Wow. I can’t believe two weeks went by just like that in Hawaii. It was so depressing coming back to Calgary… especially when I decided to go back to work right away the next day. Sigh. Besides the sun, the beaches, the warm weather, the fabulous shopping… what I missed the most of course was the food. I should say, some cheap+tasty+awesome food, and some really good service. The restaurants in Calgary can certainly learn a thing or two in regards to good food and service. But then I think Hawaiians are a nicer bunch of folks in general.
So instead of doing a gazillion reviews at every single place I ate at, I’m breaking down to three summaries – one for each island that I was on, with pics and a small caption to follow. This will be a week long project but I will work on it as much as I can. I am not linking any of these to Urbanspoon – but I plan to do lengthy reviews for some of the places that I really liked. Those will follow some time later.
We got off the plane and we were hot, hungry, and very hot. Genki had ample air conditioning which lured me inside. They are a conveyor-belt type restaurant where sushi is being made and placed onto color-coded dishes, then onto the belt, and diners sitting all around can grab whatever they like. Really, the food wasn’t too bad except it was pricey, but the service just lacked and I walked out without leaving a tip. Genki is only good if you want a quick bite, but for value and quality – look elsewhere.
Tasaka Guri Guri
This is a small, friendly shop that specializes in sherbert. On this day I got a scoop of pineapple and strawberry. Both were made very well and it was very cheap. I made it a point to go back before I left Maui but we just ran out of time.
We stayed in Kahului which was not the touristy part of town. Restaurants were very spaced out and we didn’t know where to eat, so we kept walking and walking… and stumbled in here. It is a very new and retro looking diner that had some amazing and friendly service. As the name suggests, this is a diner that serves American food. I tried to keep it local and ordered the Loco Moco, which was ok but the gravy wasn’t very good. Hubby got a burger which he really enjoyed.
Hubby and I are always in for ramen, and ramen is a good breakfast food, right? We had some awesome ramen in Waikiki a couple years back when we were there, so we have high expectations for ramen. Unfortunately this place does not deliver on quality – it’s all about the quantity. The shop is owned by Chinese so authenticity is out of the question. We really liked the gyozas and the fried rice was good for my toddler, but the ramen… it was huge. Jam packed with noodles… that were unfortunately soggy. I don’t know what the soup base was but I didn’t quite like it. I did like all the toppings so I ate all that. I left a pretty big bowl of noodles behind and the server was like… you didn’t eat half! Trust me, I never leave anything I like unfinished. The plus side is the food is really cheap here, but never, ever order the big bowl of ramen.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Kihei)
For Dinner, we decided to try Sansei which is apparently a local favorite. It’s a definitely a busy restaurant and I was surprised we got seated without a reservation. There’s some creative dishes here and everything is mostly tasty. Prices are quite average to a bit high. The food is fresh and the quality is definitely there, but I would say some things are overrated, like that Asian Shrimp Cake. I don’t know why it’s award winning to be honest… the tiny piece of shrimp cake was enveloped in a whole whack of crispy noodles – I got so tired of eating it I just gave it to hubs b/c all I could eat was the noodles! Hubby and I were ecstatic to see bluefin otoro on the menu though and of course had to order it. It is not cheap at $37.00 for 7 pieces but it was ultra creamy and melt in your mouth. I don’t know if I can eat toro again after eating otoro!
Lappert’s Ice Cream (Wailea)
I didn’t take a picture of my macadamia nut ice cream, but it was definitely worth eating especially if you love mac nuts! Apparently Lappert’s is also a local favorite and they have a wide selection of ice cream flavors.
The next morning hubby decided to drive The Road To Hana, so we had to eat a quick breakfast and be on our way. I don’t like McDonald’s and I’m very against eating it. For some reason I seem to eat it one way or another on vacation b/c it is cheap and quick. But I figured there could be something local at McD’s and this is what they had for breakfast – rice, eggs, spam and Portuguese sausage. Totally Hawaiian, served with soy sauce. It tastes exactly as it looks. Not cheap also – at $5.99 I rather get a mixed bento elsewhere.
