This Review of Ko Restaurant in Wailea, Maui at the Fairmont Kea Lani is from our recent dinner visit. Stay tuned for our upcoming reviews of the Fairmont Kea Lani and other Maui luxury hotels and restaurants.
Ko Restaurant Location and Hours
Ko Restaurant is located at the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel at 4100 Wailea Alanui Drive in Wailea, Maui. From the Fairmont's main lobby, turn left and follow signs to Ko, which is located down a level, near the adults-only quiet pool. Ko is open daily for lunch from 11:30am-2:30pm, and for dinner from 5-9pm. It also offers Happy Hour specials between 3-5pm.
I recommend making dinner reservations in advance for Ko, especially during busier times of year and on weekends, including Sunday nights. We made early Sunday evening reservations a few weeks in advance, and when I tried to change our reservation earlier that same day, I found that there were no later times available.
Ko has smaller tables for couples, but as our visit coincided with Spring Break, there were quite a few families dining as well. We were originally shown a regular table, but noticed some comfortable banquettes, and chose to be seated at one of these instead.
Ko Restaurant Menu and Food
Ko is the Hawaiian word for sugarcane, and the restaurant's name is meant to reflect the many peoples who came to work Hawaii's sugarcane plantations, bringing with them their recipes and cooking techniques but using the local foods available to them. As a result, Ko Restaurant, helmed by Executive Chef Tylun Pang, includes Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipino influences in his menu and dishes.
Here are excerpts from the dinner menu:
Here's the kids' menu, helpfully divided into portions for younger kids and older kids:
And here are the white wines by the glass:
To start with, we ordered a glass of Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. It was good, although I was surprised that the wine list didn't include the vintage on it.
The bread plate was attractively plated, with, whole grain bread, Portuguese rolls with taro, and rice crackers. I liked the whole grain bread best, especially with the Korean spice sauce, although the edamame hummus was quite good as well. The other choice was lavender butter.
Our son ordered the cheeseburger from the kids' menu, from the selection for older kids. I liked that it came with some broccoli and carrots as well as a fruit cup–far more nutritious than having it come with fries. He thought the burger itself was average tasting, however.
On Sunday nights there's a special seafood lau lau offered, which is in a coconut sauce and steamed in ti leaves. It tasted fresh, but lacked any wow factor, especially for $48.
We did like the purple sweet potato puree that came with the lau lau, so Ko should get some credit for sourcing and mashing great tasting sweet potato:
Still hoping to be wowed, we took a look at the dessert menu, which featured quite a few delicious sounding choices.
I asked our server for a recommendation for the best chocolate dessert that didn't have banana in it (she originally suggested the Brown Butter Banana Bar, but I've never been much of a fan of banana bread). She suggested the Wailua Estate Baked Chocolate, which was supposed to have a macadamia nut praline crust and kula strawberry gelato. About the best I can say for it is that the strawberry gelato is good, and it is chocolatey. I couldn't detect the praline crust at all. And honestly, I've been more impressed by a two dollar Trader Joe's instant molten chocolate cake with caramel that you mix in a mug and microwave for 30 seconds.
Along with the bill some candied ginger came as a palate cleanser. If Ko is trying to be a great restaurant, I'd suggest a palate cleanser between the main dishes and dessert, and would recommend a ginger sorbet or a coconut lime sorbet instead of candied ginger, which was quite boring.
The best part of our experience had nothing to do with Ko–it was seeing a beautiful sunset on the way back to our room:
Ko Restaurant at the Fairmont Kea Lani really underperformed relative to my expectations. Now, it could be that we simply ordered the wrong items, as many other items on the menu also sounded tasty, but I expected to be more wowed than I was by the Sunday special lau lau and by the dessert. And our son said his burger from the kid's menu was mediocre.
Service started well, with the host asking us if we were celebrating anything (it was a birthday celebration) but this wasn't communicated to our server and wasn't recognized in any way. Our server was very friendly, but it took quite awhile for our dishes to arrive, even though we had an early 5:15pm seating, and service slowed down even more towards the end of our meal, when we were attempting to get our check, and our server said she would “bring it right over” but then proceeded to take the order of another table first. If this is the best the Fairmont Kea Lani has to offer, I suggest dining elsewhere in Wailea.
Disclosure: We paid for our own meal at Ko Restaurant.
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