South Maui (Kihei and Wailea) Trip Report
Unfortunately didn't get a chance to go back to favorites in Lahaina, etc.
Safeway -- poke here is still only OK. Texture is a little mushy. They only carry one non-previously frozen variety. Blah.
Aloha Discount Liquor & Valley Isle Liquors -- Aloha usually has the better selection, such as all the Appletons. Picked up some 12. They didn't have anything smaller than 1.75 L for aged Cruzan for some reason. Picked up some golden Flor de Cana at Valley instead.
Kihei Caffe, Kihei -- This place is still excellent for breakfast. Great way to start the day, sitting outside in the sun. They've upgraded most if the plastic chairs outside since our visit 11 months ago. Ordered the banana macadamia nut pancakes, still loved them, especially with coconut syrup. Same for the pineapple and coconut French toast made with Hawaiian sweet bread, though I think the pineapple was canned while the coconut shreds were fresh. Cinnamon roll French toast with two eggs and two pieces of bacon, still very good. (They only have it when there's leftover rolls.) Raspberry twisty was OK. Scrambled eggs with fried rice was better. Like that their iced coffee has coffee ice cubes, too. Busy, friendly, bustling, charming.
Kinaole Grill Truck, Kihei -- Food truck typically parked outside of Worldmark by Wyndham. Close to Kalama Beach Park I. Decent coconut shrimp, pretty good guava BBQ pork sliders on taro buns. Plate lunch comes with rice and coleslaw and mac salad. Tasty, convenient, but not the most amazing plate lunch ever. Walked the takeout containers back to Charley Young Beach and ate on the sand, which was nice.
Koiso, Kihei -- Great hidden spot in strip mall with very little signage. $45 nigiri set, 12 pieces I think? Two kinds of toro, clam, scallop, king salmon, anago, hamachi, etc. and SO SO SO much better than Sansei. Roughly on par with Ushiwakamaru in NYC, maybe less, but only by a little. Some fish pieces were cut longer than I prefer, throwing the fish to rice ratio off. But I did not expect sushi this good in Maui. They also use real crab in their California rolls! Really wonderful service as well.... Felt bad for the people wandering in or trying to do takeout, they didn't "get" that Koiso isn't your typical maki roll factory. Wish I'd had the foresight to book 2x! Almost every other patron booked their next dinner here when they finished up.
Maui Thai, Kihei -- Undistinguished. Busy restaurant and BYOB. Willing to do extra spicy if you wanted. Dishes were fine, but sugary/Americanized.
Eskimo Candy, Kihei -- Super friendly service (came two days in a row and the woman at the register apologized for forgetting my name on the second day) and such awesome poke for only a few dollars more than Safeway, per pound. Very popular, sometimes hard to find a seat after ordering. I guess the secret is out? Fie to the people ordering hot dogs and such though! Anyway. Love their poke bowls with four types of poke over mayo/wasabi and rice, seaweed salad in the middle. Had lunch here multiple times.
Ululani's, Kihei -- The new Kihei branch was just as good as the others. Super smooth texture. Got the No Ka Oi: mango, passion fruit, coconut. Loved their mango, especially with the snow cap. Wish the location was closer to the center of Kihei. Also they have tons of outdoor seating but no tables. Makes it very hard to share.
Monkeypod Kitchen, Wailea -- We ate here for New Year's Eve, early. Sat outside. Nice cocktails. Had a Pod Thai, pina colada, and a Makawao Ave (bourbon, lemon, honey, cayenne-ginger beer, Angostura bitters). All quite good and not too sweet. Had the poke tacos appetizer which were good. The avocado cream seemed unnecessary and the puffy shells were a bit odd, but the tuna poke itself was fresh and tasty. Ordered two pizzas: Bourgeois (Big Island Lobster, Hamakua Wild Mushrooms, White Sauce, Truffle Oil, Parmesan, Thyme) and Proletariat (Pepperoni, Sausage, Onion, Green Peppers, Olives, Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce). Both were good for non NY pizza but the Bourgeois was incredibly heavy. We took most of it back to the condo. On another night, had the steak as well as a local snapper special served with with Big Island lobster, vegetables, and truffled wild mushroom mashed potatoes. Delicious snapper and lobster, vegetables were tasty and competently cooked, but the truffled mushroom mashed potatoes were busy and a bit overwhelming. Finished with their famous Kula strawberry cream pie!
