West Maui Mostly 2012.11.16
After being a long time lurker, the time has come for me to contribute back. Here is a report on my recent visit to Maui, most of the time in the west.
Having toddlers in our party, dining out is challenging on one hand, yet in the low season and with 5:30 reservations we were able to get into anywhere we wanted! The first night was at Sansei, a sushi restaurant. On the nigiri side, you get what you expect of a good sushi restaurant, everything is well made with quality fresh fish. The stand-out is crabmeat ramen in a truffle broth. This is OMG-good. The broth is shoyu based and with the truffle I feel the comfort food bloom from my insides as I swallow a sip of it. Another strong dish is the Ahi maki lightly fried with panko on top and served in a rich butter and miso (I think) sauce. The technique used in executing this dish is quite remarkable. The Ahi remained completely raw, but the panko crust was crispy. The butter sauce is rich and again satisfying, but it does overwhelm the delicate taste of the fish. Our friends had the apple tart for dessert. They have visited Sansei before on multiple occasions, and the tart was ordered every time.
Going to the other extreme, we visited Gerard's the next night. If you have to have French food while in Maui, this will fit the bill. I had a degustation of land and sea, and for most of the dishes they are executed to a standard of a good French restaurant, but not a Michelin starred one. I had two issues with the dishes served. First was the complimentary amuse bouche of pork rilletes. It tasted like fat. The second was a Hearts of Palm salad. The hearts of palm is fresh and served raw, and as I have never had this ingredient fresh ever, I was intrigued. However, when the dish arrived, the waiter announced it as a Green Salad, and we found out why. The hearts of palm were mere slivers, more of a garnish than a main ingredient. We had some incredible wines - a bottle of Cristal (forgot the vintage), 2010 Far Niente Chardonnay and an '82 Sociando-Mallet. The Cristal is slightly more acidic than the average Champagne, but the balance was still good. The Far Niente has an amazing floral bouquet and is not buttery toasty oakey, highly recommended. The S-M tasted very young for its age, and took a good half hour after decanting to open up. It is every bit a classic tasting Bordeaux, the green pepper nose comes through distinctly, and the finish is medium to light.
One of our most pleasant surprise finds is - get ready for this - a Chinese restaurant! Fu Lin is in Lahaina, run by Taiwanese but they prepare the fish the Cantonese way. We had a 3 1/2 ib. parrot fish made the classic Cantonese way, steamed with ginger and scallions and finished with oil and soy sauce. We also had fresh prawns salt and pepper style. To me, the star of the show were the potstickers, home made with a thin skin with a filling where you can see the vegetables finely diced almost to a Brunoise (this is where the Taiwanese cooking comes through). Other great dishes include the eggplant with ground pork, and sweet potato greens stir fried with garlic (grown in their back yard). All of these dishes were recommended by our waiter, so I cannot take credit for ordering. The prices are very reasonable - not cheap - but the fresh seafood prices are in line with the high end seafood restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Having been a Top Chef fan over the years, the current season features the executive chef from Star Noodle, Sheldon Simeon. It is in Lahaina, so off we went. It is located in a newly developed industrial tract on the uphill side of the highway, so you have to drive there. All the dishes we tried were well executed, and while these dishes are not truly authentic, the essence of flavor remained. The Vietnamese crepe was at once crispy and chewy, and the Lahaina fried soup is not to be missed. It is not a soup really but more of a stir fried rice noodles, each piece nicely caramelized so again you get that crispy and chewy texture. Be sure to ask the server for the back story to this dish. The SIngapore noodles is the most authentic dish that night (well, we had good ramen dishes too, but I have no idea whether they were authentic, because I never had a bowl of ramen served the same way). The Guay Tiew is made with glass noodles, and the turmeric casts a nice yellow tint on the shrimp, chicken and veggies. Oh, they have very interesting cocktails too. If you are a pork lover, i.e. you love and leave the fat in the pork belly, then try the steamed pork buns.
Other local items worth recommending - Ululani's shaved ice with Li Hing Mui and pomegranate. the macadamia ice cream is good there too. There is a burger place next door, and for the price it's a decent deal - considering being in a tourist hot spot this is no mean feat. Another is Local Food - a hole in the wall in the Anchorage strip mall. A $7 rice plate of Kahlua pork and cabbage, side of high quality rice and a crispy salad, I'd call this a square deal.
While we were there Safeway had a sale on the high end Cabs. Caymus for $62 and Stag's Leap for $35. We made prime rib back in the condo. Speaking of condo, check out Honua Kai. I have always shied away from mega resorts, but this place is recently built, nice amenities - full kitchen, washer and dryer, a lanai that opens fully to the living room and a bathroom larger than some rooms in a house. If you have kids, this place is highly recommended.
Oh, the last thing - Surfing Goat Dairy. This is a farm in up country. Gerard's used their goat cheese to make a chilled cucumber soup. They sell a horse radish goat cheese that I thought at first would be perfect for prime rib, but in the end it needs to be eaten on its own. They also make chocolate truffles using goat cheese as the ganache. The end result is very pleasant. Flavors like port-wine cherry and lavender go well with the slightly sour tang of the ganache. This place gives Andante cheese a run for their money.