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Our 2011 List of Maui Culinary Favorites

January 1, 2012 - Ray Tsuchiyama

As 2011 draws to a close, a reflection/list on spouse C. and my choices for Maui restaurant meals, take-out and desserts -- in no particular order:*

- Spago at Four Seasons Hotel (Wailea). Any fresh fish for dinner is fantastic. The service was exemplary for our wedding anniversary dinner (inside table -- the terrace area is quite nice under the stars, but soon there will probably be heat lamps). Our selected dessert – a German pancake and strawberry sauce dish – was a bit too much, and we plan to have what looked to be a chocolate soufflé next time, maybe at Valentine’s Day.

- Fred’s Mexican Restaurant (South Kihei). Often my spouse C. and I find ourselves to be the only non-Caucasian couple in the entire restaurant – it is, after all, a significant eating hub for tourist groups composed of grandparents, parents, and children. I started out with just tacos, then shifted to “Fred’s Cheeseburgers”, then graduated to the carnitas plate (grilled pork) with rice and tortillas. We find the tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole (we order as a side-dish) to be very good. The waiters wear U.K. Premier League soccer shirts, but I don’t think they have in-depth insights regarding Arsenal or Manchester United (I guess this is another example of my life abroad: more knowledgeable about international soccer than American football.)

- Maui Bake Shop and Deli (Wailuku). We enjoy the simple ham-and-cheese croissant, plus cookies (any cookie is good). I got the white bread loaf at Christmas to make a from-the-scratch turkey stuffing, and although it was good (I toasted all the cut-up squares one by one in our tiny toaster oven and it was more difficult and time-consuming than I imagined), C. thought that the cubes should have been smaller, more bite-sized -- so I have a year to review this critique. Some day when I feel hungry enough, I will have the famous beef stew for lunch.

- Whole Foods (Kahului). I have been picking up a small box of salad after work for C. and myself for dinner from the Salad Bar, and we like the edamane (soy beans), beets, and many fresh selections. This is the only place that we found that sells imported mozzarella, which we miss dearly from Tokyo. Some day we will be adventurous enough to order a pizza. I often see a WF manager packing bags who resembles a macho character from “Lost” and now “Hawaii Five-O”, and want to ask him if anybody told that, but I am not that forward.

- Koiso (South Kihei). The sushi chef is from the northern Japanese prefecture of my birth (Aomori), so we hit it off. The omakase dinner (literally, giving in to the chef’s offerings) is a pure delight. The best sushi (and fish) are available in Aomori (the Oma toro or fatty tuna is legendary), so Mr. Kubo knows quality (but he and I are partial to Aomori). Other high-level sushi places in Japan include Otaru and Kushiro, but that belies my Hokkaido family loyalties; my Hokkaido cousins complain endlessly about the quality/small size of both fish and rice of sushi at Tokyo restaurants and it is a running joke in my extended family.

- Asian Star (Kahului). Jason, the owner, is a very welcoming restaurateur, and my favorite is the beef pho, a noodle dish with fresh mint leaves and bean sprouts. The beef broth is very good, evoking my visits to Ha Noi in northern Vietnam.

- Stilwell’s Bakery (Kahului). We discovered the macadamia nut cream pie, and C. and I split one slice, and it is heaven on earth.

- TJ Oriental Food Warehouse (Wailuku) and Koko Ichiban Yo (Kahului). Tie for best katsu bento or fried breaded pork cutlet plate lunch. TJ Warehouse has a Sanrio Hello! Kitty section that attracts Maui fans on weekends to buy knick-knacks. There are some interesting tofu selections, too. Koko Ichiban Yo is tiny, and I dash in and out, exchanging Japanese pleasantries.

- Pa’ina Campus Food Court (UH Maui College/Kahului). Chili, salad bar excellent. Good burger made-to-order, with local Maui-grown beef.

- Eskimo Candy (Kihei). The shoyu poki here is very fresh, and the “shoyu” has a hint of tamarind, sweetish, unique. The mahi fish-and-chips plate is very good.

- Zippy’s (Kahului). I take a convoluted turn off the highway into Zippy’s restaurant, a reminder of urban Honolulu (I used to eat Zip min at the South King location in the late 1960s!), and buy the apple pie, a wondrous dessert with vanilla ice cream.

*This list is more Central Maui-Kihei-centric, since we have barely traveled out of this region, and hope to expand our Maui universe in 2012.


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