Many people are "Sansei-centric" when it comes to sushi in Kapalua. I'm talking about the smokin' hot Sansei Japanese Restaurant & Sushi bar on Office Road.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, its neighbor, is also on a smokin' hot roll with Kai Sushi Bar lobby level, and it's as authentic as it gets with Tokyo native Tadashi Yoshino leading his expert culinary team.
"From Thursday to Monday when we are open, we feature a kamaaina special of 50 percent off all food and sushi from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.," says Manager Richard Butler, who previously worked for Sansei and the old Adventure Center Cafe.
Tokyo native Tadashi Yoshino leads his team of sushi chefs at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua’s Kai Sushi Bar on the lobby level. Here, he’s got fresh hamachi, salmon and other traditional styles of the Japanese delicacy.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
"At Kai, it's a much different experience than at Sansei. Our focus here is on the more traditional styles of sushi and the quality of the fish. It's about the dedicated Japanese chefs. They are true masters. It's the best-kept secret around."
Arrive before sunset, and you may perch yourself at the sushi bar or at one of many elegant tables. View the Kapalua sunset with clouds that often turn hues from papaya to mango to deep lychee.
Sip a steaming bowl of soul-satisfying miso soup and peel and eat garlic edamame (soy beans), crunch hot and crispy tempura and check out the interior with hand-carved beams (which resemble outrigger canoes), and back-lit wall murals.
Set across the lobby from Alaloa Lounge, Kai has the benefit of being in earshot of the live music on Fridays. On a recent evening, we enjoyed David Choy on saxophone, Clay Mortenson on guitar and vocals, and Sal Godinez on keyboards. It was outrageously good and we were allowed to move into the lobby after dinner to watch them.
"This concept allows you to socialize and move from area to area. After all, this is the Ritz," says Butler. "Another mystique of the Ritz is 'ask and it will happen.' People come into Kai and want a pizza or a burger and of course, we'll honor their requests. We offer something for everybody."
But it's the signature items such as the rainbow roll and the crab dynamite that will have you lifting your fancy chopsticks and dipping them in high-end shoyu and wasabi in no time flat.
"Anything to do with ahi here is over the top in taste, quality and consistency," Butler says. "You may order it as poke, as sashimi, and as spicy tuna roll."
For a nominal price, you may add on tiny quail eggs, slices of fresh avocado, tobiko caviar and more.
Hot appetizers will tempt the nonsushi eaters in your party. Savor crab and fontina cheese dip served on grilled flat bread, Thai shrimp with pineapple carpaccio and mango vinaigrette, and braised short-rib potstickers with citrus-soy glaze.
You may also enjoy baked scallop sushi, teriyaki filet skewers in miso-ponzu sauce, and chicken spring rolls with lemongrass vinegar dipping sauce.
Beverages include hot and cold sake with nuances varying from crisp and dry to sweet and unfiltered; plum wine and domestic and imported beers.
The Ritz's wine list is extensive with wines by the glass and by the bottle. This month, in addition to the regular selections, Robert Mondavi Jr.'s Onehope Chardonnay wine is being poured with 50 percent of the profits going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Desserts range from pineapple mac-nut savarin to caramelized-banana creme brulee to warm chocolate cake.
For Ritz reservations, call 669-6200.