Restaurant review: Vana in Paia, Maui

Vana Paia took inspiration from owners Michael Baskin and Sarah Spark’s favorite Los Angeles restaurants, and you can see some of that trendy California aesthetic seep into their gorgeous dining space on the patio created at the back. of the Paia Inn. It has a warm and easy going vibe and really made sense with Chef Sean Ikeda at the helm and Jesus “Chuy” Vidales as General Manager. The space started off as a brunch spot called Paia Cafe. Vana is their sushi concept that followed.

“The Paia Inn Cafe was our brunch concept that had been in operation for about three years before Vana opened,” says Michael Baskin, owner and designer. “The Paia Inn Cafe was focused on a fresh and healthy breakfast and lunch menu with a few of our favorite comfort foods for brunch. Think creative Benedictines, sweet potato sandwiches, lamb shakshuka, local fruit parfaits – we wanted a well-rounded menu that offered a little something for everyone, whether they want to treat themselves. or focus on health. We also had a full menu of fresh juices and great turmeric matcha lattes. Look for an overhaul of our brunch menu soon! Vana departs from this initial concept – our team felt there was a void in Pa’ia when it came to high food without stuffy service. Our menu is Japanese inspired with an emphasis on fish and vegetable dishes. Our raw dishes and our nigiri really capture the know-how of our sushi team.

The dining room sparkles in the evening with subdued lights, dark wood accents, and black metal highlights. There are large community tables and intimate two- and four-tray tables that can adapt to accommodate parties of different sizes. There is a partially open kitchen area which has a lot of action going on. At the back of the room, the bar is illuminated with backlit bottles of fine liquors. Trees grown in and around this backyard provide a canopy of nature above which open warm bulbs hang. There’s even a private room in the back that you can book for parties.

“Maui is an incredibly diverse place when it comes to food – one of the best things about living here is the influence of our local food culture due to waves of immigration from Korea, Philippines, Japan , Portugal and many others, ”says Baskin. “After generations of living together and sharing ingredients and preparations, it is sometimes difficult to indicate the true origin of a certain dish. This abundance of techniques, ingredients, and flavors is what Maui’s food culture means to us – there is something to be learned from every culture, whether it’s a unique method of marinating, a new cut of meat or an unusual combination of spices.

Vana has continued to refine her menu, recently adding a bunch of new vegetarian options to complement her selection of raw dishes, sushi and hot sharing plates.

“We recently expanded our section of vegetables on the menu in order to highlight local and seasonal products,” explains Chuy Vidales, General Manager. “Right now we have broccolini, Japanese pumpkin, eggplant, cauliflower, shishitos and ali’i mushrooms. Because these veggies won’t be available year round, you can expect these dishes to change and evolve with the seasons. If you haven’t tried our raw dishes yet, be sure to stop for Hamachi Jalapeño and Kanpachi Ceviche. We also buy the highest quality rice available for our nigiri, rolls and bowls – you will notice the difference.

The signature element of Chef Ikeda’s card relates to the name, Vana as in the sea urchin. They have incredible unity. Ikeda’s creativity is visible through their Izakaya-style tasting plates.

“The Vana spoon is one of our favorite items! Vidales said. “This is our take on an oyster shooter – but with fresh uni (sea urchin) and a house dashi (Japanese broth made with kombu). We take our toppings one step further – the shiso, yuzu mayonnaise, and wasabi spiced up all the flavor notes in this surprisingly complex bite. The easy-going space and noble dishes have created a fun destination for dining in Pa’ia, but they also cater for those who just want a quick stopover. The versatility is attractive.

“Vana is where you want to make your date for a special night out, or where to party when you’re on the island for just a few days,” says Vidales. “This is where your group of girlfriends can come and sit at the chef’s counter and have a real sushi experience, or where you can swap vacation stories with new friends at our communal table. This is where you can meet other locals from our Jade Bar while sipping on a Vana Club (our version of the Pisco Sour) or run for a quick little ride and a beer before witnessing a sunset session. in Ho’okipa.

Ikeda and Vidales focus on buying local, for the best flavors and the best quality.

“It’s even more imperative in Hawai’i than on the mainland to practice careful sourcing and keep a close eye on sustainability. The best way to do this is to buy our produce and fish from the best sources available on the island, ”says Vidales. . “There is also an incredible diversity of local vegetables and fruits – it is an exciting challenge for our kitchen staff to learn new ways to incorporate some of the lesser known products we can get our hands on, such as limes, kukui nuts and hole fern.

The menu has plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians, and marine and land protein eaters. I was excited about the selection of vegetables; you can do a simple sampling of vegetables and pau hana wine here easily. The salads are taken to the next level with ingredients like shrimp and fresh burrata. Hot dishes of local snapper curry, pan-seared scallops and New York strip will satisfy any substantial hunger. The sushi menu is modern but covers all expected classics.

“Vana is a Japanese-inspired small plate restaurant focused on Izakaya style food and drink,” says Baskin. “We have a full bar with an extensive wine and sake list, and all of our syrups and juices are homemade. Because we are away from the noise of the Hana highway, our garden terrace is the ideal place to meet up with friends or enjoy a romantic evening. In Japan, the concept of Izakaya means that drinks come first, food comes second. We want to reverse this idea and think just as much (if not more) about our cooking. However, we still want to bring the fun and common vibe of a traditional ‘sake shop’ or ‘drinking house’ to Pa’ia! Think of the small tapas-style plates meant to be passed with friends over a bottle of crispy Junmai sake. But believe us, all of our dishes are just as good without alcohol. “

all pictures from Sean M. Hower ©

Vana Paia

93 Hana Hwy # 3, Pa’ia

(808) 579-6002

Dinner: 5 pm-10pm, every day

Brunch: 8 am-2pm, weekends

Cuisine: Japanese, Izakaya, Vegetarian, Brunch



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