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Artistry of sushi enjoyed in Haiku

Hamachi carpaccio at Nuka in Haiku is topped with thinly sliced daikon, slivers of both green and red jalapeno and served with Nuka’s secret sauce. AYA GANZ photo

One of the jewels of Maui is the town of Haiku. Even the name reminds us of poetry.

Haiku town has a quaint cluster of eclectic eateries inside its town center. Japanese food is extremely popular on Maui and with good reason. Some of the freshest seafood in the world is caught just off our beautiful shores.

The history of sushi began in the rice fields of the Mekong River area of Southeast Asia. Originally, the fish was fermented with rice and then the rice was discarded. Fresh fish, vegetables and seaweed wrappers were, and still are, the standard today. Modern sushi is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

I may have found my newest Shangri-La in Haiku at Nuka. This gem of a restaurant has been open on the island for many years and boasts some of the most delicious, stylistic and fresh food imaginable. I recommend getting there early if you’re hungry; they don’t take reservations. Upon entering Nuka, one feels right away that this charming place has it all figured out.

The ambiance is lively and the decor is subtle. The art is classically Japanese; nothing flashy. All the colors soothe the eye in a style synonymous with a feng shui aesthetic. I treated my best friend to her birthday dinner. More mouths, more fun! I recommend getting several small plates to share.

We started with the kinpira gobo. This is a most unusual dish and one I had never really seen before. It consists of very thinly sliced burdock root lightly sauteed with carrot, sake, sugar, sesame and chili. Burdock root is a fantastic earthy root vegetable used beautifully in Japanese cuisine. This was no exception. Next, I had the hamachi carpaccio. As I mentioned in my previous articles, the hamachi served in most of the best restaurants on Maui comes from the Big Island. It is sustainably farmed and considered by many to be the best fish in the world. This small plate was as delightful to the eye as it was to taste. It was graced with thinly sliced daikon, slivers of both green and red jalapeno and served in Nuka’s secret sauce, which is perfectly delicate, allowing the flavors of the fish to stand out.

Next, I do love eggplant, and if you do too, then you must try their nasu miso eggplant starter.

I fell in love with this. It’s a half of local eggplant broiled with a miso sauce that creates a glaze. I’m still dreaming about it. It was that good! Something wonderfully unique to Nuka was the lollypop roll; as beautiful to look at as it was to eat. Instead of the classic seaweed wrapper or rice, this roll is wrapped in cucumber. Inside is tuna, hamachi, salmon, shrimp asparagus, and masago roe, drizzled with ponzu sauce. For desert we had to have something to commemorate the birthday girl, so we had a trio of ice cream: black sesame, green tea and mango. A perfect ending.

— Nuka, 780 Haiku Road, Haiku

We all need to take time for self care. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is hosting a special one-night event on March 27 starting at 5 p.m.: an Aipono Winemaker’s Dinner featuring Turley Wine Cellars.

This exquisite dinner will take place in the resort’s award-winning eatery, Japengo. The restaurant boasts a menu of classic Asian food with an eclectic island twist. Those attending this not-to-be missed one-night affair will be treated to a four-course delectable Omakase meal, prepared by Chef de Cuisine Gevin Utrillo, and the newest star of the restaurant, sushi chef Masa Hattori. Guests will be treated to exploring the highly sought after Turley Wines that have come all the way from Templeton Calif.

Turley Wine Cellars is particularly famous for its award-winning old-vine red zinfandel. The dinner is priced at $130 per person and includes tax and gratuity. Twenty-five dollars from each attendee supports the UH-Maui College of Culinary Arts Program and the UH-Maui Food Innovation Center. Seating is limited so call ahead or email to make a reservation at courtney.geiser@hyatt.com.

— Japengo, 200 Nohea Kai Drive, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Lahaina.

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