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Kihei/Wailea, Maui Report (with side trips to Lahaina, Paia, Makawao)

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kathryn Jan 23, 2012 02:33 PM

KIHEI 

Aloha Discount Liquor -- A tiny place but with more varied selection than you'd expect in a sleepy little beach town! Better than Safeway's selection in any case. (While at Safeway, the couple next to us pointed out that for gin, they didn't even carry Beefeater there. The couple wasn't too pleased.)

Yee's Orchard -- Awesome pineapples and Golden Glow mangos. Not cheap, but very tasty fruit. They also sell starfruit, apple bananas, papaya, passionfruit, guava, coconut, and more. The Golden Glows also have a very skinny seed, so you get more flesh off this variety than other types. They are also a bit larger and hefty than Mexican mangoes. Closed Mon and Fri. Only open 11-5. Easy to miss as it is literally a small hut at Kihei Road and Nohokai St. It is on the east side of the street. Great fruit, worth the effort to find it! 

Farmers Market at Aloha Open Air Marketplace -- OK Kula strawberries and Maui Gold pineapples. Yee's has better pineapples. Eh.

Safeway -- Decent poke for an excellent price ($7.99/lb or so) with the loyalty card. Texture was a little off, taste was fine. (Eskimo Candy's was better, but they're closed weekends. Did not try Foodland's as husband was put off by the flies buzzing around.)

Cafe O'Lei -- A decent enough place for some crab cakes and a seared tuna sandwich. Solid Caesar salad. Stopped for a quick bite as our condo wasn't ready yet. It was fine but nothing special. I wouldn't go back.

Da Kitchen Express -- A quite salty kalua pork sandwich but still tasty; eating the pork with rice on a combo platter is better. I think the salt level here is a little inconsistent, too. An OK loco moco with tons of gravy and a huge portion size. Two scoops of rice, giant burger patty, two eggs, and potato-mac salad was very heavy. There was way too much gravy. Decent, though. My husband thought it was all a bit overwhelming. Getting a three item combo platter was a better idea, on a later trip. Solid chicken cutlet (the A1-like sauce was a little odd though), kalua pork was MUCH better with some cabbage and rice, and I liked their teriyaki beef quite a bit. One combo was just enough food for two of us. I liked this place, but you must order carefully.

Eskimo Candy -- Cute/cheesy atmosphere, and much smaller than I thought it would be. The service was extremely nice though. Great poke bowls with four types of poke over mayo/wasabi and rice, with some seaweed salad in the middle. I loved the furikake style best. We went back multiple times, we liked it so much. Our usual order was two poke bowls and maybe an appetizer, if dining in. However, it's much cheaper to buy the poke by the pound and get a side of rice or two if you are taking out. The fried calamari was very good (fresh, not rubbery, not too oily), but the coconut shrimp was even better. Crispy, tender, and tasting of real, fresh coconut. Not greasy at all. We loved this place and went back multiple times, but mostly for takeout. Great spot.

Sansei -- Decent enough fusion Japanese. If you go before 6pm, you receive a 25% discount for an early bird special on some days. The famous panko crusted tuna roll with arugula was only OK. I think the bitter greens clashed a little with the tuna. The miso butterfish was tasty but didn't seem all that different from the now ubiquitous miso cod you see at many Japanese restaurants. We splurged on foie gras nigiri, which was served a little bit cold. Somehow they made foie gras taste mediocre! I didn't think this was possible. There wasn't really the rich, strong, buttery taste you usually get with foie gras. The standout dish was the roasted eggplant with miso, cooked perfectly. Overall, the cooked dishes are unimpressive if you have had creative Japanese in LA, NYC, Chicago, etc. We also had some maki rolls on a later visit which were good, including one interesting one with Thai chili glaze on shrimp tempura maki. I think the food coming out of the sushi bar is much less ambitious and therefore succeeds more, because the bar is set lower. We shared the enormous and sorta clumsy signature dessert of fried ice cream. It's a tube of vanilla ice cream, wrapped in pound cake, and fried like tempura, which tasted fine but was very dense. It was presented as one giant log, diagonally cut into two halves (it was kind of like a huge burrito). The portion was big enough for four people. I thought it was only OK. Not sure I'd go back to Sansei unless I was just getting some rolls to share, which is the best way to go IMO.

