Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tropical Delights (aka Dining on Maui)

The Hawaiian islands don't seem to conjure up thoughts of delicious meals but I think that is because people frequent the same chain restaurants they have at home (Hard Rock, Bubba Gump's, Burger King) or stick to the restaurants at their hotels. Don't get me wrong, many of the hotel restaurants actually do a really nice job, just like here at home. And many of the restaurants in Hawaii are part of a local chain with multiple locations, as with three that we ate at.

One of the buzziest places on Maui right now is Star Noodle. It is completely out of the way, near nothing, and there is always a wait. When we showed up for a late lunch one day and were told we had a 45 minute wait we felt lucky! I've heard the norm is an hour plus.

We ordered big bowls of delicious ramen, pillowy pork belly buns, and grilled-perfect yakitori. Not only is the food great but the service was super friendly.

Just outside of Lahaina is another great place for lunch called Leoda's. This country-store style bakery has lots of tasty sandwiches, salads, burgers, and (their specialty) pies. Another great find!
And just north of the bakery is a parking lot with a small fruit market and a truck making delicious fruit smoothies using sugar cane syrup. I had coconut and Dayne had pineapple. We both declared ours to be the best!

Wanting to see a bit more of the west coast of the island we took a drive down to Kihei one afternoon stopping along the way at scenic outlooks to spot whales. Once in the small town, we decided on lunch at the 5 Palms. The casual restaurant is oceanfront in the Mana Kai Hotel. Good fish, good mai tai, good view!

Our first night we had a very enjoyable dinner at the Hula Grill in Whaler's Village. We started with cocktails in their "Barefoot Bar" and then had a wonderful table in the nicer, open-air dining room. As it was Valentine's Day, the owner's wife had cut protea flowers from her garden for each table that we got to take with us. It was so nice waking up to that pretty flower next to my bed each day!

The highlights at Hula were the poisson cru and the special ahi carpaccio with wasabi shave ice and caviar. The fresh fish mains were good but a bit normal in preparation. The dessert of Baked Hawaii (pineapple upside-down cake, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, topped with toasted meringue and caramel rum sauce) was the best dessert ever!! Do not miss!
Also in Whaler's Village is Leilani's. I had a great terriyaki steak here and my cocktail was quite good, but the atmosphere, at least where we were seated, was a bit more family/loud than I prefer. I'd go back but maybe ask specifically for a table next to the water. Or go later than 9pm in hopes that the children are heading to bed.

In Laihaina we had dinner at Kimo's, owned by the same restaurant group and Hula Grill and Leilani's, also overlooking the ocean. Although the menus are similar we found the apps here to be just ok, but the fish was fantastic! Kimo's is also home to the Hula Pie so Dayne had to try it of course. Delish and enough to feed four!
Just south of the main area of Lahaina is Pacific O. Another on the beach restaurant but this one is doing the farm-to-table thing and even has their own farm. We had a great table overlooking the ocean, and a delicious meal which included this gorgeous dish of fresh ahi and ono, with tabiko, wrapped in nori and tempura fried.
On our last night we had dinner at the well-know Lahaina Grill. It's a bit of an institution on Maui and for good reason. Elegant dining room, gorgeous dishes like Kona coffee roasted rack of lamb, well-chosen wine list, and gracious service. It's a bit spendy but we had a superb meal here.  

Warm weather, ocean views, fresh fish, and an occasional nightcap at the pool bar. What's not to like about eating and drinking on Maui?
Maui photos

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