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Mama’s Fish House

April 25, 2017

During our last full day in Maui, we decided to do the Road to Hana drive.  Starting out early in the morning, we headed down towards Hana.  One of the last little towns you drive through before you actually start the Road to Hana is Paia, which is more of a little hamlet than an actual town.  But one thing we noticed while we drove through Paia was a restaurant that we had on our short list of places we wanted to try while we were in Maui.  After many hours on the road traversing down to Hana, we decided to  turn back at the end of the road and come back the way we had come rather than risk going the long way around over the dirt road to get back towards Ka’anapali.  Since we were coming back towards Paia, and we hadn’t stopped to eat all day, we decided this would be the perfect time to stop in Paia for a late lunch/early dinner meal.

Mama’s Fish House is a North Shore Maui institution.  Often cited as one of the best restaurants in Maui, one of the best restaurants in Hawaii, and listed as one of the top 100 restaurants in the United States, Mama’s Fish House is world-renowned for  its tropical Hawaiian flavors and the freshest fish on the island caught daily by local fisherman just off shore.  The brainchild of Floyd and Doris Christenson from Southern California, they first visited Maui shortly after Hawaii had become the 50th state in the Union, and the island was so underdeveloped there was only one hotel on the whole island and you couldn’t even access Ka’anapali beach without cutting through thick groves of trees.  Having visited Maui, they had fallen in love with island living and Polynesian culture and friends of them urged them to go and visit Tahiti and other South Pacific islands.  Upon returning home to Southern California, the Christenson’s sought out a sailboat and learned how to navigate to prepare themselves for a journey that would take them from San Diego down to the far pacific reaches of the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, New Caledonia and beyond.  Setting out with their young son, and giving birth to a daughter along the way, the Christenson’s sailed themselves all over the South Pacific using nothing but rudimentary navigational equipment and then sun to guide their way.  For Doris Christenson, during the time of their trip, unless the weather was bad, she always cooked and prepared a home cooked meal in the ship’s make shift galley.  When they arrived at their various destinations along the way, Doris met and befriended locals, gathered local fruits and vegetables and learned local cooking techniques which she would then perfect and experiment with on her family.  After some time sailing the South Pacific, the Christenson’s decided that if they were ever to make their dream of owning a restaurant come true, they would do it in Maui.  Reports from friends had told them that Lahaina was growing and the tourist industry was about to explode in Maui.  Ka’anapali beach was finally accessible and major hotel chains were being built.  So the Christenson’s returned to Maui, bought the property in Paia where Mama’s Fish House stands today and opened up shop determined to serving only the freshest fish possible from local fisherman and fresh organic produce grown right on the island of Maui.

The restaurant featured a lovely, and very large, open air dining room.  In fact, the restaurant is so large that there are several separate and distinct dining areas.  Each dining area had tables that faced out towards the front of the restaurant and the private beachfront just beyond the restaurant.  With windows that were completely open to the outside, you could just sit and enjoy watching the shady palm trees sway in the cool afternoon breeze while you listed to the surf lap up against the sand.  It was all quite relaxing and comfortable and welcoming, despite the fact that the restaurant was actually quite busy.

A day of driving the curving, mountainous roads of Hana, we were definitely ready to relax and kick back.  So we decided to start our meal off with a couple of drinks.  The drinks which were appropriately presented with paper umbrellas to cap off that tropical vibe.  Admittedly, these were the first paper umbrella drinks we’d been served our whole time in Hawaii, so while kind of kitschy, it was quite nice.  I ordered the strawberry guava fizz made with strawberry guava mixed with lemonade and a splash of soda.  I loved the fizz of the drink, and fizz really was an appropriate word.  The guava nectar tasted spectacular, but when does guava not taste good?  It really is the signature flavor that reminds me of Hawaii.  But it was the strawberry flavor in this drink that added the hint of sweetness that the drink needed to mix with the flavor of the guava and the slight tartness of the lemonade.  My husband decided to order Aunty Karen’s Lemonade.  Made with lilikoi, kula lemon and cranberry juice with mango, this was a pretty drink.  Unfortunately, my husband thought that the drink tasted a little bit too much like pink lemonade and he had trouble tasting the lilikoi and the mango over the sweetness of the lemonade and cranberry juice mixture.  My husband expected with the flavors mixed into this drink that it would be a little bit more tropical in taste, with more of the lilikoi flavoring coming through.

Before our appetizers and entrees were brought out, we were presented with the chefs compliment starter of a small cup of asparagus bisque.  The soup was quite delicious with a very smooth pureed taste.  You could certainly taste the fresh, earthy flavor of the asparagus in the bisque which was accentuated with some chopped parsley.  At first, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of asparagus bisque, but it actually turned out to be quite tasty and a terrific item to whet our appetite.

In addition to the asparagus bisque, we also received the traditional bread basket, although this time it was a loaf of poppy seed bread made with local honey.  The bread was terrific and my husband and I devoured the whole thing in seconds.  It very much tasted of a loaf of wheat bread with just the right touch of honey which added enough sweetness to the bread to give it some depth of flavor.

As we were starving and hadn’t eaten anything all day, we decided to order two different appetizers.  Our first dish was the Kauai shrimp won ton with macadamia nut dipping sauce.  This was fantastic.  The shrimper nice and large, and the won ton wrappers were perfectly fried to a crisp golden brown.  The sweetness of the shrimp was only offset by the sweet and sour tang of the macadamia nut dipping sauce which was a terrific contrast to the sweet and crispy shrimp.  And as an added bonus the cabbage slaw upon which the crispy fried shrimp were sitting atop was quite delicious and tasty with a bit of a seasame oil dressing.  This appetizer was my choice and I was quite pleased with it.

My husband, for his choice of a starter choice the Maliko Bay tomato and Maui onion salad with pine nuts and Point Reyes blue cheese dressed with Maui olive oil and 18 year aged balsamic.  And while this dish sounds a bit like a caprese salad, it sort of is, but with a Hawaiian flair.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting all that much from this dish, but Mama’s Fish House proved me completely wrong.  After his first bite of this dish, my husband’s first words were “Wow!”  The use of the Point Reyes blue cheese was fantastic and gave the contrasting flavor in this dish that balanced out the sweet tomatoes and sweet onions.  The Maliko Bay tomatoes were terrific, perfectly ripe and nice and sweet with terrific flavor.  The Maui onion salad was also nice and sweet, as Maui onions are known to be. So instead of having an acidic and tangy salad, we essentially had a very nice and sweet salad offset by the tangy blue cheese.  The Maui olive oil and the aged balsamic just added the right touch of acidity needed for this marvelous dish.

For my meal, I chose to order the uku, which is a Hawaiian blue-green snapper.  At Mama’s Fish House, to demonstrate that the fish is caught daily and is as fresh as possible, the menu actually tells you the name of the fisherman who caught the fish and where it was caught from.  In this case, the uku was caught by Kalae Hickcox bottom fishing at 1,000 ft depths.  Uku is a popular table fish in Hawaii as it has a reputation for having a moist, firm and delicately flavored, translucent pink flesh.  With this uku dish, the fish was steamed with Hana ginger and sizzling peanut oil and served over a bed of local steamed vegetables and with a side of coconut steamed white rice.  The fish was perfectly light and flaky and very well steamed.  The flavor of the peanut oil and the ginger was completely infused into the fish and the vegetables.  The vegetables which included baby bok chop were fabulously light and a perfect compliment to the fish.  And the coconut steamed white rice was terrific and was the starchy side this dish needed.  The two filets of fish served with the dish were huge and definitely filling.  My favorite part of the meal was definitely the beautiful and slightly salty peanut oil and ginger sauce combination.  After not having eaten all day, this meal perfectly hit the spot for me.