Mama's Fish House, Paia-- I know, opinions on Mama's are divisive here, and it's overpriced, but in such a gorgeous location. Spent an early New Year's Day dinner here (4:45pm reservation). Excellent service. Was so grateful that the valets put the top on our Jeep for us before it started to rain! Shared the Ono Tahitian ceviche to start. Very good, with coconut milk and lime, but too small a portion. They put the fish on top of some carrots (?) and cucumbers, to make it look bigger. Bah. Had the mahi mahi with lobster and crab, which was good. The half lobster tail was perfectly cooked and so sweet. (But cooked properly, how could it be bad, eh?) Husband ordered what was essentially a sampler plate. Grilled Mahimahi, slow-cooked Big Island Wild Boar, Octopus Luau and Ahi Poke with baked Hana banana, Molokai sweet potato, lomi-lomi, fresh poi and Haiku lilikoi. Standouts were the octopus luau, boar, and baked banana. Poke was only OK. Confirmed that I do NOT like poi. :) Polynesian Black Pearl for dessert, with some Kona coffee (so good) and lingered at our table until well after sunset.
Yee's, Kihei -- Golden Glow mangoes. Pricey ($3 or so per) but delicious. Not stringy, buttery texture. And oh so fragrant.
Alan Wong's Amasia, Wailea -- Walked in and was seated at the bar, which was a gorgeous piece of unfinished Japanese hinoki wood. They sand it down every morning. Cocktails were way too sweet. Ordered 6 small plates for a surprisingly reasonable price. Was expecting a way higher bill given that it is in the Grand Wailea. Grilled cheese sandwich, cut in half, served on a martini glass of soup (I personally find this gimmicky and lame nowadays) was odd but good. Didn't think kalua pork, cheese, and foie would work but it did. Was less enthused about the chilled tomato soup, didn't understand dipping the hot sandwich into the cold soup. His famous whole tomato salad was pretty tasty but also one note and on the sweet side. The li hing mui dressing was tangy and salty, but probably would have made anything taste good. The tomato itself did not taste like much. Kept wondering what this would taste like with an East Coast heirloom tomato. I wanted to love the Kampachi Sashimi Tiradito with passionfruit, sweet potatoes, corn, corn nuts, and cucumber. The corn nuts were just...weird. The purple sweet potato just didn't mesh with the passionfruit. The delicious kampachi was fresh and flavorful, but each slice also awkwardly wrapped around a matchstick of cucumber that fell out as soon as you picked it up with chopsticks. Weird dish. I usually like creative Asian but not this. Shoyu Duck Bao Buns (2) were good but strange. The bread part was not very fluffy, though, and the top was a little browned. They seemed like halfway between a steamed bao and a baked bao, and they couldn't decide what kind of bao they were. Again, weird. The potstickers (2) were also unusual, with long crispy and flaky edges that extended past the usual "fan" section. It was very hard to eat, but well executed, with a nice sauce with hints of vinegar and spice (hot). The "Tom Yam Kung" roll with lemongrass shrimp, crispy heads, red onion, and kaffir lime rice sounded great on paper. In actuality, it was very subtle. Well, almost too subtle, verging on bland. Rice was a little too cold, too. (If you've eaten really good sushi in elsewhere you understand that the sushi rice really matters...should not be too hot/cold, too wet/dry, packed too loosely/too tightly, etc.) And as soon as the maki roll touched soy sauce, all the delicate flavors were blasted away.
Overall, would probably only get the potstickers, grilled cheese, and duck bao again. Enjoyed the koi pond, bartenders, and walking around afterwards, but the Amasia menu overall seems haphazard. Liked some dishes, but seems like there are a bunch of "misses" on the list.