spago at four seasons maui: a stylish getaway on the south shore

SPAGOWalking through the open breezeway into Spago at Four Seasons in Wailea made me instantly feel like I was on vacation. My good friend Heather and I arrived a little early for our dinner reservation, and after peeking at the cocktail menu we decided we had to hang out on the pillow-filled lounge sofas and sip one. Floor-to-ceiling photos of sea anemones grace the walls of the lounge area, and the overall vibe helped us feel like we were much more “hip” than we ever actually could be.

We started out by trying “The Lady From Wailea,” a crisp cocktail with passion fruit shochu, peach liqueur, cranberry juice, and a sprig of fresh mint. I was introduced to Shochu, and it is a Japanese distilled liquor, the passion fruit flavor was subtle, and it was a perfect mix of sweet and fresh. The Lychee Martini was also a solid choice, with Belvedere vodka, lychee puree, and fresh lime. The tart lime was the perfect addition to the sweet lychee.

Looking through the restaurant from the lounge, the sun was just starting to set into the Pacific, and I felt like I was living inside an image on a Maui postcard titled “wish you were here!”

Our hostess led us through the interior dining room, which is Asian-inspired contemporary with dark wood floors and stone accents – chic yet comfy, to our ocean view table on the open lanai. The tables are adorned with elegant crisp white linens and polished silverware. The vibe is definitely sophisticated, yet Spago still comes across comfortable and not at all stuffy.

We were lucky to have a Chef’s Tasting Menu with pairings served to us that evening to get a little taste of many of the special items featured on Spago’s impressive menu.

Nicole Patterson was our guide, and she did a remarkable job pairing each course with a partner from their array of beverages.

With a friendly smile, Nicole started us off with an appetizer that Spago is famous for… Spicy Ahi Poke in sesame-miso cones with a chili aioli, soy, bonito, tobiko, and ginger. Every morsel has a nice variety of texture and flavor, and the sesame-miso cone is worth the trip to Wailea from wherever you live! A perfect bubbly was paired up, and we enjoyed every sip of the special Perrier Jouet champagne from the Epernay region of France.

At this point, Nicole was not the only one smiling, as a duo of fresh seafood was up next—island-style big-eye ahi ceviche with a Meyer lemon soy, tomato-ogo relish, seaweed, and Maui onion salad, and a special Mahi Mahi “Laab” Thai Fish Salad. The “Laab” was served with red and yellow cherry tomatoes, cucumber, mint, cilantro, and Thai basil, with spicy lime vinaigrette. The salt and lemon flavors on these two dishes were a nice contrast with the sweeter Ahi poke. These were paired with a wonderful sake – The Jizake Masakura, Junmai Ginjo. Nicole filled us in on Junmai Ginjo, which is brewed in a traditional method; it is known for its well rounded, creamy soft taste. It was served chilled, and worked well with the stronger flavors in the fish dishes.

The Sweet Kula Corn Risotto with Mahi Mahi was next; on the Spago menu this rice dish is served sometimes with lobster, but chef featured it that evening with Mahi Mahi that had come in fresh off the boat. The corn was caramelized, and the parmigiano-reggiano melted into the perfectly cooked risotto. Wow… a half-glass (OK, maybe a full glass) of Talbott Chardonnay was the perfect partner—buttery and smooth.

Next, Nicole brought out a trio of three of Spago’s fish special entrees on the menu in petite portions for us to try; each was different and delightful in their own right….Steamed Mahi Mahi Hong Kong Style with fresh ginger, chili, garlic, snow peas, baby carrots, and Jasmine rice; Seared Rare Big Island sashimi grade albacore with wasabi puree, fresh herb salad, tomato ogo relish, and ginger-sake sauce; and Pan Roasted Swordfish Upcountry Maui stir-fry vegetables, pea sprout salad (perfect!),and wasabi butter sauce. A nice Cabernet Sauvignon from Blackbird Vineyard in Napa was the pairing.

After a fresh amuse bouche of Ginger Carrot Bisque we were feeling full and did not even know if we had saved any room for dessert. Nicole came around the corner with Grilled Chinois style Colorado Lamb Chops! We savored each bite, splitting this beautiful dish with Hunan sweet and sour eggplant, sweet peas, and a chili-mint vinaigrette.

Now we really had NO room for dessert, but we had taken our time with each course and, at the same time, enjoyed a perfect Wailea evening under the stars. This had redefined and upgraded “girls’ night out” for sure!

I didn’t even mention the bread, and it is way too good not to mention. You can choose from a variety of options each night (and we tried them all!), from the signature onion focaccia to a whole-wheat kalamata olive bread. There was sourdough and lavosh, too.

Spago opened in 2001 at Four Seasons Maui, and can accommodate groups of all sizes from large family dinners to the exclusive ocean view private dining room for 90. They have seating for 135 guests, including lanai seating for 79.

–a. freeland

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