My husband, for his meal, chose Mama’s Fish House’s signature dish of mahimahi stuffed with king crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust.  As with my uku dish, the menu described that this mahimahi was caught by Mike Fisher trolling through the Alenuihaha Channel.  The fish was served atop some lemongrass rice pilaf which my husband quite enjoyed.  The rice had a great light lemongrass flavor which my husband could definitely taste.  The combination of the mahimahi with the king crab was a fantastic combination and very well prepared.  The sweetness of the crab meat with the flaky fish made for a good flavor combination.  The fish itself was nice and light, so this wasn’t a heavy meal at all, even though it seemed as it though it might be a heavy meal.  There was a light pineapple salsa topping the mahimahi and the sweet and tang of the pineapples also added to the flavor profile of the fish.  The steamed baby vegetables served as a side was also a nice treat to go with this fish dish.  But the star was definitely the fresh mahimahi.  My husband was quite pleased with this dish and was glad he decided to order it.

While we’d already eaten quite a bit, my husband and I really had worked up an appetite on our explorations and had decided that we could each afford to order our own desserts.  For me, I couldn’t help but choose the Kauai chocolate pie which was baked in a caramel cookie crust.  Seemingly like a chocolate mousse pie the filling was smooth and delicious without being overly sweet.  The caramel cookie crust was fantastic and gave the pie a crunchy texture which worked well with the smooth chocolate mousse filling.  Atop the cookie crust was a thin layer of caramel spread over the cookie crust so that when you brought up a forkful of pie, you got chocolate mousse filling, caramel sauce and the cookie crust.  The pie was topped with fresh whipped cream on the edges and slices of ripe, delicious strawberries.  Also decorating the plate were fresh blueberries, star fruit and guava.  The Kauai pie tasted a little tropical, a little sweet, and a whole lot of good.  The pie was also very nice and light, which meant that I didn’t feel stuffed by the end of the meal.

For his dessert, my husband ordered the Polynesian black pearl.  Honestly, this may have been the prettiest dessert I’ve ever laid my eyes on.  In fact, it was so pretty, I almost felt bad that my husband was about to devour it.  The menu described the dessert as being liliko’i chocolate mousse in a pastry seashell.  But that’s such a simplistic description for what was an amazing dessert.  The “shell” of the black pearl was made with a think cookie rounded to look like the shell of a pearl.  The “black pearl” itself was the chocolate mousse with the lilikoi center and then surrounded in smooth chocolate ganache so that the light glinted off it to shine like a black pearl might.  The entire shell and black pearl was set atop at bed of chocolate and lilikoi sauce artfully designed to look like light rays shining off the shell and accentuating the whole dish.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  But was even better was how delicious the dessert was.  Honestly, it’s worth going to Mama’s Fish House just for the Polynesian black pearl dessert.  The mousse was absolutely smooth and delicious and finding the lilikoi center was a nice surprise to add a tangy bite to the chocolate mousse.  The chocolate ganache added another layer of flavor to the entire dessert with the pastry cookie shell adding texture and crunch to the desert.  The lilikoi sauce was heaven on the plate and really balanced out the chocolate dessert.  My husband and I were both in love with the desert.

Finally, as if we weren’t already stuffed to the gills, we were presented with a plate of homemade haupia.  Haupia is a traditional coconut-milk based dessert that is found all over the Hawaiian islands.  Traditionally, made with heated coconut milk and arrowroot starch, the two mixed together until it thickens and forms a gelatin-like dessert.  Essentially, haupia almost has the consistency of coconut jello, but with much more depth of flavor.  My husband and I loved the light coconut flavor to the haupia and despite the fact that the treat looked more like a nougat, it was nice and light and easy to enjoy, just like a small jello square would be.  This was the perfect way to round out a delicious meal.

As it turned out to be our only meal of the day, our late lunch, early dinner at Mama’s Fish House was the perfect ending to our quick Hawaiian getaway.  After our meal, we took a quick walk around the restaurant’s private beachfront property and enjoyed the views of the Pacific Ocean just before the sun started to set.  Feeling the ocean breezes, reliving our adventures on our drive on the Road to Hana as well as the lovely flavors of the meal we just enjoyed, this just felt so right.  To be here in this moment at this time.  Our meal at Mama’s Fish House just capped of our quintessential Maui day.  Beautiful sights, jaw-dropping views for miles, and delicious, tropical, fresh food to fill our bellies.  We really couldn’t ask for any more from this day, or our trip to Hawaii.  Can’t wait until we find ourselves traveling back to Hawaii again to see what other adventures await us.

Black Rock Kitchen at Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa at Ka’anapali Beach

April 19, 2017

While in Maui, we stayed at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa at Ka’anapali Beach.  We had a beautiful ocean view room with a gorgeous view of the famous Black Rock at Ka’anapali from where we could watch the nightly torch lighting and rock diving ceremony from the Black Rock at sunset.  This black lava rock outcropping is one of Ka’anapali’s distinguishing features, a place that the local Hawaiian’s believed to be a sacred spot on the island, and the torch lighting and cliff diving is in tribute and honor to the local gods and spirits.  Located at the very end of the beach closest to the Black Rock, the Sheraton Maui Resort is primarily focused on and around the Black Rock itself.

Each morning during our stay at the resort, we were treated to a bountiful buffet breakfast at the Black Rock Kitchen at the Sheraton Maui.  As the name would indicate, the restaurant was located in the shadows of the beautiful black rock with both indoor and outdoor seating.  The outdoor seating, just off the main pool area of the hotel provided wonderful views of the grounds of the resort, but also of the Black Rock that loomed over the property.  A gorgeous buffet spread, featuring some uniquely Hawaiian foods and flavors is just the wake up call we needed each day for our Hawaiian getaway.

What is breakfast without your standard eggs, bacon and potatoes?  Scrambled eggs, or hard boiled eggs were set out for everyone to pile high on their plates.  Country potatoes with sautéed green peppers and onions as well as crispy, bacon provided the starch and salty fatty breakfast meat everyone needs to fuel up for the day.

If bacon isn’t your thing, there was also grilled ham steaks, a vegetable quiche and of course stacks of buttermilk pancakes.  For the pancakes, there was your traditional butter and maple syrup, but you also had your Hawaiian choice of coconut syrup for the tropical, sweet addition to the flappy jacks.  Bread pudding with creamy creme anglaise as well as oatmeal was also on offer.

Of course you could also get an array of various boxes of cereal with milk, or start your morning off with a variety of toast and bread with bread and different flavors of jam.

Or there was also a variety of different pastries and baked goods including various Danishes, fresh banana bread, which Maui is known for, croissants, chocolate croissants, bran and chocolate muffins, and even some sort of coconut cake.  You could also get English muffins and bagels too with cream cheese.

