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Restaurants & Bars 3

Maui Trip Report (October 2017)

Andrea_ | Nov 23, 201701:00 PM

I visited Maui with my fiancé for a few days last month. We stayed in a vacation condo in Ekolu Village in Kihei/Wailea, across the parkway from Monkeypod Kitchen.

Thanks to u/Kathryn and u/Smiles33 for their great past posts.

A note to readers: I love shave ice and tiki drinks, but otherwise I am not a fan of super-sweet foods, so there won’t be any reviews of pie, ice cream, or things like honey-glazed pork ribs or pineapple pizza in this post).

*****Take-out / snack food*****
- Oki’s Seafood Corner (poke counter)
One of my favorite spots is Oki’s Seafood Corner. It’s just a deli counter inside the Foodland Grocery Store on Kane St. near the airport. Their salmon shoyu poke is the best poke I’ve had anywhere. It has a super flavorful Maui onion and sesame oil flavor and high-quality fish. It’s also not too expensive (around $5 for a decent portion). We also got the Aku (a type of bonito), which was less flavorful but more delicate, and their seaweed salad, which was high quality but too sweet for my taste.

- Ululani’s Shave Ice
Bottom line: The perfect shave ice place. Don’t bother going to any other shave ice establishment.

- Akamai Coffee
Bottom line: Expensive, but legit
If you’re afraid that you won’t find an obsessive coffee expert in Maui that you can talk to about minutiae, then you shouldn’t worry, because this place is here on S. Kihei Rd. I live in San Francisco, where I mostly drink free coffee from work, but have occasionally paid more than $4 for a coffee when I’m out with friends. I was surprised by the high prices at this place. However, the people behind the counter seemed like true experts, and their coffee was quite good. I’d return here for the drip coffee / daily special, since I don’t need to spend $6 on some special pour-over.

- Paia Bay Coffee
Bottom line: Mostly ambience.
The coffee here was fine; I think the experience is more what you get when you come here. It’s a beautiful grotto-like atmosphere, on the back patio of a store. A very laid back vibe.

- Belle Surf (coffee shop)
Bottom line: Good coffee, but not a good ambience.
This coffee shop is inside an outdoor mall kind of thing in Kihei, and was confusing to find the entrance to. Once inside, it’s a pretty small space where they were playing loud, annoying alternative rock music from the 1990s. (I have fond memories of that kind of music, but this was about the worst playlist I’ve heard.) If you’re just popping in and out, then it’s definitely a good place to pick up some iced coffee.

*****Casual restaurants*****
- Kihei Caffe
Bottom line: Tasty diner, convenient and fast service, cash only.
This place was super busy at 9 a.m. but we still found a table. For $25, we got a pork fried rice with eggs, coffee, iced coffee, some chicken apple sausage, and a half a papaya. After two hours of morning beach laying, this was a very satisfying spot to have “lunch.” If I stay in Kihei/Wailea again, I would definitely return here.

- Eskimo Candy
Bottom line: Huge, tasty portions of fried stuff.
Between the two of us, we got one appetizer of popcorn shrimp, and one combo meal with fried fish, kalbi, and something else (I forget), plus rice and macaroni salad. Definitely more food than we needed for lunch!

- Izakaya Genbe
Bottom line: Low-key Japanese restaurant with many options on the menu.
We didn’t feel like going anywhere too fancy, so we came to this restaurant, in a strip mall in Kihei. I was happy with the things we ordered (agedashi tofu, shoyu-marinated sashimi bowl, minced chicken meatballs with sesame, and tempura camembert cheese). Of the four things, only agedashi tofu had I had before. All the items were quite good, even the fried cheese, which I was skeptical of when my fiancé ordered it. I liked that this place had so many things to choose from, both familiar things and uncommon things.

*****Nicer restaurants*****
- Monkeypod Kitchen
Bottom line: (1) Great food, and (2) one of the best cocktail spots in Maui. Make a reservation.
Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea really stands out.
Monkeypod Drinks:
I was excited to try the mai tai with the passionfruit foam that Kathryn has written about. It’s indeed one of the best drinks I had in Maui. The foam on top makes the drinking experience much more fragrant and exciting. Note: The waiter told us to stir up the foam with the alcohol because “the foam is just for drama”—do not do this. We had to come back a different night and have a second one to remedy this mistake. (We still drank it, but… it’s a much more delightful experience to leave the foam on top while you sip.)
I also had a drink that was like an Old Fashioned with house-made macadamia orgeat. The waiter tried to talk me out of it or suggest I get some ice or club soda in it because “it’s pretty strong.” I’m not sure if he would give the same warning to a male customer… I ordered it as described on the menu. For anyone who likes Manhattans or Old Fashioneds but wishes they had more of a light, toasty macadamia flavor, I recommend this drink.
My fiancé had a strawberry rhubarb sour beer from Great Divide that he liked very much.
Cocktails: $14 each
Monkeypod Food:
On different nights, we got the parmesan and mushroom pizza, and a kalua pork pizza. The pork pizza stands out in my mind: some of the best roast pork I’ve had, and surprisingly light when combined with cheese and bread. (The pizza crust is like a very thin, kind of flimsy naan.)
I had really been wanting to try saimin, so I got Monkeypod’s sort of “bougie” saimin for around $17. It had peanuts, roast pork, and raw purple onions. Definitely left me wanting more—my only complaint on this dish is that it didn’t have enough noodles. I love carbs though, so most people would probably be happy that meat and vegetables outweighted the noodles in the bowl. Would definitely order something like this if it were available in San Francisco where I live—kalua pork plus raw onions isn’t something I’ve seen at ramen shops.

