To say Migrant is underwhelming is to be as fair as possible. The restaurant, situated at the Marriot in Wailea, is the brainchild of an award winning chef who competed on Top Chef: Seattle. One of Maui’s latest “in” food places to be is supposed to feature “a modern take on Filipino cuisine with seasonal, local ingredients,” which apparently means lots of salt. But I’ll get to that.
My wife and I arrived in the early evening, having made reservations based on Migrant’s good word-of-mouth. (As it is currently off season for the hotel, one usually need not make reservations for restaurants. But, you never know.) While we were on time, there wasn’t a hostess in sight as we lined up behind another couple. The hostess came along and finally sat the couple ahead of us, only to promptly disappear again; in fact, we never saw her again. Five minutes later – which is a long time even for “Island Time” a manager came along and seated us. Our server, also on Island Time, eventually came along so we could order drinks which he promptly got wrong. Being local, I understand good help is hard to find, but maybe Mercury was in retrograde or I had offended a local god somehow, resulting in especially bad service.
Onto the menu which was printed in a font so small I thought it was a legal document. Squinting, I could see that there wasn't much to choose from as all the ingredients are locally sourced, giving the chef little to work with. In fact, this night saw that the locally sourced hanger steak was off the menu much to my wife’s disappointment. We wound up opting for a cabbage salad, the 'OG' garlic noodles, some kind of brisket and noodle dish that was replacing the hanger steak, and the chicken and waffles. Well, the cabbage salad was drenched in a kalbi dressing so salty I thought it had walked straight out of the ocean. The brisket and noodle dish were also ridiculously salty. While I understand that hotel restaurants must cater to Mainlanders who have no sense for herbs and spices, the attempt to placate the average tourist with sodium might as well result in that tourist’s death. Meanwhile, the chicken and waffles came from two different worlds that when combined produced a taste that was…what's a negative synonym for 'interesting'? This is to say that the whole time I was eating it, I couldn’t decide if I liked it. Individually, both were fine for what they were, but to taste the chicken and the waffle together was just; I can’t adequately describe it. At least it wasn’t salty. Nor were the garlic noodles which somehow were almost salt free. I gave these noodles a thumbs up just for this fact.
Like any hotel restaurant, Migrant is nicely decorated but doesn’t exactly stand out in a crowded field despite its bold color patterns. In fact, nothing about Migrant stands out, so I’m not sure why this place comes so highly recommended. Maybe it has a nice view from the terrace in the daytime. Maybe its allure rests on the shoulders of its celebrity chef.
Directions: 3700 Wailea Alanui Dr, Kihei, HI 96753 at the Marriot in Wailea. Stay to the right of the lobby as you walk straight past the valet area, but stay to the left of the staircase that leads down to the pool area. You’ll come to a bar and hostess stand and should be able to see the ocean from there. Hours are 4pm-10pm. 25% off Kamaaina discount.