Kihei Caffe -- Wonderful hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot. I loved the atmosphere and incredibly sweet staff. The birds and flies were a little annoying on the patio, though. The fellow minding the register reminded me of Doug from Hot Doug's in Chicago. Gently managing the line to order and tongue-in-cheek scolding my husband for getting "frozen Mainland berries" on his French toast. The French toast (made using Hawaiian sweet bread) was excellent as were the "bisquits" and gravy, served with a good portion of sausage. However the special of the day on a later visit was cinnamon roll French toast, which was fantastic! Lovely, thick cinnamon rolls sliced horizontally, battered and fried. Awesome! Not available all the time, so if you see it on the board, get it! Also I loved the banana macadamia nut pancakes, especially with coconut syrup. Fluffy with crispy edges, and a big pat of melting butter. Excellent! Loved the coconut syrup! I liked also the French toast with bananas and macadamia nuts (and coconut syrup!) on a later trip too, but not as much. Their breakfast burrito was also quite tasty, and gigantic. Their Loco Moco is solid, but needed a little seasoning. Decent pastries--tried and liked the cheese Danish. The other items are more special, I think.  The pork fried rice with ham, bacon, Portuguese sausage, and scrambled eggs on top was very good as well. The POG and OJ are served over ice and get watered down--I'd avoid ordering juice here (or get it without ice, or easy on the ice) and get a blended coffee drink instead. Overall, charming and quirky. We went back several times as the breakfast was so good. Oh, that cinnamon roll French toast...sigh!

Monkeypod Kitchen -- Good food and cocktails. I really liked my pina colada with fresh pineapple juice and coconut cream (as opposed to coconut rum or a pre-made mix). My husband's Pod Thai was also good -- Old Lahaina light rum, crème of coconut, lime, lemongrass-cardamom syrup, and thai basil. Refreshing and not too sweet.  Avoid the Tsunami Tuesday, it had WAY too much lime and I could not taste any lavendar at all. Unbalanced. The crispy rock shrimp and calamari were solid, perhaps elevated a bit by the rings of fried Maui onion. (Not as good as Eskimo Candy though.) Liked my fish tacos, made with roasted tomato salsa and a mix of ahi, mahi mahi, and waloo. Husband enjoyed his mahi mahi sandwich as well. We sat inside and listened to the live music, which was fine. On a second visit we really liked the pork bulgogi tacos (though they were served a little lukewarm) and the special pizza of the night: red snapper, Maui onion, capers, creme fraiche, dill, and olive oil. (As a New Yorker, I feel compelled to point out their pizza is more akin to flatbread. :) Their Kula strawberry pie was excellent; save room for this one! I contemplated licking the plate.  Our server was very nice and conscientious about food allergies and aversions, confirming the spicy-ness of dishes and that I was ok with cilantro on my tacos. Overall, a good place, and I definitely recommend their strawberry pie.

S&Q's Coffee and Shave Ice Shack -- Liked the Tropical Fantasy shave ice: mango, guava, passion fruit, coconut cream. Theirs was packed too densely which affected the texture. I was not a big fan of the flat bottomed styrofoam cup--too messy. Not the best that I tried, but decent.

Surfing Monkey Shave Ice -- OK texture, not as finely shaved as Ululani's, too icy but they use only cane based syrups, which I appreciated. 

Local Boys Shave Ice -- Very good texture. Loved the free Roselani ice cream on the bottom and their signature Kauai cream on the top. Had the Miss Mae: shark's blood, piña colada, and mango.  Also tried the Sweetelly: mango, tiger's blood, passionfruit. Delicious. Probably the best I tried in Kihei as there's no Ululani's yet.

Coconut's Fish Cafe -- An unassuming place that looks more like a fast food joint/deli. Friendly service. Great 17 ingredient fish tacos. I counted roasted tomato salsa, fresh tomatoes, mango, cabbage slaw, pickled jalapeño, cheese, finely chopped herbs, and more. Delicious! Better eaten with a knife and fork. I liked how they grilled the bottom tortilla to get it crispy, too. Husband really loved his Cajun style mahi mahi burger. Fresh, tasty, well cooked. Small spot, get there early as the owner said something about an hour long wait later on in the night.

LAHAINA

Ululani's Shave Ice -- Great texture and flavors. Super smooth, especially at the top, with the addition of cream. Perfection on a hot day! I like that they give you a stand to hold the cup. I really enjoyed my Coconut Lovers: Coconut, Tiger’s Blood, Pina Colada. Wonderful shave ice. The raves are justified!

Local Food -- Shoyu chicken and kalua pork plate lunches cooked by a mom out of a window in a strip mall in Lahaina, as her daughter does homework nearby. Incredibly sweet woman doing all the cooking. Really delicious food, and my husband who usually does not care for potato salad liked theirs. The kalua pork was tender and so flavorful. The shoyu chicken was also packed full of great umami flavor. I'd definitely come back here again and again. What a gem!

