Cuatro, Sansei’s sister restaurant in Kihei, is a nearly perfect square. This may seem trivial, but this feng shui fact seems significant to us. The sense of balance, harmony, and intimacy can also be found in the food, the wine list, and the service. The food is a Latin-Asian-European fusion that makes liberal use of cilantro, truffle oil, balsamic vinegar, chilies, and butter (and many other things). In most dishes you can taste the four corners of the globe — and yet those far flung flavors don’t fight with each other. The menu offers an easy approach for the spice-wary, with plenty of choices for those who are more adventurous.
A good example is the spicy tuna nachos appetizer. Six wonton, crisp and fresh, are laid on top of baby greens. A spicy tuna mixture that Sansei fans will recognize is scooped on top of each wonton. Next comes a layer of truffle aioli, then a cilantro pesto heated up with kochujang (a red chili pepper paste from Korea), then an avocado relish. Each serving ends up being either two perfect bites or one big mouthful of East-West Love.
The pupu steak is another good starter, and sized generously enough to be a small entrée. The steak is marinated until tender and then sautéed with earthy local mushrooms in a spicy teriyaki sauce. The sauce also features a little truffle oil, which melts the spice to the salty, and transitions the mushrooms to the meat. The end result is a cohesive taste experience that, in our opinion, is what good fusion is about: the sum must be equal to much more than the individual ingredients, and the different cuisines must marry each other, not threaten divorce. The fresh fish of the day changes, of course, but can be prepared in one of four styles, each unique. You cannot go wrong with a fresh piece of mahi mahi sautéed with rock shrimp in a classic lemon caper butter sauce, but we like the more adventurous “house” preparation.
Try a fish like ono or ahi blackened with Mexican spices, served over rice pilaf in a cumin-oregano beurre blanc with an avocado pico de gallo. Heat in the back of your throat, yes, but the rich beurre blanc and creamy avocado smooths it all out. Our favorite fish preparation, however, is the “Mauiterranean Grill.” Garlic mashed potatoes are spread in a bed on the plate, with perfectly grilled vegetable slices on top — eggplant, onions, and whatever else is fresh. The fish is rubbed with what’s almost a steak rub, grilled, and topped with tomato caper relish. The basil beurre blanc is not enough — it would be just spicy citrus and creamy nutty flavors. Where’s the sweet to balance this out? It’s in the balsamic syrup drizzled over the fish and the plate.
A very good meat entrée is the marinated pork. Pork is so easy to dry out, and so often rendered like sawdust, that we hesitate to order it. But this is so tender, juicy, and flavorful after its marinade and grilling session (Chef really knows how to grill) that we will order it again and again. Sweet green chilies in the chili verde sauce give way seamlessly to the sneaky heat in the back of the throat, and overall it’s a satisfying dish. Another good choice is the roasted chicken breast. Stuffed with green chilies, ham, and a little pepperjack cheese and then swathed in a southwestern butter sauce, it’s perfectly tender and juicy. Is there anything better than a perfectly roasted chicken? The one dish we do not care for is the shrimp scampi.
The tomato sauce and the pasta are fine, but the shrimp are too often overcooked. The wine list is very small, but carefully selected, and there are some bottled beers available. The keiki (children’s) menu is simple: grilled fish, chicken, or steak, plus veggies and potatoes or rice. They can also get pasta with butter and cheese, or a cheese quesadilla. Cuatro Restaurant operates like the best of city restaurants: proficient, energetic, confident, and hospitable — and it doesn’t need a view to entertain you. Seating can be limited when they get busy, and they don’t like to hurry tables — so calling for a reservation is recommended.
There’s also a Happy Hour special every day from 4-6pm with food discounts. NB: Catering and private dining are also available. If you are planning a wedding or special event on Maui, put Cuatro on your list of places to check out for a delicious private dining event.
Address: 1881 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei, South Maui
Location: in the Kihei Town Center near Sansei
Hours: Daily 4pm-10pm