*how we rate restaurants
In a nutshell: Award-winning contemporary sushi in a casual and lively setting.
Minuses: Show up without a reservation and you’re in for a long wait.
Sound-bite: “…karaoke! my friends sang their hearts out!”
Sansei has received dozens of awards and accolades from nationally recognized critics & magazines, from Bon Appetit, Food & Wine Travel + Leisure and Wine Spectator, to loads of local awards from Honolulu Magazine and the Maui News (among many others.)
This is a fun, casual and highly rated dining experience, and not just for Sushi. Sansai has a diverse menu with Pacific Rim and other non-sushi dishes, making it a great option to preserve the honeymoon when the honey (or moon) is squeamish at the thought of tentacles as culinary delight.
Awards and accolades spill over into the wine cellar too; wine enthusiasts will be delighted with their selection and knowledge.
Let's not forget the star of the show -
the sushi! Words like "innovative" and "contemporary" fall short in describing the fresh and inventive creations of Chef/Owner Dave (D.K.) Kodama. All the dishes are artistically plated - and some, you'll almost want to frame and hang on your wall (but, trust me, you won't think twice about dismantling the artistic masterpiece once you've put the first bite in your mouth!)
Sansei is not a formal or quiet atmosphere - this is definitely fun and festive. In fact, Thursday & Friday nights they really get their party on with karaoke nights and have half-off sushi. Karaoke + late night + booze = a fun party! (21+)
Notes on ratings from other sites
If you've been paying attention, you know that a big part of our rating system relies on gathering together all the user reviews on the Internet and giving these considerable weight in our final rating. This allows us to harness what is so powerful about online review sites, while moderating the garbage that litters the landscape.
Sansei suffers from this litter more than most - so much that Tripadvisor and Google in particular don't rate it accurately.
Why? Upon analyzing the negative reviews, I discovered that three basic complaints make up the majority. Here they are, and why I don't think they deserve to skew the ranking:
#1 - "This place is expensive."
This is just wrong. I understand that some folks come to Maui and are shocked that the pricing of everything is significantly more than it is back home. That is a fact that isolated island life goes hand-in-hand with. Sansei is very fairly priced in our restaurant market. In fact, you can easily pay the same amount for uninspired food at the average Lahaina tourist trap - and that is a fact anyone can verify with a walk down Front Street.
The average dinner bill will come to about ~$35 per person.
#2 - "Doesn't live up to the hype."
Well, does anything? This may be paradise, but just like back home, there are plenty of sources of information that rely on hype to sell magazines, products, vacation packages, activities and even guidebooks. This is very good sushi but the atmosphere may not be formal enough for some. Also, if you're on a budget and this is your one and only one splurge meal, be sure to write down the top three things you want in a restaurant, and check if anyone in this price range gives you all three - if not, recalibrate your expectations (or budget!)
Best tip for any restaurant: keep in mind your source of information when setting your expectations, and don't believe the hype!
#3 - "I had to wait for a table."
We're definitely very spoiled on Maui in this regard. We have great restaurants, virtually all of which accept walk-ins - and usually have a table readily available. But the most popular will be busy, and you should definitely make a reservation here if you don't want to wait to be seated.
Other Reviews: #ordered by accuracy
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