One time we sat down at Nick’s and watched three servers collide over one water glass as they rushed to be the first to fill it. We wouldn’t mention it if it weren’t such a perfect illustration of our general experience of Nick’s over the years: the overeager service and romantic, delightful ambience will never, ever make up for the unforgivably expensive, mostly bland food.
The food sounds promising — especially the signature dishes, like the tempura ahi rolls and the wasabi-beurre blanc laced fish of the day. But the ahi in the ahi roll is gray around the edges and has lost most of that pleasant red-pink of fresh sushi, and three hours later we’re still finding gummy bits of tempura in our teeth. (Did they make the roll, flash-fry it, refrigerate it, and then serve it hours later? We don’t know, but we can’t imagine how else crispy tempura gets so mushy.) The scallops are only seared on one side (why?) and the sauce is their standard beurre blanc, which usually begins to separate by the time it gets to the table.
The menu reads like a shopping list at a gourmet store — each dish features at least one item (if not two or three) designed to trigger your “wow — that’s expensive!” reflex. We’re not against upscale or luxurious ingredients, of course … far from it. But too often, the combinations just don’t work. Too many flavors competing for our attention — and too little satisfaction. Each plate is designed to appeal to the eye with elaborate flourishes and a rainbow of colors, but ultimately these are beautiful but empty promises.
Dessert is often better — get the flaming strawberries, as trite as it may sound, or the bananas Foster — and we really like their Kona coffee. We appreciate the excellent wine list, but this, like everything else, is overpriced.
The servers are exceptionally friendly, although so hurried we’ve seen chairs knocked into and drinks slopping over the lips of glasses as they stop short. They have also picked up the excruciatingly bad habit of asking “how does everything taste” during dinner. Or worse, lately: “Everything is great, right?” How can you say “no,” to someone who just filled your water glass after each sip you took? They’re just doing their job.
The setting could not be in a more perfect location. The koi pond at the Fairmont Kea Lani is our favorite place in any Maui resort, and passing by it to get to the restaurant is a pleasure. The interior of the restaurant is like a dream of upscale luxury, and the sunset views of the pools, grounds, and sea are fairytale romantic. They’re just not enough.
For this reason, our sole recommendation is to come here just before sunset, during Happy Hour. From 5:00-6:30pm, specialty cocktails (mangotini, a good ginger martini) are $6 and local brews are $4. Kick back a few oyster shooters (in a tomato gazpacho with a daub of cucumber sorbet), toast the gorgeous view, and head elsewhere for dinner.
Address: 4100 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea, South Maui
Location: Fairmont Kea Lani
Hours: Daily 5:30pm-9:30pm
Parking: Valet, Lot