters- Our vendor is able to deliver us super high-quality Washington oysters flown directly to Maui. Usually harvested just a day or two before being served here. These mouthwatering offerings are available on the half shell or in a shooter.

    Sushi bar

    Hamachi Jalapeño- A sushi classic made with top grade Hamachi and served with our homemade ponzu sauce.

    Red Dragon Roll- Our most popular roll. Shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, topped with spicy tuna mix, green onion, and homemade Kabayaki sauce (unagi glaze).

    Dessert

    Tempura Fried ice cream- Hawaiian-made ice cream, fresh baked pound cake, perfectly fried. So ono!

    No matter your memories of the old Isana, owners welcome you to come try what they’re offering and support local business; they want a visit to Isana Brave Fish Kitchen to truly become an experience.  The restaurant is open from 11 a.m to 10 p.m. daily with happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m.  There’s also a late happy hour on Friday and Saturday nights with free karaoke from 10 p.m. to midnight. Both happy hour spans include discounted sushi and beverages.
    “The owner’s motif is to keep prices reasonable for all customers, while offering only the highest quality ingredients. This includes locally-grown produce, top-quality meats and the freshest local catch available,” says Griffin.   “With a completely new menu, concept, and beautiful renovations, we are ready to re-establish Isana as a top Maui dining destination.”
    The spacious, modern dining room is located right across from the beach at 515 S. Kīhei Road, providing fantastic ocean views.  The mellow vibe, personable service and excellent menu make for a memorable time, whether enjoying sushi and cocktails at sunset or enjoying dinner…perhaps for a birthday like John Arabatzis once did!
    Kiaora Bohlool
    Kiaora Bohlool has been a journalist since 1998. With chefs in her family, she has a lifelong appreciation for food...

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