If you wanted cold cuts and smoked salmon instead to make a morning sandwich, you could do that as well.  Accompaniments included thin sliced red onions, capers, sliced cucumbers, tomato slices and various spreads.

Being in Hawaii, where Asian culture and influence is prevalent, as well as Asian tourism, there were various breakfast items that certainly had more of an Asian influence.  Hot miso soup was on offer, to which you could make a bowl and add your choice of nori, green onions and uzumaki fu (wheat cake).  Grilled catch of the morning, which was mahi mahi filets were offered as well as teriyaki grilled white fish along with steamed white rice and accompaniments of picked daikon, cucumber and konbu.

If you wanted a more traditional western offering, there was an omelet station set up where you could get a made-to-order omelet with all of the fixings – diced ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, baby shrimp, onions, cheese, etc.  Of course you could also get fried eggs and sunny side up eggs as well.

Of course, there’s always going to be those who want a healthier option.  Being Hawaii where fresh fruit is plentiful and always in season, there was plenty of fresh and delicious fruit to be found.  Fresh cut pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon along with bananas, oranges and apples.  There was also segmented peaches and pears as well as fresh strawberries and fresh cut papaya.  All of which you could enjoy with cottage cheese, plain and strawberry yogurt.  I love that you get the tropical fruits like the fresh papaya that you normally wouldn’t find at any other buffet breakfast at many other hotels around the world.

Finally, my favorite part of this breakfast buffet was the make-your-own Belgian waffles.  As a kid, I used to see make-your-own waffles at a bunch of hotel breakfasts, but because people can’t play nice and overfill the waffle maker and burn the waffles and do other bad things, many hotels got rid of their waffle makers.  But here, at Black Rock Kitchen, they offered make-your-own waffles as a breakfast option, and you know I made myself a waffle every single day.

Simple and delicious, and definitely filling, Black Rock Kitchen offered a bunch of toppings for the waffles.  Fresh sliced strawberries, pineapples, raspberries, chocolate chips, maple syrup, coconut syrup, whipped cream, chocolate chips and powered sugar, this was like sugar heaven for me.  Make a fresh Belgian waffle, top it with strawberries and chocolate chips, sprinkle on some powdered sugar and add a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and it was fabulous.  Chocolate and strawberries, a beautiful combination.

With options like Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets and bacon and ham, what more do you need to start your morning off right?  Ok, you could get fresh cut fruit and a bowl of cereal to go with some toast.  But we’re on vacation, why be healthy?  I’m never going to eat like this at home, so I might as well live it up while I can when I’m on vacation.  Black Rock Kitchen certainly provided me all the tools I needed to make my breakfast wishes come true.

Roy’s

April 13, 2017

Since we had been out and exploring a large chunk of Maui since the wee hours of the morning, we came back to the hotel to rest and relax in the afternoon. It was so nice to spend the hottest part of the day just relaxing and listening to the ocean waves as they lapped up against the shore and everyone played in the water.  As evening approached, we knew we had to go out on search for some food, but we didn’t really want to go far.  Luckily, right in Ka’anapali, in the area right behind where the hotel was located was a large golf course and right near the front entrance to the Ka’anapli beachfront where the golf course is located, is a popular restaurant that we were able to get last minute reservations to.

Roy’s is a world famous restaurant from Hawaiian cuisine pioneer Roy Yamaguchi.  Born in Tokyo, he got his first taste of Hawaii on vacation while visiting his grandparents in Maui.  Eventually, Roy graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and after working in LA and making a name for himself, he decided to return back to Hawaii, closer to his origins and the first Roy’s opened in Honolulu in 1988.  Serving Hawaiian-influenced cuisine, including fresh seafood, steak and sushi, Roy was one of the original chefs who put Hawaiian-influenced cuisine on the map.  Today, Roy’s can be found not only in Hawaii, but also on the Mainland in California, Arizona, and throughout 5 other states in some major US cities.  Here in Maui, Roy’s is located just off the golf course, and in fact, the table we were seated at was a window table with a clear view looking right onto the golf course itself.

To start off our dinner meal, my husband decided to order a pint of Maui Brewing Co.’s La Perouse.  My husband had no idea what kind of beer La Perouse was, other than he wanted to try something local and what could be more local than a beer made by the Maui Brewing Co.  Turns out that this is a Belgian inspired ale brewed with coriander and local citrus which was a pleasant surprise to my husband.  My husband described the beer as a mellow light summer beer.  Generally, my husband is one who tends to like the darker, more full-bodied ale’s, however, even though this was much different than what my husband is generally used to, he did quite like the light, citrus flavor of this beer.  Additionally, I think because it is Belgian inspired, my husband enjoyed it as well as Belgian ales tend to be what he gravitates towards.

As an appetizer, my husband and I chose to start off our meal by ordering the Roy’s Style Dim Sum Canoe for Two.  We just couldn’t decide between a bunch of delectable sounding appetizers, so why not order a sampler plate for a little bite of all of them?  The dim sum canoe for two was made up of pork & shrimp lumpier, baby back ribs, ahi poke, shrimp sticks and crispy chicken potstickers.  There were two samples of each item, so that gave both of us a chance to get just a little taste of each of the items.

The pork & shrimp lumpia are really a fancy term for egg rolls.  Wrapped in a wonton wrapper, the pork & shrimp combination was perfectly fried.  The lumpia are nice and crispy and crunchy and the pork flavor of the lumpia really comes through.  The sauce that was served with the lumpia was quite tasty as well, as it was a combination of soy sauce and something with a little heat to it.

The baby back ribs were quite tender and sweet.  The meat literally was falling off the bone, and the glaze that was atop the ribs was quite sweet and lovely.  These ribs were quite meaty, more so than what I generally think of when I think of baby back ribs.  The Asian-inspired flavors with the toasted sesame seeds was terrific.

Ahi poke was served in a rice cracker shaped like a bowl and lined with seaweed inside.  I loved the unique serving bowl because the rice cracker bowl was edible and the seaweed added a nice salty flavor that mixed well with the flavors of the poke.  The poke itself tasted fresh with good sized chunks of ahi tuna.  The flavors of the soy sauce and the Maui onions together with the coriander seeds and the fresh fish were terrific.

The crispy chicken potstickers had a nice, light chicken flavor to it.  The chicken was tender, but in comparing it to the pork and shrimp lumpia we tasted, this chicken potsticker tasted a bit bland.  The sauce it was sitting atop was a mixture of some sort of soy sauce and a sriracha mayo.  The potsticker could have done with being a bit crispier on the outside to help distinguish the different textures.

Finally, we had the shrimp sticks.  The shrimp was terrific.  Big, huge, juicy shrimp which were nicely grilled and tender.  The sweet flavor of the shrimp really came through, and that cocktail sauce that the shrimp were served with were just fantastic.  The bite of horseradish in the sauce was there, and paired with the sweetness of the shrimp, it was a terrific combination.