Lahaina Grill -- Nice dinner with excellent service in a nice setting. Decent enough Painkiller cocktails to start (maybe a little watered down). I really liked my tequila shrimp with firecracker rice. The shrimp was cooked just a bit too long but the buttery tequila sauce was delicious. The combination of the spicy rice and buttery sauce was excellent, though. My husband ordered the awesome Maui onion and sesame seed encrusted ahi. I loved the combination of flavors, especially with the carmelized onions piled on top. Very nice. We also shared a side of broiled Oluwalu tomatoes and roasted Kula corn. The tomatoes were OK. The corn was great and super fresh. It tasted more grilled than roasted. I basically polished off the entire bowl myself. We were too stuffed for dessert. Overall, a really nice spot to end our day in Lahaina.

PAIA

Mama's Fish House -- Solid food in a BEAUTIFUL atmosphere. The cocktails we tried ($16-18) were fine, nothing spectacular, but we liked the Scorpion over the Mai Tai. The seared beef Polynesian appetizer was good. Beef tenderloin in a grilled papaya, served with Maui onions, lots of garlic, tomatoes, garlic, lime, and a little hot pepper. The flavors were simple but tasty: garlicky beef with fruit. My husband had their famous mahi mahi stuffed with lobster and encrusted with macadamia nuts, which was delicious and very well-cooked. I had the Penang curry with ahi, ono, and mahi mahi. The ahi tuna chunks were overlooked and dry, unfortunately. The other fish were fine and the curry sauce was nice, but nothing extraordinary. I thought the mushrooms and snow peas in the curry were good, but basically everything soaked up the curry flavor. We shared the Polynesian Black Pearl for dessert. The passion fruit sauce and the chocolate mousse were a good match. I could take or leave the pastry shell. Overall, it was a fine meal but of course you're paying quite a bit extra for the location. The ambiance at Mama's is amazing. We loved the decor, the old newspapers by the restrooms, the canoes hanging from the ceiling, the gecko-tiled walkway, the gorgeous view. Even spotted a few whales during our meal! I made a 4:45pm reservation and we lingered there well past the sunset at 6pm. After our dinner, we spent some time sitting by the beach under the stars. Truly a gorgeous place and I can see going back just because the location has so much going for it.

MAKAWAO

Haliimaile General Store -- We were not very hungry so skipped the appetizers. My husband's blackened ahi tuna was great, especially with their tobiko-tossed field greens. I really liked the contrasts of flavors and textures. I had the macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi, which came with delicious purple potatoes and a tropical fruit salsa. Very nice. We shared their pineapple upside down cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert--great. Very nice place. The only weird note was a plasticky tasting Mai Tai. The see said they use a local rum that sometimes has an odd aftertaste, and it is a common complaint, and she graciously replaced it. I'm not sure why they would keep using the same rum if many people send the drinks back! 

Overall, we had a great time and ate quite well in between beach time and sightseeing. Thanks Maui! We would definitely return to Kihei Caffe, Eskimo Candy, Monkeypod Kitchen, Lahaina Grill, Ululani's, Mama's Fish House, Local Food, and Haliimaile General Store in the future.

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    mwest9 RE: kathryn Jan 25, 2012 02:35 PM

    Thanks for the detailed report, very helpful and appreciated! I've still not been to Mama's Fish House so its good to keep reading different people's impressions of it, because it is definitely on my list for the next time I'm in Maui.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mwest9
      d
      doxiemom RE: mwest9 Jan 25, 2012 03:12 PM

      Great report - thank you! I am so looking forward to my next trip, and starting the to do list now!

    2. RWCFoodie RE: kathryn Jan 26, 2012 03:29 PM

      + 1 for Ululani Shave Ice - just the best! The other night we discovered their newest location at 790 Front St. in the Lahaina Market Place. Tables and chairs in the courtyard make it much easier to enjoy their tasty treats! Open 11:00 am - 9:00 pm.

      Interesting story on how they came to be: http://ululanisshaveice.com/about-us

      1. Bill Hunt RE: kathryn Jan 26, 2012 07:43 PM

        Mahalo.

        Comprehensive, and interesting.

        Over the years (decades?), I have found that Bev Gannon does great ahi. Usually very creative, and also fresh and tasty. Glad that they did not miss on your visit.

        Aloha,

        Hunt

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