Maui Trip Report (mostly Kihei and Wailea)
Stayed in a Kihei condo for nine nights over Christmas, and here is what we tried. Some old favorites, some new favorites, and a "meh" or two.
Kihei Caffe, Kihei - I really love this place. Our first stop the morning after we arrive for cinnamon roll french toast & loco moco with fried rice and lots of coffee. Our favorite thing, to sit outside and have breakfast on our first day on Maui, drinking coffee and eating fresh pineapple. Just happy to be there. I think we have done that three times now. Went back a few times, had huevo rancheros, eggs benedict, chorizo and eggs, and the country fried steak with biscuits and gravy. All very good but huevo rancheros is one of my new favorites now. It was raining one day when we tried to go so they were unfortunately closed.
Tamura's, Kahului - Great for poke lunch & alcohol purchases. Wasabi poke was really good and not overwhelming with wasabi. Hawaiian style had lots of crunchy seaweed, maybe a bit too much. Wanted to love the pipikaula poke but it was quite salty and got monotonous. Best was the creamy orange spicy poke with lots of being fish roe. Guy next to us ordering was sad they didn't have the hamachi that day. Went back a second time, tried sunrise, ninja, hot shoyu with sea asparagus (sea beans), and inamona styles. All excellent. Sunrise is spicy style plus avocado, furikake, and a sweet sauce. Ninja style is sweet and spicy with furikake and lots of sesame seeds. All use fresh ahi and are not cheap. Out of the eight poke types we tried, I liked spicy ahi and sunrise the best. Unfortunately their king crab poke and hamachi were not available both visits. So glad they are now on Maui!
Maui Thai, Kihei - Promising, new place. We tried the short rib Penang curry, papaya salad, and drunken noodles with chicken. Papaya salad was only OK--needed more fish sauce and spice. My drunken noodles with chicken were tasty. Lots of fresh lemongrass. But my husband's Penang curry with short ribs was rich, flavorful, and the best of the three dishes we tried. Not my favorite Thai place ever (as we have done some of the great ones in the USA like Pok Pok in Portland and Jitlada in LA) but MUCH better than what used to be in this space. Seems like the menu has some hits waiting to be explored.
Eskimo Candy, Kihei - Did our usual of poke bowls for lunch nearly every day. Still delicious. Great service. Regular ahi, spicy ahi, wasabi ahi, and furikake ahi poke with seaweed salad, and wasabi cream over white rice.
Coconuts Fish Cafe, Kihei - Our usual order of coconut shrimp and fish tacos to share. Messy, so always grab a fork, and add some Cholula hot sauce beforehand. My husband's favorite and he likes how crispy the outer tortilla is. Went here twice, ordered the same thing twice.
Local Boyz Shave Ice, Kihei - Had lilikoi, lychee, guava with vanilla mac nut ice cream and Kauai cream on top. Came back and did pineapple, piña colada, and lilikoi with mac nut ice cream and Kauai cream on too. Pretty good but not as good as Ululani's and their built in bench is kind of odd. I find that the middle flavor doesn't always penetrate the shave ice here. You end up with unflavored ice a lot of the time. We went twice only because it was convenient.
Dinner at Outrigger Pizza, Kihei - Mobile pizza vendor. Smaller Naples inspired types of pies, around $10. Lilikoi Pork & Sausage with Mushroom hit the spot. Just wish the crust was a bit more flavorful but making quality pizza is difficult to do to begin with, especially in a humid environment, my pro friends tell me. Usually don't do pizza on Maui since we are from NYC but this was good. They rotate locations regularly -- their web site has the schedule. Would eat here again.
Monkeypod Kitchen, Wailea - A quick Christmas dinner of kalua pork/broccoli/sprouts/peanut saimin, and a mahi mahi sandwich with lots of mayo. Saimin was quite salty and I wasn't able to finish, but it tastes good the next day. Tasty and bustling. We have gone here several times before and always enjoy ourselves.
