Kamana Kitchen

Indian eatery opens in Kihei

Owners are Nepal natives Tirtha “Raj” Luitel and wife Danta Luitel, who also run two other Kamana Kitchens on the Big Island. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Craving chicken tikka Masala, coconut fish curry and crispy papadams? No problem. Maui just got more international with the recent opening of Kamana Kitchen near Foodland in Kihei by a family of seasoned Nepalese restaurateurs.

Now, it’s easy to be transported into the heart of northern India with authentic fare of aloo matar with fresh peas, thick and chewy naan, dahl lentil soup and lamb vindaloo mild, medium or hot.

Walls of yellow curry are complemented by dark billowy drapes resembling saffron threads. The air is cool like you’re in some raja’s palace.

Exotic spices are on display in a fine wood cabinet. A painting of the Taj Majal catches the eye as does Buddha and his followers in a garden, peacocks, elephant sculptures and intricate carvings.

Aromas from cardamom to nutmeg waft from the steam on the shiny buffet that runs daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Roses on each table add fragrance, too.

Palak paneer beckons. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

It’s hard to imagine that the space once housed the humble Aroma d’Italia as it’s continents apart. Kamana Kitchen’s design by Mark Joslin is impressive with cushy booths, black ceilings and beautiful floors.

“We have set up 110 seats both outside on the lanai and inside,” says owner Tirtha “Raj” Luitel, who also owns and operates two successful Kamana Kitchens on the Big Island, one at Hilo Shopping Center on the east side; and the original at Waterfront Row in Kailua Kona on the west end.

The couple hails from Kathmandu, Nepal, and “Raj” says that he traveled back and forth from there to Delhi in northern India for about 20 years. He manufactured scarves and such and then he and his family moved to the Mainland U.S. doing various ventures before they settled on the Big Island about five years ago.

“We’re food lovers, vegetarians, and we opened the restaurants to be served in the way we expect it to be cooked and served,” says the owners’ daughter Chanda Luitel, who now attends college on Oahu majoring in pre-med and business.

“We do mostly northern Indian cuisine and we feature vegan and vegetarian dishes along with tandoori, chicken, lamb, seafood, breads, rice specialties, appetizers and a host of desserts.”

As do aromatic spices. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

The daily buffet is priced right at $14.99. While the dishes rotate, on opening day it featured a potato fry, saag paneer, three types of chicken dishes, dahl with yellow lentils, raita, rice pudding, salads, desserts and more. The buffet is served mild to be kid friendly with hot sauces on the side.

“We really want to emphasize that we make everything fresh right here. There are no preservatives,” says Raj.

“We live in Kona and Kamana Kitchen is our favorite restaurant there,” says Brent Hanson of the TripAdvisor Excellent Award winner. “My girlfriend’s parents live on Maui and we were so excited to try it over here. The flavors are amazing, we really like the chicken Madras and service is always great.”

“The buffet was excellent,” says Mark Shaw of Kihei. “Very nice variety, cooked with the right amount of spices. Not too hot. Very satisfying.”

Fast facts: Located at 1881 S. Kihei Road near Foodland. Open daily. Brunch buffet is served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and dinner is from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Call 879-7888 or visit www.kamanakitchen.com.