Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Sansei Kapalua Executive Chef Kaipo Nakata was born and raised in the ‘hood. Carla Tracy chef photos; food shots courtesy Sansei

“Dress casual, bring a smile, relax and enjoy the adventure of dining at our restaurants.”

— Chef-owner D.K. Kodama

With two restaurants on Maui and one each in Waikiki, the Big Island and Seattle, Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar continues to roll as a cutting-edge dining house concept far and wide.

“We opened the first Sansei down the road in Kapalua in 1996,” says Managing Partner Tom Alejado. “Then we moved here to Office Road in 2007. Sansei Kihei came into play in 2001 and I was the opening GM there.”

Under chef-founder D.K. Kodama, the team moved its Oahu Sansei to Marriott Waikiki in 2004 where d.k. steakhouse is nailing it. Then it opened Sansei Waikoloa that is a hybrid steak and sushi house. Last but not least, is Sansei Seattle.

Sansei’s Corporate Sushi Chef, Masa Hattori, is the mastermind behind new “double-decker” rolls that are a mouthful.

Sister concept Shearwater Tavern in Kihei also hits it out of the ballpark as Best New Restaurant on Maui in this newspaper’s annual Best of Maui guide.

“We have a really incredible chef team,” Alejado says. “Our Corporate Sushi Chef Masa Hattori has been with us for 17 years. He’s been with us so long and with such consistency that he travels to other Sanseis doing quality assurance and training. And he creates many specials.”

For instance, the spicy hamachi Boom Boom Roll is crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside with haji sauce, tobiko caviar and Kula greens. The Wagyu-beef carpaccio entices with truffle-ginger-scallion sauce. The new Hawaiian double-decker roll multiplies the taste factor with tempura crunchies, unagi glaze and sweet Thai chili aioli as garnishes.

“We have a sheet we do everyday of the specials,” says Sansei Kapalua Executive Chef Kaipo Nakata, who grew up right in the neighborhood.

“My great-grandfather served as the akule fisherman for David Thomas Fleming,” says Nakata about his family’s relationship with one of Kapalua’s founders. “My grandfather was the groundskeeper for Kapalua. My dad still works in Kapalua, and he’s only one of two employees with 40 years or more with the company.”

Sushi and sashimi are as fresh as it gets.

Nakata expertly produces the cooked-food part of the menu, such as the blistered shishito peppers in a ginger-scallion-soy reduction; crispy Brussels sprouts salad with farm-fresh poached egg; and short-rib poke with zesty chimmichurri sauce.

“We have such an extensive core menu and a specials menu that it’s unrealistic to have a sit-down course dinner,” says Nakata. “Most people order family-style. Come and enjoy a bunch of different things.”

Speaking of Sansei’s core menu, award-winners are mango-crab salad hand roll that is so refreshing; crab ramen in Asian truffle broth that is comfort food to the max; shrimp dynamite — perfect for those who like to refrain from raw fish; and panko-crusted ahi sashimi that is wrapped with arugula and spinach and flash fried.

“We have a separate gluten-free menu with an amazing number of choices,” says Alejado. “Items such as the hamachi and grilled shiitake tartare, Chinese-style snapper sashimi and grilled pork chop with garlic roasted mashed potatoes. Karaoke nights, beer, sake and craft cocktails make Sansei a fun hangout, too.”

Sansei on Maui at a glance:

Asian rock shrimp cake is an exotic and hot temptation.

• Isle locations: Sansei Kapalua is at 600 Office Road; Sansei Kihei is at 1881 S. Kihei Road.

• Hours: Open daily for dinner only starting at 5:15 p.m. in Kapalua and 5:30 p.m. in Kihei and running until 10 p.m. (except for late-night deals, below).

• Early-bird specials: All guests get 25 percent off food nightly when ordering by 6 p.m. at both Kapalua and Kihei locations. Those with valid Hawaii ID get 50 percent off food Sundays and Mondays before 6 p.m. at Kapalua. Walk-ins and dine-ins only.

• Late night deals: Get 50 percent off dine-in food and free karaoke from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays in Kapalua and Thursdays to Saturdays in Kihei (for those 21 and older).

• For more details: Call Kapalua at 669-6286 and Kihei at 879-0004 or visit

Specialty rolls range from spicy Japanese BLT to Sunset Flower Sushi.