Lehua Lounge, Wailea - New cocktail lounge/open air bar at the Andaz. Kind of a weird location overlooking the infinity pools but with the busy & open air Ka'ana Kitchen behind you so their music kind of bleeds over. Good place to watch the sun set. They have love seats for two near their fire pit, on the left side facing the ocean. Service was good but a little hovering. Fresh juices, house made syrups, but only "cheater" ice with the big holes in it. Would have been nice to have those big ice cubes for the boozy & stirred drinks.
Enjoyed the Holiday in Jalisco, Paia Town, Kona Squall, Mai Tai. Kona Squall as the best of the three as they use Bulleit and Zacapa 23 to make it.. Macadamia nut orgeat, too. Tried the pork buns (2 to an order, overstuffed, hard to eat, only OK) and the mochiko ribs (kimchee on top seemed unnecessary, ribs themselves were good, six to an order, also pricey). Probably the best cocktails we've ever had on Maui since most bars don't jigger/measure, shake long enough, taste for consistency, or use high quality ingrdients.
Ululani's, Kihei - Did mango, coconut, lilikoi, snowcap, mac nut ice cream. Fantastic. And they now have picnic tables with holes cut into the table to hold shave ice containers. Ingenious!
Dinner at Merriman's, Kapalua - We were given a very nice corner table on the lower level towards the beach. Very pretty sunset. Excellent service. Gorgeous view. It was still light out when we sat down and I could see Molokai and the beach to my right.
We had a rum punch for two served in a "porthole," from Crucial Detail in Chicago. This vessel was custom designed for the Aviary in Chicago but is now for sale due to popular demand/a Kickstarter campaign, and it was nice to chat with one of the Merriman's bar staff about how they're using it! (We actually have two of them at home.) The rum punch itself had Zacapa 23, Scarlet Ibis, Blackstrap, and Lillet with some spices & citrus. Served in two rocks glasses with a big sphere of ice each--it was good and very pretty in the porthole. Looks to be a new drink as it's not on the online menu.
Loved our pork and onion quesadilla. I had the macadamia nut crusted monchong with spicy broccoli, which was fabulous. Perfectly cooked. Also possibly the best broccoli I've had in a long time. My husband got the wok charred ahi, which he adored. He's a huge tuna fiend. We shared the white chocolate malasadas for dessert. Excellent all around. I had the smaller entree portion and was quite satisfied.
Due to traffic, we sat down a little before 5:15pm and were able to marvel at the sunset from our table. The sunset actually felt closer to 5:30pm due to the sun setting behind Lanai. Even though we didn't get a chance to do happy hour on the patio, it all worked out in the end.
Food wise, seemed to be better & more interesting than meals at upscale places on Maui like Mama's, Hali'imaile General Store, or Lahaina Grill. Will DEFINITELY be back. Have done Mama's a few times now, and while it's good, the food quality didn't wow me the last time.
Da Local Banana, Kihei - Former Makena food stand now with a retail storefront in Kihei. I had a regular chocolate covered banana. Excellent, with high quality ingredients, especially the chocolate. Refreshing on a hot afternoon.
Sugar Beach Bake Shop, Kihei - New bakery from the Ululani's folks. They make malasadas only on weekends. Call to reserve. We had two cinnamon and two li hing mui. Excellent and warm when we got them. Definitely call ahead!
Amasia, Wailea - Came here last year. They have drastically cut down the menu, which is good since it was in sore need of editing last year. We had a nice meal here even though our server was clearly overwhelmed and another table nearby had been waiting for their steamed fish for 90 minutes! They eventually got it to go, yikes. Meanwhile all of our food came extremely quickly and all at once. Ordered the duck bao and potstickers, which we had loved last time, and added on the braised short ribs, spicy broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, which we also enjoyed. The short ribs were tender, meaty, and falling apart. The spicy broccoli was good but the chili pepper slices and chopped macadamia nuts fell to the bottom of the bowl, and the broccoli was cut in large, long pieces, making it awkward to eat. For dessert, the lilikoi curd stuffed malasadas were simple and delicious. I only wish I had room for the "coconut" dessert or pineapple "shave ice."
