James Beard Award-winning Chef Peter Merriman has four namesake restaurants spread across Hawaii. But it’s his location in Kapalua, Maui that takes the cake (quite literally, but more on that later).
This picturesque location, complete with panoramic oceanfront views, makes Merriman’s hands down one of the best restaurants in Maui. And inside, it’s just as stunning. High, tiled ceilings and dark wood coupled with candlelit tables set the scene of this upscale dining experience. There’s also an expansive lanai below the restaurant, outfitted with a fire pit, which makes for a captivating starry night dinner. However, you’re going to have to be dedicated if you want to land a seat here, with reservations selling out within hours of release. Make sure to book a table at least one month in advance.
But once you’re in, it will be an experience you’ll never forget.
As one of the pioneers of Hawaiian regional food, Chef Merriman’s unique fare is the star of this dining experience. Everything on the menu is fresh and underscored by his passion for bringing farm-to-table delights to diners. In fact, Merriman’s prides itself on using 90% locally grown or caught produce using sustainable methods.
The service is prompt, with waiters happily answering questions about the menu, making recommendations, and ensuring that the night runs smoothly. Frothy mai tais, mules with house-made ginger beer, and local beers will satiate your thirst as dishes are marched out of the kitchen, each smelling and looking as appetizing as the last.
The entrees successfully showcase Merriman's ethos, from the escargot drenched in garlic butter and cognac, and the tableside Hawaiian ahi poke, to the Chef's own Caesar salad featuring a fun twist: avocado croutons. The menu changes often, but one thing that remains is the lamb, which is prepared differently each night. One night it can be Colorado lamb shanks with potatoes au gratin and another a deep, robust stew, cooked for hours to perfection, complete with spice rubs and a sweet honey aftertaste that lingers on your tongue.
Spice is the star of the show. The macadamia nut-crusted Mahi Mahi with chili-garlic broccoli is light yet moreish, while the harissa-spiced wild shrimp and scallops served with gnocchi and saffron butter blend Mediterranean flavors with fresh Hawaiian seafood.
While the main courses may be excellent, it’s the Waialua chocolate purse that you’ll be thinking about long after you pull out of the parking lot. Crackling into the golden phyllo dough, glazed with an Earl Gray tea-flavored caramel, reveals a deep, dark, silky mousse—some say it’s even better than Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s chocolate souffle. To cut through the sweetness is a velvety vanilla bean ice cream that’s made in-house.
Ultimately, the experience at Merriman’s is sublime, from the depth of flavor the Chef carefully oversees to the ambiance and second-to-none service. The icing on the cake, so to speak, would be scoring a booking that coincides with the sunset, filling the sky and restaurant with enchanting golden hues of yellow and orange.