 

For our entrees, my husband ordered the duck two ways with a char siu breast and a ginger confit leg, the duck was served with Molokai sweet potato, baby bok choi and lilikoi dragon sauce.  The plate was so beautifully presented, and the Molokai sweet potatoes really stood out in their beautiful purple color.  Unfortunately, my husband didn’t particularly like the flavor of the sweet potatoes as he thought they tasted chalky without any really flavor to them at all.  The char siu duck breast was excellent.  The breast was nice and tender and the bbq flavor was smoky and terrific.  That was my husband’s most favorite part of the meal.  Topping the char siu breast was some pineapple salsa which had a bit of a spicy kick to it which combined well with the smoky flavor of the breast meat.  Also, the ginger confit duck leg wast meaty and tender.  The ginger flavor was accented well by the pickled onions topping it.  The lilikoi dragon sauce was terrific and flavorful and helped bring everything on the plate together as one coherent dish.  However, with the multiple flavors of the duck, the bok choy, the potato mash, the picked onions, the pineapple salsa and the lilikoi dragon sauce, it did seem that there was just too much jam packed into one plate and it became a bit busy rather than just focusing on one item or one flavor profile.

As a side to our meal, we also ordered the bacon cavatappi mac & cheese.  First off, had we know that the dim sum canoe for two was going to be so filling, we never would have ordered a side dish to our meals.  Luckily, this mac & cheese was a smaller portion size, so it wasn’t too bad.  The ma & cheese lived up to its billing and was loaded with bacon flavor.  It was light and cheesy and the cavatappi was the perfect pasta to use.  There was also a great smoky flavor to the mac & cheese also, which was really nice and also heightened the bacon flavor.  And the panko breadcrumb topping also gave the dish a lot of crunch, which was terrific.

For my dinner, I chose the “Chinese style” jade pest steamed mahi with sizzling peanut oil, baby bok chop and ginger soy served with a side of steamed white rice.  The steamed mahi was amazingly light and flaky.  The fish tasted buttery and was very fork tender.  The sizzling peanut oil and soy sauce combination was fantastic with just the touch of saltiness necessary to add flavor to the fish.  The bok choy was very tender and it soaked up that amazing peanut oil and ginger soy sauce flavor which made the bok choy very tasty.  For me, the side of rice was terrific as rice and fish go so well together, and again, the rice could also soak up the flavor of the peanut oil and ginger soy sauce.  This was a terrific light meal after the very filling appetizer.

When it came time for dessert, my husband and I each decided to get our own dessert.  Luckily, the desserts were quite small and individual sized, so getting two desserts wasn’t too bad.  My husband ordered the Sugar Loaf pineapple upside-down cake served with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce.  After a very filling meal, my husband appreciated the smaller, individual size of this dessert.  It was just the perfect size for what he was looking for.  The pineapple upside-down cake was described by my husband as “excellent.”  It had just right touch of sweetness and the vanilla bean ice cream was a terrific accompaniment to the light cake.

Roy’s melting hot chocolate souffle was my choice for dessert.  Though, this was more like a molten lava cake rather than a souffle.  Decadent chocolate cake with a hot molten center, the cake was served with raspberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream.  This dessert was served sweltering hot, right out of the oven.  As soon as I cut into it, you could see the hot chocolate ooze right out of the center of the cake.  The outer crust was very nicely cooked, almost like the nice crispy outer crust of a brownie.  The chocolate cake was fantastic, not too sweet, just the right touch.  The raspberry coulis had a good bit of tang to it to cut the sweetness of the chocolate.  And of course, the vanilla bean ice cream had the perfect cooling effect contrasted against the hot chocolate cake.

We walked out of Roy’s stuffed to the gills and happy.  We’d been wanting to dine at Roy’s for the past two years when we were in Honolulu and just down the street from the original Roy’s.  But for some reason or another, the timing just never worked out for us to dine in Honolulu, so we were happy that we finally got a chance to dine at Roy’s in Maui.  The food was certainly Asian-inspired Hawaiian cuisine and delicious.  My husband and I were both happy with what we ordered and everything tasted fantastic.  Maybe we’ll have to visit Roy’s here in Southern California now that we know how delicious it is.

Honu Seafood & Pizza

April 4, 2017

After a rather perilous and sometimes harrowing drive on Maui’s “Death Highway” we found ourselves back in Lahaina again.  By now, we’d essentially made a 360 degree traverse of West Maui or Maui’s “head.”  Since we’d been up since 3 am, we were in need of some serious sustenance and since it was just about 1 pm, it was a good time to go and find ourselves some lunch.  Prior to traveling to Maui, my husband and I had already come up with a short list of restaurants and eateries that we were interested in trying if the situation arose and we were in the neighborhood.  This late lunch meal was one of those situations where we were hungry and found ourselves not too far away from one of those restaurants we had on our list.

Honu Seafood & Pizza is located at the end of Front St. in Lahaina.  In fact, it’s the main drag that runs through town and the restaurant sits on the end of Front St. that leads out towards our hotel at Ka’anapali.  Honu Seafood & Pizza is one of the latest in a long string of restaurants that Mark & Judy Ellman have opened together throughout the Hawaiian Islands.  Originally from the Los Angeles area of California, and both having a background in restaurant service and cuisine, the Ellman’s arrived in Maui in the late 1980s and made the island their home.  They, along with many other acclaimed local chefs in the area started a food movement of creating Hawaiian regional cuisine and were featured in a book which concentrated on this food movement along with chefs the likes of Roy Yamaguchi and Sam Choy.  Honu Seafood & Pizza opened its doors in 2010 and considers itself a quintessential seafood eatery featuring fresh, local fare and often organic produce grown on a farm owned by the Ellmans in Lahaina.

From the outside, Honu Seafood & Pizza just looks like another roadside eatery, but once you step inside, you know you’re dining in a tropical paradise.  You could never imagine the view you get from inside the restaurant just by looking at it from the outside.  As you walk inside, you first notice the brightness and lightness of the space.  It it is an incredibly open and airy space that is filled with natural light.  There’s a big bar right beyond the hostess stand with lots of local beer on tap.  But it’s what lies beyond the bar and past the main dining room that really draws your attention.  There is a wide covered patio that opens up completely right onto the beautiful Pacific Ocean.  The waves lap right up against the tiny beachfront that the restaurant occupies.  There was a brief rain shower that had passed by right before we arrived at the restaurant causing the tables and chairs right up against the oceanfront to be a little wet, so the hostess sat us at an outdoor table back one row from the water.  But as no one would be sitting at the waterfront tables, we essentially had a beautiful, unobstructed oceanfront view while we enjoyed our lunch.  You just couldn’t ask for anything better than that.

While we had just enjoyed a cup of homemade passion fruit lemonade during our drive from Julia’s Banana Bread, my husband couldn’t resist ordering a cup of Honu Seafood & Pizza’s lilikoi lemonade.  Again, it was a warm late summer day, and a rain shower had just passed leaving behind some humidity, so what could be more thirst quenching than a cup of lemonade.  Flavor that lemonade with some lilikoi, and my husband is sold.  Like POG, lilikoi, or passion fruit, is just one of those flavors that my husband and I both love and can’t get enough of whenever we visit Hawaii.  It’s the tropical tang and taste of passion fruit that you just can’t find anywhere else.  However, my husband felt that this passion fruit lemonade had more lemon flavor than passion fruit flavor, and while he could taste the passion fruit, it was so subtle.  He would have much preferred a stronger, deeper passion fruit flavor that was stronger than the acidic lemon flavor.

