We had driven by Spices on South Kihei Road a number of times during our visit to Maui and I was sort of intrigued by the open air restaurant connected to the Maui Coast Hotel. We did a little homework from our hotel room (even with a horrible internet connection) and thought Spices sounded pretty interesting. We decided to go there for dinner one warm Hawaiian evening.
Spices wasn't far from our hotel - about a 10 minute drive to the restaurant (see map). There wasn't a lot of people in the place when we got in about 7:30. We were seated next to the open ledge looking out onto S. Kihei Rd. That was sort of a mistake because it was sometimes loud with traffic and exhaust fumes permeating the air.
The dining room was open and airy with a number of tables throughout the place. There was a small bar in the corner and a nice little outdoor fountain with a few tables near it. No one was seated outside that evening. The decor was sort of a contemporary Hawaiian theme. It was very comfortable.
Our waiter was a pretty nice guy and very good at his trade. We were given menus and we ordered up a couple drinks - I had a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale and Cindy had a mai tai. I also looked over Spices very short wine list trying to find a nice white wine to go with dinner. There wasn't much to be had. I finally ordered a Kendall-Jackson chardonnay.
We looked over the menu on line before coming to Spices and there were a lot of intriguing things to try. One thing was the garlic clams - a pound of fresh clams sauteed in butter and garlic. We decided to try that as an appetizer.
The waiter brought out the clams and the wine and we dug in to the plate. The clams were *OK*, really nothing special. I would have thought the taste sensation would have been a little better given that they were sauteed in butter and garlic, but they didn't really have much pizazz. It was rather disappointing.
We ordered up dinner after the clams were gone. One thing that jumped out at me when I first looked at their menu on-line earlier in the day was the mahi mahi piccata. They take fresh mahi mahi and cook it like a veal or chicken piccata with a light breading, then cooking it with a butter wine sauce with mushrooms and capers. They served it on a bed of rice with a side of fresh steamed veggies. Now, THAT sounded interesting to me.
Cindy was torn between Spices' Hawaiian-style mahi mahi - they take a mahi mahi filet and encrust it in macadamia nuts and top it with a tropical fruit salsa - or the special that evening which was baked opakapaka, which is also known as "pink snapper". Opakapaka is plentiful all over the tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean, but they seem to grow rather large around Hawaii. Cindy decided to try the opakapaka and it was served on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes.
It really wasn't all that long before our entrees showed up at the table. Cindy's opakapaka was a large filet that had a light cream sauce on top. Three grilled shrimp came with the fish which was served on some steamed vegetables. Cindy said the opakapaka was "good", but not great. I tried a bite and it was good.
My mahi mahi piccata was overly disappointing. It was nowhere close to being a true piccata-style meal. The piccata sauce was more of a glaze and the fish was overcooked and dry. It just wasn't very good. The veggies were good, however. They weren't overcooked or lifeless to the taste. Sadly, it was a mediocre meal compared to other places we were at while we were in Hawaii.
Since we tried Spices, I've read reviews from travelers on some web sites that denigrated the food at the place. I will say the waiter we had was very good and very attentive, but the level of service and the atmosphere at Spices is the draw. I understand they have very good breakfasts at Spices, but my dinner was pedestrian, at best. Cindy's opakapaka was good, much better than what I had. But overall, Spices was probably the worst meal we had while we were in Hawaii. That's too bad as the place seemed to have a lot of potential.