The drive to Hana was tedious – the roads are curvy as f*** and it’s all single lane, sometimes only ONE lane so incoming traffic must take turns yielding to each other. It was also raining and although it was a scenic drive, I was glad I was not driving that day.
On the drive to Hana you will see many stands that essentially sell the same things, with Banana Bread being the most popular. You’ll also see ice cream, coconut juice, etc. and hubby got me this while I passed out in the back of the car, haha. It was very sweet and refreshing but expensive at $5.00 – though hubby bought two and his leaked so the guy gave the leaky one to hubby for free.
My toddler must’ve been shocked to change environments b/c he did not eat (and refused to) for the first few days, so we kept getting him smoothies just so he can have something in his system. Hana Ranch was the only restaurant we found in Hana. Anyways, the mango smoothie I ordered was really good and tasted more of a milkshake. The burger was standard but the ono was very fresh and the tartar sauce was not needed. Some people were complaining about the price but being the only restaurant in Hana… I’m glad there was a restaurant in Hana.
We then drove to Eskimo Candy Seafood Market but they were closed… and I wanted some poke. I remember seeing poke at Safeway and decided to try their’s, as well as picked up some fresh sushi trays.
Poke is such a popular thing in Hawaii that you can buy it at any supermarket, and most restaurants that serve local food would have it as well. One thing I can say for sure about the fish at Safeway is… FRESH. The poke was made very well and had strong hints of sesame oil. The sushi had a good amount of fresh fish and they were also made well – nothing like the hard mess you might find at grocery stores here in Calgary, especially at night time. I bought a tray from Foodland some time later and they even asked if I want a freshly made tray instead. Uh, yes please!
Da Kitchen Cafe
Da Kitchen Cafe is another local favorite and we made sure to get there early – minutes after they were open – and we got the last table. The menu is very Japanese influenced with tons of local favorites. Prices are very reasonable and portions are scary huge. I only ordered the mixed bento b/c it was a smaller portion of their offerings, but if you were to get, like their chicken thigh plate – you will expect to see a full pound of chicken thigh – just the meat, with heaps of rice and macaroni & potato salad all piled onto a plate. All the food was super tasty and I could eat this very often. Being in Hawaii we had to get the spam musubi. I personally love spam and always use that in my fried rice, but I could not eat it every day. My toddler had trouble finishing his plate but we packed it to go and he ate it later. My bento consisted of spam, chicken, beef and pork katsu – see, all very Japanese! Hubby got the saimin b/c he was recovering from a nasty cold and wanted something hot and soupy. Saimin is another popular thing in Hawaii – it’s noodles, even McD has it. However, the type of noodles is dependent on the restaurant.
This was a popular shaved ice place. Shaved ice is another popular thing in Hawaii though I often sit back and ponder, what is so appealing about ice and sugar syrup? Can’t really say, but it’s very welcoming on a hot day and I always get mine with ice cream, plus top it off with condensed milk.
We didn’t know what to do for dinner this night, and found ourselves in a small food court that had a few vendors. I decided on Ba-Le b/c they had noodles, and I wanted something other than rice. Plus we haven’t tried Vietnamese cuisine yet and Ba-Le is just that. My saimin was ok – it was an average bowl of meat and noodles but it wasn’t anything spectacular. The broth didn’t have much flavors and the char siu is nothing like the BBQ pork at an Asian BBQ place. Hubby’s rice entree had very flavorful shrimp and fish.
Kihei is the touristy part of Maui. Good thing we had a car and drove all around – all the interesting restaurants are certainly around this area. We decided to try this busy little place for more local style food. Though honestly eggs are getting a bit boring for breakfast, but I’ve never had pork chop for breakfast! The pork chops were grilled perfectly and the gravy was good – I bet it would be good on a Loco Moco. The hash browns, or as the Americans call it home-style fries were really crispy and good.
Eskimo Candy Seafood Market
The next day we were finally able to come here! This little eatery is featured in some of the local magazines as the place to go to for poke, so we knew we had to try them out. They also have a lot of other seafood items and hot entrees, but we weren’t really hungry and just sampled bits of things. Everything was excellent and the poke was one of the best I’ve had to date!
That’s it for Maui! Big Island and Honolulu reviews to follow 🙂