For my drink, I opted to sample the lilikoi no-jito.  That’s right, you guessed it, a no-jito is just a fancy way of calling a virgin mojito., this one flavored again with lilikoi.  I told you, my husband and I really do like the passion fruit flavor.  Like any good mojito, my no-jito certain was filled with muddled mint who’s flavor really did infuse into the drink.  The drink was very fruity and definitely had the passion fruit flavor but also had that mint flavor infused throughout.  The drink was really quite refreshing and satisfying, especially now that the day has gotten quite humid due to the short rain storm.

As we really hadn’t had anything to eat all day, and it had felt like we had been up and at ’em for almost 12 hours already today, we decided that we could order a little more food during lunch to help fuel us through the rest of the day.  For an appetizer, we decided to order the fresh burrata mozzarella.  It’s definitely not a traditional Hawaiian dish, but having fresh burrata just sounded cool, refreshing and delicious.  Served with tomatoes, hazelnut cherry bread, olive oil, 20 year balsamic and sea salt, this was a terrific appetizer.  While hazelnut cherry bread wouldn’t have been my first choice in bread for the burrata, it actually worked really well with this dish.  The tang of the cherry bread actually accentuated the sweetness of the burrata and the acidity of the tomatoes and the balsamic and sea salt.  The bread was still nice and warm and toasty and crunchy, and that was fantastic.  The burrata itself was creamy and smooth.  The whole dish just tasted so fresh.  The combination of the tomatoes with the balsamic vinegar and the sea salt and the olive oil was just so perfect, and it really highlighted the flavors of the burrata.

For lunch, I ordered the grilled fish sandwich served with coleslaw, fries, homemade tartar sauce and Korean aioli sauce for a bit of heat.  The fish for the grilled fish sandwich was munching, which is a terrific flaky, mild white fish.  The fish was grilled to perfection with nice grill marks which added flavor to the sandwich.  The homemade tartar sauce was just terrific and really added flavor to the fish sandwich.  I was pleasantly surprised at the nice size of the fish filet they gave me with the sandwich, so it was perfectly filling and exactly what I was looking for.  These are the flavors that remind me of Hawaii.  The fries were a nice mix of shoestring cut regular potato and sweet potato fries.  They actually went well dipping them into the tartar sauce as well.

My husband ordered the bikini blonde battered fresh ono fish & chips served with coleslaw, tartar sauce and Korean aioli for his lunch meal.  My husband really enjoyed that they served the fish in large battered filets rather than strips as you sometimes see fish & chips served.  The ono was a nice flaky white fish that has some body and held up well to being battered and fried, and yet the flavor of the fish still came through.  The batter was really nice and perfectly fried.  The batter wasn’t too thick and some of the sweetness from the beer came through.  There was a nice even coating of batter, and the batter held up well and didn’t start to fall apart and come off the fish or get too soggy and sop up too much of the oil.  The fried fish had a nice crunch to it and there was so much of it, it was quite filling.  Again, my husband also enjoyed the mix of potato fries and sweet potato fries, and homemade tartar sauce just brought everything together nicely.  This meal really hit the spot.

At the end of our meal, the one thing my husband and I both commented on was how this meal really hit the spot.  Honu Seafood & Pizza was exactly what we were looking for at this exact moment.  The view from our outdoor patio seat watching and listening to the waves lap up against the beach, with the breeze blowing and just some humidity in the air was just so comforting and peaceful – classic Hawaii.  The food was fresh and the flavors were vibrant and delicious.  The drinks were cool and refreshing.  And this was just exactly the meal we needed after the long day we had already had visiting Haleakala National Park and then driving Death Highway.  With this kind of food, this setting and environment, what is there not to love?

 

 

Julia’s Banana Bread

March 27, 2017

Early the next morning, on our first full day in Maui, we woke up at the crack of dawn… actually, strike that, we were up by 3 am and out of the hotel and on the road for close to 2 hours to get to the top of Haleakala at Haleakala National Park to catch the sunrise.  Once at the summit of Haleakala National Park, we watched what there was of the sunrise (it was foggy!) and spent some time driving through the park and exploring.  By the time we made it back to Kahului, it was still fairly early in the morning and we decided to take a drive around West Maui via Kalehiki Highway.  One of the stops we wanted to make was for a little stand at the “head” of Maui that many proclaimed to have the best banana bread in the world.

When my husband mentioned banana bread to me, I knew we had to go.  Of course, mention banana anything to me and I’m always going to want to be there.  Julia’s Banana Bread is a small little road side stand that you access via Kalehiki Highway, otherwise known as the “Death Highway.”  As we started out the drive, it was gorgeous, until we got past Nakelele Blowhole and then all of a sudden the highway narrowed and started to get a bit treacherous.  When I had read reviews of Julia’s Banana Bread, a few people had suggested that to get to Julia’s it was best to go from Ka’anapali around the head and over to Kahului.  I had planned to drive in this direction anyway, so I never really looked into the reasons for this suggestion any further.  Once I made the drive, I knew exactly why driving in this direction was preferred.  Kalehiki Highway is known as “Death Highway” because there’s a short 6-mile stretch of the highway that essentially is a narrow, one-lane road that switches back and forth around the face of a rock cliff on one side and sheer drop-offs to the ocean on the other side without any guard rails whatsoever.  The edge of the road, if you can even call it a road, was eroded at points and uneven.  But the kicker is that while the road is barely wide enough for one vehicle, this road is a 2-way highway.  So, as you come around blind curves around mountains and then all of a sudden run head-on into oncoming traffic, it’s both disconcerting and scary.  At times, you’re forced to reverse the car until you can find a natural inward curvature to the mountainside and then tuck your vehicle right up against the mountainside while the opposite car squeezes by you with no room to spare whatsoever.  After many switchbacks and a few run ins with other cars, I couldn’t be happier when we finally made it to the little village where Julia’s Banana Bread is located.  I was so grateful to just get out of the car and stretch my legs.  Julia’s Banana Bread is literally a tiny roadside stand in a small farming village.  Julia’s is known for her famous banana bread, but also makes other homemade Hawaiian’ goodies as well.

After parking around the corner we wandered into Julia’s stand where we were greeted and presented with a tray full of samples to taste.  Among the offerings were island dried mangos with Chinese plum seasoning, macadamia shortbread cookies, macadamia nuts with cashews, coconut candy, and of course small chunks of the famous banana bread.  There was also some homemade lilikoi butter to sample as well, which goes great spread on top of slices of banana bread.  We came here for the banana bread, so of course we had to try some of the banana bread so that we knew what we were buying before we walked off with some.

While the banana bread may be the most popular item served up at Julia’s, she does make a few other items as well which are also quite poplar.  Her homemade lilikoi butter is a little tangy and a little sweet and pairs so well with the delicious banana bread.  Julia’s coconut candy is also another popular offering.  While coconut candy can also be found on the Road to Hana is quite popular on the island of Maui, many people say that Julia’s coconut candy is the best there is.