Chez Meme, Kihei - Came here only because Kihei Caffe was closed. I had the Baguette Willy, which was a scrambled egg and ham sandwich on baguette, husband had the pineapple french toast. Their famous mahi mahi eggs benedict wasn't on the menu. Oddly my sandwich was served with home fries and toast. Bread with bread? The sandwich's bread was soft and mushy, not crusty at all, so no textural contrast. Lame. Ended up eating the filling by itself. Their brioche french toast was OK, not amazing. No coconut syrup, only maple. Service was a bit absent. Won't come here again.
Morimoto, Wailea - The new Maui location has a great ambiance. The outdoor seating is next to the bottom of the Andaz infinity pool. The patio has sides and a top that can be retracted. We almost didn't eat here but I loved the atmosphere. Our meal was very good. Bone marrow with breadcrumbs and teriyaki sauce, sliced lengthwise and served with a small spoon for scooping. Yellowtail over rice cooked at the table in a hot stone bowl, with sweet sake soy sauce. Duck breast and confit, served with duck confit fried rice with a sunny side up egg on top, and a small cup of duck broth with a duck meatball. All delicious. No sushi, no sashimi. We were too stuffed for dessert. Service was excellent, seating very comfy, just a little chilly from the night air. And the price was under $100 for two before tip. Similar to the NYC Morimoto it seems like the best way to have a good meal there is to AVOID the sushi, sashimi, tartares, as well as the over priced omakase meals.
I also want to mention of the the Hawaiian snacks available at Foodland, Safeway, and the ABC/Whalers general stores!
Love all the flavors of Macadamia nuts: BBQ, Maui onion, Kona glazed, dark chocolate covered, milk chocolate covere, cocoa dusted toffee. I try to look beyond the Mauna Loa brand for more variety. Also love the Island Princess mini meles.
Island Princess does a nice coconut/pineapple caramel popcorn. I also really enjoy Hawaiian hurricane popcorn with furikake and rice crackers (mochi).
Maui Kitch'n Cook'd Chips are addicting, and only available on Maui I believe! I also like Maui Style Maui Onion flavor potato chips, but I know they're not really from Maui like the Kitch'n Cook'd ones are.
Guava macadamia Kauai Kookies were good. But overall we prefer Maui Kookwees. Pineapple mac nut, white chocolate mac nut, peanut butter, etc. Honolulu Cookie Co cookies are excellent but a bit too pricey and fancy to be tossing into my beach bag. Plus the chocolate dipped ones would melt!
Made French toast a few times at the condo. Hawaiian sweet bread, with coconut syrup and lilikoi butter, served with fruit on the side from Yee's Orchards: golden glow mangoes and apple bananas. I picked up some excellent lilikoi butter for our french toast from the farmers market in Kihei at 61 S Kihei Rd next to Ululani's and Sugar Beach Bake Shop.
Can't wait to return to Maui!
Thanks for the terrific report. We just did a whirlwind 4 days in Kihei and tried many of these spots:
- Tamura's was great, right off the plane, grabbed 2 poke bowls & headed to a nearby beach (Kahana?). The drive isn't lovely, but the beach is pretty & virtually empty.
- Monkeypod was very good. Had saimin & a terrific strawberry cream pie for dessert. Highly recommend.
- Coconuts was good. Nice grilled fish burger. In the ubiquitous strip mall, of course.
- Sugar Beach malasadas are terrific. Li hing mui (sweet & sour plum sugar) is unique & delicious.
- Charley's in Pa'Ia was fine. Good giant pancake.
- Nutcharee Thai in Hana was fantastic. Expertly fried opaka with unripened mango.
- Merriman's for happy hour (good mai tais & fries) during sunset was a great pitstop.
- if you drive to Nakalele Blowhole (not for faint of wheel), bypass Curley's banana bread, but get Julie's. Expensive coconut candy was meh.
- For our splurge meal, we went to Ka'ana Kitchen in the Andaz in Wailea. Superb meal, with a creative menu. Grilled octopus was delicious. Clams were good (tell chef to crank up heat, they cook for "white people"). Ahi & steamed buns also tasty. Wonderful service, did a nice wine pairing.
Headed to airport now...already planning our return :-)