- The Mill House
Bottom line: (1) Beautiful surroundings, (2) fancier, upscale food at a reasonable (for what you get) price, (3) high quality cocktails. Make an early reservation so it’s light enough out that you can see the landscape (e.g., 5:30 p.m.)
I often feel ripped off at very fancy restaurants, because the high price of the food has to also cover the beautiful setting, high quality service, etc. etc. Mill House is not a cheap restaurant by any means, but the food is of high quality and made with creative ingredients you won’t find in most places, so I think the prices are justified.
I think the drinks at Monkeypod Kitchen are even better than Mill House, but Mill House’s food is more “different” and exciting.
We had a Bolognese pasta (not very “Hawaii” but very tasty), fried croquettes, a root vegetable salad, and some other things I may be forgetting. Every aspect is fresh and flavorful—I was eating even the microgreens garnishing the croquettes, for instance.

- Merriman’s at The Point
Bottom line: Would rather go to Monkeypod Kitchen, though this place does have a nice patio.
We came for happy hour, where they had some of the same drinks as Monkeypod Kitchen, but for only $9 (happy hour price) because we visited around 3 p.m. Their mai tai with passionfruit foam was inferior to Monkeypod’s—less foam, less exciting overall. We also had a pork quesadilla—at $13 it was one of the cheapest happy hour food items. Good, but pretty expensive.

- Morimoto’s
Bottom line: High-quality ingredients. Expensive but possibly worth it if you’re looking for a fancy sushi or Japanese experience.
We ordered just a California roll (because it said it contained Alaskan King Crab) and the ramen chicken soup (on the waiter’s recommendation). With no drinks or dessert, the bill was only $30 before tip—the waiter was highly disappointed that we got in and out of there with such a small tab! (We’d been down the street at another hotel for happy hour and sunset-watching beforehand, so we weren’t so hungry.)
The high-quality crab in the California roll and the freshness and simplicity of the soup made the experience pretty worth it—when you consider how much it must cost to run a fancy restaurant on the beach in Wailea, $30 seems fair.
Based off the quality of the sushi roll and the ramen, I’m guessing that their entrees, while pretty expensive, are made with only the best ingredients and a lot of attention to detail.
(They also gave us glasses of prosecco for free because I wrote it was our anniversary on the Open Table form.)

*****Disappointments*****
- Hali’imaile General Store
Bottom line: So many reasons not to come here.
This is a famous place, so we thought we’d make it one of our “fancy dinners” and came here on our last night. With places like Mill House, Morimoto’s, and all the other fancy restaurants I didn’t try, I am not sure how this place stays in the running. We started off poorly with their “tai mai”—the waitress described as an “award-winning” spin on the classic mai tai. Having had a few mai tai and mai tai-adjacent drinks on the trip, I figured this was a slam dunk. However, the drink was mostly “house sweet & sour mix” and not fresh juices and/or alcohol. It was basically undrinkable and so sweet that it put me off the rest of the meal, which combined with the slow service, was especially annoying. We also ordered ginger pork potstickers (not even close to the run of the mill potstickers you can find in any Chinese restaurant around the U.S.), a duck and slaw tostada (mostly strips of bell pepper with small pieces of roast duck hidden around) and a coffee and Aleppo crusted steak with goat cheese mashed potatoes (pretty run of the mill steak experience). I can’t type about this any more because I don’t want to dwell on this bad memory.

- Da Kitchen Express
Bottom line: Good musubi, but other food is not so inspiring.
We came here on a previous trip as well, due to the positive reviews, but I couldn’t see what the hype was about, beyond the musubi. I would choose Kihei Caffe over it.

- Swap Meet
Bottom line: Touristy, not so much food
The food and things for sale didn’t appeal to us too much, and we weren’t in the market for fresh vegetables or fruits. I didn’t see Donut Dynamite there, but it was a quick drive to their brick-and-mortar location.

- Donut Dynamite
Bottom line: Creative, interesting options, but sugar overload
It was interesting to drive over to this part of the island, where we might not have traveled to otherwise. The donut shop had a lot of really appealing flavors for sale that day—we wanted to get the lilikoi malasada after seeing the reviews of it on this site. We also had a honey miso sesame donut. All in all the experience was far too sweet for my tastes; we didn’t end up finishing our two pastries.

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