The day was turning out to be a nice, sunny day with very few clouds, warm temperatures and just slightly humid.  As we’d been out and about all day we were thrilled to see Julia’s cooler full of homemade flavored lemonades.  Julia was offering strawberry, POG, passion fruit and pineapple lemonade.  When we saw POG lemonade, my husband and I both wanted to have some, but unfortunately, POG must have been really popular because sadly, Julia was all out of POG lemonade for the day.  For those not familiar with this extremely popular Hawaiian drink, POG stands for passion orange guava, and its a drink that my husband and I are completely in love with and one of the things we most look forward to when traveling to Hawaii.  Since POG wasn’t available, we went with the next best option, which was passion fruit lemonade.  Another classic Hawaiian flavor, and wow, this passion fruit lemonade was stunning.  The flavor was a little tart and tangy and subtly sweet.  You could definitely taste the passion fruit, which was fresh and amazing and you could definitely taste the lemon which was made more tart than sweet, which is exactly how we like lemonade.  This lemonade was refreshing and terrific and absolutely hit the spot!

Finally, the banana bread.  After having tasted the sample bites of banana bread, my husband and I decided to purchase two loaves of banana bread to take with us.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Julia’s only sells banana bread in pre-made loaves, you can’t buy slices or small loaves.  But our sample just tasted so amazing that I wanted to have extra banana bread to bring back home to the Mainland with us that we agreed to buy two.  As soon as the loaves were bagged and handed over to us, the first thing my husband noticed was that both loaves were still warm, almost hot, to the touch.  That’s how fresh and hot-out-of-the-oven the banana bread was, and it was amazing to know that we were walking away with a couple of loaves that literally had just been baked fresh.  You couldn’t ask for anything more.  As for the banana bread itself, it was heaven on earth.  The flavor of the banana was the real star of the banana bread.  With every bite of the banana bread, you could taste the natural sweetness of the banana and when it bakes and caramelizes, it releases its sugars and makes the most perfect banana bread.  The one thing you really notice about this banana bread is just how moist it is.  I don’t know what the secret to Julia’s banana bread is, but it is so ultra moist it’s almost like biting into a moist sponge cake rather than a loaf of bread which sometimes can turn dense in a heartbeat.  And just knowing how fresh the banana bread was when we received our loaves, it was almost like you could taste the love baked into each loaf of bread that Julia makes.  Even many days later when I was enjoying slices of banana bread back at home, it was still moist and delicious, just like it tasted that very first day we bought the banana bread.

After having finally returned to our hotel room that afternoon, after traversing the entire length of Kalehiki Highway, I couldn’t quite believe what we had experienced, really, all in the name of trying to find Julia’s Banana Bread.  The passion fruit lemonade was fantastic, and honestly, I wish we had bought another cup of it, and the banana bread was probably the freshest, most flavorful and moistest banana bread I’ve ever had.  However, the experience of getting to Julia’s is one that I’ll never forget, and now that I’ve done it, as good as Julia’s banana bread was, it’s an experience I don’t think I’d ever want to try again.  I can say now that I’ve driven the Death Highway and survived, but really, there’s no reason to push my luck again next time I find myself on Maui.

Lahaina Grill

March 23, 2017

After lunch in Lahaina, we drove on to Ka’anapali where our hotel was located.  After checking in, we decided to explore the nearby area that we could walk to, with a quick jaunt to the beach at Ka’anapali.  A brief afternoon shower had us heading back to our hotel room for a quick afternoon nap and the afternoon spent admiring the gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean and a glimpse of the island of Lanai from our lanai (balcony).  As the sun was getting ready to set for the day, we got back in our rental car to drive back to Lahaina where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset view right along the waterfront at Front St.  With the sun down, it was time to fill our bellies at a restaurant often called Maui’s best, and sometimes referred to as one of Hawaii’s best restaurants.

Just off of Front St. about a half a block is the famous Lahaina Grill.  Well known by locals and visitors alike, Lahaina Grill has been voted as Maui’s best restaurant for a quarter of a century.  What I love is that even though this is considered more of an upscale, high class eatery, this is Hawaii and everything is relaxed and laid back, so there were people dining in a full range of nice dresses and suits to more casual and relaxed jeans, shorts and flip flops.  The main dining room of the restaurant revolves around a large bar that sits near the front of the restaurant with tables situated all around the remaining space in the dining room.  We were seated at a nice window table at the front of the restaurant right near the bar, but with a beautiful view to admire both the restaurant interior as well as doing a little people watching right out the front windows of the restaurant.  Serving local and fresh Maui fare with an emphasis on seafood, the Lahaina Grill was a total gem and standout restaurant selection.

To start off our meal, my husband decided to order the Maui Mule, it’s Lahaina Grill’s version of the famous Moscow Mule.  Made with local Pau vodka, fresh lime, ginger liqueur, ginger beer and crystalized ginger all served in the traditional copper cup.  My husband said that the drink was very refreshing, especially considering how warm and muggy Hawaii can be at times, this was a great refreshing drink.  However, he did say that he wished there was just a bit more ginger flavor and a little less lime, but my husband is a fine of the bite of ginger, so it isn’t surprising that he’d say that.

As a starter, I decided to order a cup of Maui onion soup.  As a big fan of French onion soup, Maui onions are well known for their distinctive sweet taste, so I couldn’t resist ordering a cup of soup made with Maui onions.  The soup was described as sweet Maui onions simmered in a rich beef and chicken stock, sherry and baked with a gruyere and provolone cheese crouton.  The soup was very good, the broth was rich and full of flavor, but not heavy, which was fantastic.  I think it was the combination of using beef stock and chicken stock.  The beef stock is the hearty, beefy full flavor of the broth and the chicken stock keeps it lighter so it’s not so heavy.  The Maui onions are sweet, subtly, so, making the flavor of the soup fantastic.  The tender onion was a perfect pairing for this soup.  And boy, oh boy, the cheesy crouton was amazing.  The crouton was still tender and had soaked up all of the flavors of the broth, and the cheese was perfectly melted and ooey and gooey all over.

My husband decided to order the seared ahi and Hudson Valley foie gras dish for his starter.  Our waitress said that was one of her favorite dishes and promised that my husband would not be disappointed.  The seared ahi and foie gras was served with a fig compote, sautéed spinach, drizzled in truffle oil and poured over with a maui onion demi-glace.  When the dish was brought out to the table, it smelled amazing and looked mouth watering.  And this plate was bigger than any appetizer I’d ever seen.  This easily could have been, and probably should have been an entree dish. I’d never seen an appetizer dish like this before.  Even the seared ahi alone could have been an entree, but add in the Hudson Valley foie gras and it was beyond over-the-top.  One forkful and my husband was in heaven.  The flavors of the seared ahi were unbelievably good and fresh.  The tuna was just seared on the outside and perfectly fresh and raw on the inside.  The foie gras was amazing and was like butter, it just melted in your mouth.  It was such a good combination of foie gras and seared ahi that my husband told me that I needed to try a bite, even though he knows that foie gras isn’t my favorite thing.  I must admit that all of the flavors of the dish just melded together so perfectly it was a combination made in food heaven.  And even the size of the cut of ahi tuna wasn’t a complete surprise, the Lahaina Grill served up the 3 slices of foie gras over the tuna, it was so ultra generous and luxurious.  The Maui onion demi-glace and the sautéed spinach were just amazing.  It was the flavor of the demi-glace that broke up the richness of the combination of the fatty tuna and the ultra fatty foie gras.  And as I mentioned, the aroma of the dish was just beyond amazing.  My husband says this is the best foie gras dish he’s ever had tasted.

