I recently went to Maui in Hawaii for a short winter vacation with my wife Jun. The primary purpose was to go to our friend’s wedding but we also spent a lot of quality time together enjoying the weather of Maui (although it was choppy at times with pouring rain, especially during our beautiful yet painful Road to Hana drive). Before we went over, one of our friends has also visited Maui and complained that the food in the island was not that great. That friend’s itinerary was focused more on formal dining restaurants (often with good views and with hefty price tags). On our trip, I decided to focus on more casual, local-friendly places. The best-kept secret to eating well in Maui is to look around the strip malls away from the beach. You have a very good chance of running into unassuming joints that deliver incredibly fresh food. Our first meal in Maui is a good case in point. Coconut’s Fish Café has received quite a fan base since opening in Maui and has since expanded to a few branches in Arizona. It looks no different from an ordinary Mexican/seafood shop you may encounter at a suburban strip mall, but the quality of food was quite pleasantly surprising.
The menu at Coconut’s was surprisingly vast so Jun asked the cashier what are the must-try dishes for tourists like us. The cashier highly recommended fish tacos and seared ahi burger so we chose those as well as coconut shrimp which Jun was salivating over. The coconut shrimp was more or less perfectly fried, and the addition of sweet and sour Thai chili pineapple sauce greatly enhanced the flavor of each bite. The fish tacos were not surprisingly the best dish for us. Each taco is a huge pile of fried fish along with cheese, tomato salsa, coleslaw, tomatoes and mango salsa. The server who brought the tacos advised us not to be afraid of making a mess with our hands. I was initially picking up pieces inside the tortilla with forks not able to figure out how to not get my hands dirty but eventually relented and wrapped the tortilla with my hands. It indeed turned out messy but I wasn’t complaining. The fish taco was quite a delicious dish, where the refreshing coleslaw and mango gave the fried fish a ton of life inside my mouth. I couldn’t immediately recall if I had a fish taco in New York City that was as satisfying as this one. The seared ahi (we ordered the blackened one with wasabi and lemon butter), by comparison, was somewhat pedestrian; I liked the texture of the lightly touched fish but the temperature was somewhat off (and I would later up having a much more fantastic sandwich somewhere else in Maui but that’s for another review).
Coconut’s doesn’t take reservations but you should have no problem securing a table even during peak hours without waiting much. There is no alcohol served at the shop that we had visited, only ice teas and fountain sodas. You can either sit inside or outside depending on the weather or even do a grab-and-go option (I noticed how a lot of people in Maui happily grabbed their food and ate them in their car). Coconut’s is the type of place that you should always consider when visiting Hawaii. You don’t need to spend even half the amount you will spend at an expensive sit-down restaurant in the island, but will nonetheless get just as much satisfaction, if not more.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 1279 South Kihei Road, Kihei, HI 96753
Telephone: (808) 875-9979