Everyone says, “You’re always going to Maui!” It certainly feels true. We’ve been fortunate enough to keep receiving invitations to come over and even more fortunately, we now have friends there to tell us where to eat! Our early trips to Maui involved multiple meals at Pizza Hut. It was pretty sad.
On our recent trip over for the Maui AgFest, our friend Melissa announced that she had never eaten at Sam Sato’s. We’d only eaten there once ourselves. It’s a Maui institution, so our friend Dania, a local resident and very involved in the food scene, insisted we go and even volunteered to take us and show us what to get and how to eat it. It sounds a little silly, but when confronted with Sam Sato’s signature “Dry Mein” it certainly helps to have a local give you some instruction.
First of all, you don’t just get the dry mein. You get some sides: barbecue sticks and French fries for us. (You can see it all piled up there in the background.) Order the small, Dania instructed, so you have plenty of stomach space for your sides and a turnover (or two) later. (If you’re a Hungry Man-type, go ahead and get the regular size; all four of us were perfectly satisfied with the small, plus sides, plus turnovers.)
The dry mein is famous. It’s what people come for. (Well, that and the turnovers, actually.) The “dry” in the name is because it’s not served in soup. The noodles are similar to those found in saimin, which is the local version of ramen. But they’re thicker and chewier. Don’t worry, it’s not like eating dry pasta or anything like that. The noodles are seasoned and if you forego the accompanying small side dish of broth, it’s like eating chow fun or lo mein, basically.
Dania suggested we add some hot mustard into our broth and then dump the whole thing over the noodles. I did without the mustard because I’m a spice wimp. (We’re talking about Chinese clear-the-sinuses mustard here, not Western-style mustard.) Adding the small bowl of broth over the noodles dampens them up a little and adds a bit of extra flavor. You can also opt to dip your noodles into the broth or sip it on its own. A lot of people don’t even bother with it.
I keep talking about the turnovers. The restaurant’s manju is also famous, but Melissa and I were adamantly not fans of manju in general because it’s so dry. It’s like it sucks all the moisture out of your mouth. So we were a little bit suspicious of the turnovers, which Dania bought a big box of, since the outer crust looked a lot like manju crust.
I took the first nibble, though, on a blueberry turnover and immediately told Melissa she had to have one, too. The dough is sturdy, pie crust-ish in texture, but it’s just a thin layer. Inside, there’s a generous heap of fruit filling. If you get a box, it comes stamped with a cute little key to the various patterns you’ll find pricked or pressed into the crust so you know what’s inside.
Sam Sato’s always has a big line, though, so plan on a bit of a wait. Miraculously, perhaps because Dania beat us there to wait for a table, and we had to circle the block twice for parking, we were able to waltz in and sit right down.
Another Maui establishment that always has a line: Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. Somehow we manage to squeeze in a trip at least once every time we visit. Our new strategy is to go early, before the big rush that hits at around 11:30. And don’t forget to reserve your dessert when you order your meal. Otherwise, you might get back in line only to discover someone ahead of you just bought the last whatever-it-was-you-wanted.
We’d never had Leoda’s hotdogs, and I was having a hot dog moment. It was contagious. We both ended up ordering the Upcountry Dog, plus a Fried Salad and a side of fries to share. The hot dog is a Portuguese sausage dog; it comes with yellow mustard and pickled onions. I picked all the onions off as soon as I finished taking this photo, of course.
We were immensely satisfied with this meal. Turns out, a hot dog is just the right size to allow us to also chow down on the salad, fries and a big ol’ pie at the end. The pie I picked (I kapu’d the very last one) was peanut butter with a caramel drizzle and chocolate shavings on top.
While on Maui for AgFest, we stayed as guests of the Grand Wailea. We met up with their PR/Marketing team and Melissa in the lobby Botero Bar for some lovely afternoon drinks. (That’s my Ginger Mintini up front, with Hendrick’s Gin.) This was the first posh stop Melissa brought the infamous Ilocandia Store chicharrones to.
You see, we, having been told about Ilocandia Filipino Store in Lahaina by Chef Sheldon Simeon, had told Melissa about it on the plane ride over. She had to go to Lahaina, so we suggested she stop by and see if she could score some lechon (roast pork), which Sheldon had told us was THE BEST. At around 2pm she texted me, “What was the name of that market you said to go to?”
I told her, but “I think it’s too late for lechon…” I added.
I was right. No lechon. But she got a bag of chicharrones. Being the generous sort, she brought them down for our group to share with our drinks…and then brought the bag along on our Wailea Dine-Around. The three host chefs found this pretty entertaining. (Check out the fun photos Melissa took of each of them posing with her bag o’ pork goodness.)
Melissa is one determined woman, though, so she made another market run before our flight home…and scored! Last lechon of the day!
And, as I said, Melissa is incredibly generous, and saved the lechon to share with us at the airport! Best neighbor ever! We don’t know what they do to this pork, but the skin is crazy crunchy and blistered evenly all over. It’s also not greasy, as some roast pork can be.
Back home, I got to celebrate my birthday…again! I think I’ll just stay 36 forever. I’d made plans with friends to finally go and eat at MW Restaurant, which opened up late last year. One of the gals bailed on our lunch plan, but my other sweet friend treated me to a wonderful belated birthday lunch.
We started with an ‘Ahi Poke Bowl, which had a very Korean thing going on, with kim chee and ban chan-type veggies.
We had a couple other side dishes and split our entrée, the Mochi-Crusted Monchong. Chef Wade Ueoka developed this recipe while at Alan Wong’s Restaurant, influenced by the memory of his mom’s fried mochi. The mochi crust coating the fish is so crispy! (I met Wade when I worked on Chef Alan’s cookbook, The Blue Tomato, in which you can find the recipe for Wade’s mochi-crusted fish.)
And, of course, dessert! We got two: the Kula Strawberry “Cheesecake” (Li-Hing Ume Filled Strawberries, Strawberry Yuzu Sorbet, Kiawe Graham Crackers) and the MW Candy Bar (Macadamia Nut-Praline Crunch, Salt Caramel, Waialua Chocolate, MW Cookies).
If you go to MW, you can’t skip dessert. Half the duo behind MW—the “M,” Chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka—specializes in dessert. (The “W” is, of course, her husband, Chef Wade.) Michelle is crazy-awesome. Her desserts are so good, she was even voted the winner of the evening at the 2012 StarChefs.com Hawai‘i Rising Stars Gala—an amazing accolade considering dessert almost never wins over savory (except in my book!), and she was selected by the attendees over the 12 other extremely talented chefs in the Rising Stars 2012 class, 11 of whom were making savory dishes.
I’ll say it again: do not miss a chance to have dessert made by Chef Michelle!
And that’s it for April!