How could dinner get any better when we started off with some amazing appetizers?  For my dinner, I ordered the seared lion paw scallops served with celery-potato root mash , roasted sweet corn relish, sweet pancetta chips, truffle oil and lobster champagne beurre blanc.  This was seriously the best scallop dish I’ve ever tasted.  The scallops were huge, and perfectly cooked.  Tender and sweet, they were just perfect.  The roasted corn relish with the crisp pancetta was perfect.  Roasting the corn gave it another level of flavor and that slight bit of char just added to the dish.  The pancetta added the right amount of saltiness to the dish, and the celery root puree was smooth and creamy and just soaked up all of the flavor of the relish and the rich beurre blanc.  The roasted asparagus was icing on the cake, so to speak and added a brightness to the dish.  But the real star was the scallops and how incredible their flavor was, and how tender.  Who would have thought that three scallops could make an entree, but these had to be the biggest scallops I’ve ever seen.  What a perfect dish.

After a recommendation from the valet at our hotel, as well as the recommendation from our waitress that this was the dish that the Lahaina Grill was most well known for, my husband ordered the Opakapaka.  Opakapaka is Hawaiian pink snapper that is locally caught and served fresh daily.  In fact, as the signature fish served at the Lahaina Grill, the opakapaka is served each day as the house special with different sauces and accompaniments based on what’s fresh and local in the market and seasonal for the island.  The night we dined, the opakapaka was served with an Asiago-panko crust over creamy truffle risotto, alongside grilled shrimp and a wild mushroom champagne beurre blanc.  My husband loved the opakapaka, it was really light and mixed in flavor which allowed it to soak up all of the flavor of the wild mushroom beurre blanc and the truffle from the risotto.  The pank0-Asiago crust was perfectly cooked with a light crunch and stayed on the fish really well.  The creamy truffle risotto was rich and ultra luxurious.  First my husband has ahi tuna and foie gras and then finishes it with truffle, how much more top shelf can he get?  Between the size of his appetizer dish and the heartiness of the large file of fish and creamy truffle risotto, my husband was stuffed to the gills.

By the time we were done with dinner, amazingly, we were both stuffed to the gills.  After the size of his appetizer, followed by the incredible entree, my husband was so full he didn’t think he could eat another bite.  Surprisingly, I was just as stuffed.  However, we’re on vacation, and how could we not order dessert?  Besides, when we told the valet at our hotel that we were dining at the Lahaina Grill, he actually gave us a coupon for a free dessert, so we couldn’t actually say no to dessert.  After perusing through the dessert menu, we decided to split the Kauai pie.  Made with a chocolate shortbread cookie crust stuffed with a Kona coffee ice cream filling, the pie was layered with chocolate fudge and topped with coconut flakes and macadamia nuts.  Ok, so I know I said I was stuffed, but when the Kauai Pie was brought to the table and it looked like this, I suddenly found myself hungry for some dessert.  You just can’t resist an ice cream pie that looks like this and tastes just as amazing.  With this being an ice cream pie, it was actually quite light and therefore, was so much easier for my husband and I to enjoy.  The taste combination of the macadamia nuts and coconuts and the Kona coffee ice cream was really terrific.  The macadamia nuts gave the ice cream terrific texture and crunch, and the coconut flakes added a really tropical flavor.  The Kona coffee ice cream had a terrific coffee flavor that wasn’t too strong in the pie.  The chocolate shortbread cookie crust was fantastic and a classic Hawaiian flavor.  Finally, finishing it off with the chocolate shavings atop the slice of pie provided a perfect sweet ending.

From the first bite of each of our starters, my husband and I knew we had found a winner of a restaurant.  There’s no doubt that the reputation that Lahaina Grill has is well deserved.  It’s not easy to be a top restaurant year after year after year, but if Lahaina Grill continues to churn out the flavors, the freshness and the quality of the products it delivered to our table when we dined there, it will continue to be Maui, and Hawaii’s best restaurant for decades to come.  Our meal at Lahaina Grill was like taking in all of the flavors that make Maui so special and make Hawaiian cuisine so unique and special.  This is one restaurant I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone on a trip to Hawaii, and one that my husband and I will definitely go back to next time we find ourselves in Maui.

Star Noodle

March 14, 2017

On a spur-of-the-moment decision, my husband and I decided to buy plane tickets to spend a long holiday weekend in Maui.  One morning at work, my husband texted me and told me that roundtrip tickets to Hawaii were on sale at a price you just can’t refuse.  Not more than 15 minutes later, we were on the phone and purchasing the tickets.  This trip we never planned to go on, but just couldn’t say no to.  So, next thing I know, we had a 4-day, 3-night trip to Maui booked and paid for.  In a crazy twist of fate, this would be the third consecutive year in which we would be flying to Hawaii for vacation, though our first trip to Maui.  We decided to stay in a hotel along Ka’anapali Beach so after landing at Kahului Airport, we picked up our rental car and were driving down the highway.  Since we departed Los Angeles early on a Saturday morning, with the difference in time zones, we arrived in Maui just before noon.  This was the perfect time for us to stop off in Lahaina on our way to our hotel to grab lunch before we settled in.

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We had made lunch reservations at an extremely popular restaurant just outside of the main area of Lahaina at a restaurant called Star Noodle.  Featuring small shared plates and specializing in homemade Asian noodles and flavors, this popular Maui restaurant has gained so much popularity that there’s always a line forming each morning when the restaurant opens.  Our waiter told us that one of the things that made Star Noodle’s food so amazing is that the owner of the restaurant also runs a large daily luau operation in Lahaina as well as another large restaurant and making fresh noodles daily as a supplier for other restaurants, these are resources that Star Noodle can draw upon to bring in only the best and freshest daily ingredients that are used exclusively for this restaurant, which was opened as an after thought when guests suggested that instead of making noodles for other restaurants, they start serving at their own restaurants.  Located at the top of a hill in an industrial business park, the indoor dining area of Star Noodle is light, bright, airy and decorated in rich wood tones and bamboo accents.  The dining room features an open bar with bar seating and both small and large tables that never seem to be empty.

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After flying in from Los Angeles, and driving from the airport in Kahului to the restaurant in Lahaina, my husband and I were ready for something refreshing to drink.  We both decided to order the watermelon soda made from fresh watermelon combined with fresh pressed lemonade.  The presentation of the drink was gorgeous and looked almost like a pink lemonade with just a hint of the reddish watermelon pulp mixed with tart, tangy fresh lemonade.  The drink was quite refreshing and cool with the flavor of watermelon prominent through the drink.  The drink tasted fresh, like it was just made fresh that day and mixed together by the bartender once ordered.  The flavor of lemonade was light, and though prevalent through the drink, it was second fiddle to the watermelon juice, which created a beautiful combination of sweet watermelon juice combined with just a hint of a tangy lemonade mixer.  Refreshing is definitely the word to describe this drink.

Our waiter had told us that all of the items on the menu were meant to be shared family style, or more like tapas style.  His suggestion was that one bowl of noodles would be good for two people and 3-4 other small shared plates would make a good meal.  So after perusing through the menu and taking into account a couple of the suggestions that he made for us, we were ready to order.

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We started off with the Pohole salad.  We were told that this was a unique salad only found here on Maui and a Maui speciality that was so traditional that you rarely found it on any restaurant menu anymore.  With that kind of a description, we couldn’t resist ordering the Pohole salad, if only to enjoy an authentic Hawaiian dish.  The salad is made with Hana fiddle head fern, Maui onion, Ebi and Kombu.  The salad had a flavor and texture unlike anything I had ever tasted before, it was unique and different, but packed full of flavor and quite delicious.  The fiddle head fern from the Hana region of Maui was delicious.  The ferns were somewhat reminiscent of asparagus with the same crunch and body, which allowed it to take in the flavor of the dressing, but without going limp.  If you’ve never had Maui onions, you’re missing out as these sweet onions are unique and have a flavor all of their own.  The crunch of the Maui onion is fantastic, but with a sweet flavor you wouldn’t expect.  Combine all of that with some acidic cherry tomatoes, Kombu, which is an edible kelp which provides a natural saltiness to the salad without having to add salt to the salad, and the unique flavor of Ebi which is dry roasted small prawns, the salad had a unique flavor all its own.  The ingredients gave the salad a mainly sweet flavor, one I didn’t expect, with just a touch of saltiness and the briny flavor of the ocean that could only come from the Ebi and the Kombu.  This is definitely a salad you need to taste.

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My selection for a small plate was the scallop shot.  Made with grilled scallops attached to a wooden skewer, the scallops are placed into a small tea cup filled with wafu dashi, scallion, lemon and extra virgin olive oil with a little dollop of fresh grated ginger placed right atop the scallop.  The idea is to use the skewered scallop as a stirrer to mix the grated ginger into the warm “broth” in the tea cup and distribute the flavor, then pop the scallop into your mouth and chase it down by drinking the broth in the tea cup.  I loved the uniqueness and creativity of the dish.  The scallops were perfectly grilled with a nice sear on the outside.  The flavor of the broth really soaks up into the scallop giving it a unique taste that combines with the natural sweetness of the scallops.  The broth though is really what makes this dish unique.  The flavor of the broth is rich and strong with a pronounced flavor of ginger.  My husband and I both love ginger, so we loved the bite of it in the broth.  The combination of the dashi and the scallion with just the hint of lemon combined with the extra virgin olive oil created a warm, rich, tangy and acidic broth with a bite of ginger that was warm and unique.  This was a one-bite dish that was so much more than just one bite.

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Our next small bite was the yakitori.  Made by grilling cubed chicken that has been skewered, it is then served with teriyaki glaze, and topped by diced scallions and sesame seeds, yakitori is a very common Japanese dish.  The chicken was tender and moist and the teriyaki glaze was quite flavorful.  This yakitori dish was the epitome of a small plate, a two-bit chicken skewer that was perfect to share with my husband.  There was nothing particularly spectacular and earth shattering about the dish, other than it was very well done.  But when you order yakitori, you know exactly what you’re getting, and that’s exactly what we got.

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For our one noodle dish, we decided to order the garlic noodles made with fresh and fried garlic, garlic oil, dashi and scallion.  Simple with very few ingredients, we thought that this would really show off the flavors of the noodles and the garlic.  Besides, my husband and I are both a love of garlic, and our motto is, the more garlic the better.  I see why they tell you to just order one noodle dish between two people because the noodle dishes are bigger than the small plates, and like any other starchy dish, the noodles are quite filling.  And as described, this noodle dish was quite simple with so few ingredients that it really showed off the noodles themselves as they were the star.  First off, we could definitely taste the garlic flavor and it was fantastic.  Using a combination of fresh and fried garlic was perfect, the fried garlic was crispy and gave some varying texture to the noodles themselves.  But it was really the garlic oil which permeated and clung over all of the noodles that really added the garlic flavor to the dish.  The diced scallions added the subtle tang of onion to cut through the rich garlic flavor.  The noodles themselves were fantastic, they tasted fresh and homemade.  They were perfectly boiled and weren’t limp so they really soaked up the garlic oil.  This was just a fresh and delicious dish.

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Our final dish at lunch was chosen by my husband.  Originally, I wasn’t keen to order the dish at all and my husband was really interested in it.  What made the decision for us was when our waiter said that this dish was Star Noodle’s best and most popular dish.  It is a dish they make once a day using the supplies that they have, and once it’s gone, it’s gone, so if you don’t get your hands on it, you may not get a chance.  The ahi avo is made using fresh sushi-grade ahi tuna mixed with lemon pressed olive oil, sambal and usukuchi.  Our waiter told us that since Star Noodle’s parent company owns so many different restaurants and catering services throughout the island they can fly in fresh fish each morning from Honolulu at the tuna auctions.  For this ahi avocado dish, they take the best cut of ahi tuna possible with absolutely no fat striations whatsoever and they use that cut for the ahi avo dish.  He assured us that we’d never taste a more perfect piece of ahi tuna in our lives.  With that kind of description, how could we not order this dish?  Originally, for me, the reason I wasn’t interested in order the ahi avo was because it was made with sambal, which I find to just be too spicy for me, but the waiter said that the dish wasn’t really that spicy at all.  In fact, when the dish was delivered to the table, they also gave us extra bottles of sambal and usukuchi in case we wanted to add more of either to flavor the dish to our liking.  The cubed pieces of ahi tuna in the dish were amazing, just as the waiter had told us it would be.  The fish was so incredibly fresh and I’d never tasted a better piece of fish in my life.  Just as promised, the fish had absolutely no striations in it whatsoever, and these were nice meaty chunks of fish, not small cubes.  The combination of the fatty, delicious fish with the tender, creamy avocado was perfect.  The “sauce” created from the sambal and the usukuchi was terrific and wasn’t spicy at all.  The usukuchi added the nice bit of saltiness the dish needed to cut through the fatty fish and the creamy, cool avocado.  This was an absolutely fantastic dish and my husband and I couldn’t help rave over this dish.  This dish is a must order.

Star Noodle was a star restaurant choice for our first meal in Maui.  The vibe and atmosphere of the restaurant was open, airy, bright and comfortable and laid back and relaxed, reflecting perfectly the temperament of the island itself.  But the real star of the restaurant is the food.  The small plates are perfect for sharing and allow you to order a wider variety of foods.  Many of the dishes offered feature ingredients that are local and fresh and you can taste the freshness in the food itself.  Highlight ingredients such as fresh ahi tuna, Hana fiddle head ferns, Maui onions and many other ingredients, many of the dishes at Star Noodle are a reflection of this beautiful island of Maui.  And the ahi avo, the star of our lunch at Star Noodle was just beyond amazing.  Anyone would be silly to turn down the quality of the ahi tuna and the freshness of it, you’ll never have fresher, more higher quality fish.  If you like Asian fusion cuisine, fresh noodles and small shareable plates, then Star Noodle should find its way onto your must eat list when visiting Maui.