Showing posts with label dining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dining. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2013

Eats! in Maui

Star Noodle

When I researched where to eat in Lahaina, Star Noodle came up on top at just about every site.  We were reaffirmed by several concierge that it is very close by, mighty delicious, and the wait is always long.  After looking through pictures, reading and hearing raved reviews, I was particularly thrilled about this place.

And that should be the first indicator how not to go about dining; with a super hyped-up expectation.  My two traveling companions were more skeptical and, thus, nothing was surprising to them.

Star Noodle is located off the highway, almost in seclusion but with plenty of parking space.  We got there at 6 pm and were not the first to be hovering around the front door.  As expected, we were told our wait would be around an hour or so.  Thus, we wandered off after putting our name down but still returned within the half hour.  We got our table shortly after and although we had doubts whether the hostess knew how to properly do her job, we were pleased with the service from our server.

This modernized Asian noodle bar reminds me of a lot of contemporary restaurants found everywhere in Thailand with a similar concept; an interpretation of what's modern in composition, flavours and texture.  For me, I find simplicity and unpretending good taste get lost in all the glitz and glam.

I guess what I was hoping in finding at Star Noodle was something that exemplifies strong, bold flavours, using local and traditional Asian ingredients.  Something special or unique that will keep drawing me back.  We ordered about 5 items on the menu.

Filipino "bacon & eggs", $12, with crispy pork (I'm a sucker for crispy roasted skin!) with tomatoes, a 62 c egg with yolk oozing out (yolk porn!) and served on a sizzling plate.  This dish was a really hearty and savoury dish.  I wish they had used a stronger vinegar rather than the apple cider vinegar as it was too mild and got lost completely in the dish.  I was also bummed out when my perfectly cooked sous-vide egg yolk turned into a scrambled egg over the sizzling plate, but that is just a personal preference that I like my savoury food drenched in creamy egg yolk.

The scallop shots,$13 for 3, were the best dish we had. A plump piece of seared scallop was topped with grated ginger in a Wafu dashi broth and lemon EVOO, giving it a savory flavoured broth with a tangy twist.

I saw the picture of hapa ramen, $12, everywhere on review websites.  When I tried it, it was by far incomparable to ramen in Vancouver.  The miso broth was not rich, as many had claimed.  The house-made noodles were good, but the broth and the meat made this ramen subpar. The barbecued pork were nothing short of food court quality.  It was dry, was not well marinaded, and not charred and smoky; just extremely average.

Our last dish, fried saimin arrived in a small size at $8.  The egg noodles were pan-fried with sliced kamaboko, spam, egg, and bean sprouts.  Again, the flavour just wasn't there.  We were advised to top the noodles with a creamy horseradish sauce, which we did.  It definitely livened the flavour a bit.  We also topped with with loads of chili sauce, otherwise, it was a plain dish, nothing more than what I could order at food courts everywhere in North America for $2-$3.

Star Noodle on Urbanspoon

Leilani's On the Beach

We tried our luck at Leilani's On the Beach, overlooking the beautiful Kaatalani beach.
Starting off with Chef's raw bar platter for $13.95, ahi poke and shrimp ceviche arrived in smaller portions that what we expected.

The fish taco at Leilani's was voted Maui's Best by Maui Time magazine.  At $14.95, I sunk my teeth into the succulent, cajun-rubbed grilled fish topped with chilies, grated cheese, salsa, and cabbage.  It was pretty satisfying.

But the most satisfying item was the ginormous Kimo's Original Hula Pie.  At $7.95, this dessert is a must-try when you are in Lahaina.  Due to its sheer size, it's best to share this dessert.  I dug in starting at the tip of the pie, scooping out creamy macadamia ice cream.  At the bottom was dark chocolate cookie crust; thick, yet crumbly like Oreo crust.   Of course, I didn't forget the rich chocolate fudge dripping down the pie, more grinded nuts, and light fluffy whip cream.  I swear, this giant piece of treat is to-die-for.

Leilani's on the Beach on Urbanspoon

Fish Market Maui 

The Fish Market was the most low profile place we visited and it turned out to be best find in our whole trip! A fish market and a fast food join all in one, you can bet the seafood here is fresh.  Don't be expecting a great atmosphere though, it is a fish market after all.

We feasted on this giant seared ahi tuna steak sandwich for $13.99 with a bag of chips and coleslaw.  This was the winner.  I love ahi tuna club sandwich, but I've never seen a tuna steak this big and thick before. It was seared perfectly, and rare in the centre, you'd have to be a fish love to enjoy this.  It was juicy and succulent and well-seasoned. The fact it was accompanied by caramelized onion, cabbage, tomatoes with wasabi aioli on  fluffy onion bun also made the biggest difference in the world.

You're not in Hawaii until you get a grilled mahi mahi.  Served with rice, pasta salad, this was a very simple and modest dish.  Nonetheless, the fish was perfection; flakey, plump and tender.

The fish taco here wasn't as large as the one at Leilani's but it was definitely a lot more loaded.  The fish was extremely fresh, nicely charred, and absolutely satisfying.

The lobster bisque wasn't exactly what I expected.  The soup was too thick, creamy and chunky with pieces of lobster and vegetables.  I didn't taste brandy, or the rich lobster essence.  This looked and tasted more like chowder than a bisque.

Last but not least, the jumbo crab cake was another tasty delight.  It was crispy on the edges and packed with shredded crab meat.  Served with Thai sweet chili sauce, this truly reminded me of a Thai dish and the rice here was just wonderfully fluffy.

Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio

My family and I visited Aura at Laurel Point hotel on a beautiful sunny day.  It was a perfect setting for brunch; a picturesque oceanside scenery, warm weather, a quiet setting, and we didn't have a care in the world but to enjoy ourselves.

Aura offers contemporary Pacific West Coast inspired creations with influences from Japanese and Hawaiian cuisines.  There were a lot of more items on their lunch menu we didn't get to try since it was Sunday brunch.  Nonetheless, we really enjoyed a lot of the dishes here.

The complimentary chocolate and zucchini bread and refreshing strawberry banana smoothies were a really nice touch.   The zucchini bread was presented with a cute fresh flower.  Mini jars of jams, peanut butter and honey were there for you to go crazy on. I'm not a fan of raw bananas, but I was ready to order more of these smoothies.

Brunch just wouldn't be brunch without eggs benny.  Aura's Crab Benny is served with soft poached eggs over meaty Dungeness crab cakes.  The toasted brioche was fluffy with crispy edges, way better than the typical mundane English muffin.  The hollandaise sauce was nice and creamy, yet not too heavy.  Although it was infused with shiso, the flavour wasn't too overwhelming but very fragrant. Along side were melon salad and "home fries", or roasted fingerling potatoes.
Albacore tuna and tomato poke was our most memorable dish here.  Rather than typical guacamole, the chef put a spin on it and took it a step further, by making it into an avocado sorbet.  It was a fun and exciting plate with a party of flavours.  The tuna and tomato were well marinated and went great with the bed of noodles underneath.  The sorbet was really rich with fresh avocado taste, kinda like eating a frozen avocado paste.  Of course, it had to be eaten along with the tuna poke rather on its own.  I find that you only need a little bit of the sorbet to go with the tuna, though.

The steak sandwich was a favourite of my carnivorous sister.  The 6 oz. strip loin was served medium, though could have been more rare, but still very tender.  Over it were 2 jumbo onion rings, fragrant truffle mayo (mmm...) and toasted herb torpedo buns.  The frites arrived hot and crispy and we blamed ourselves for not ordering a side of truffle mayo to dip them in.  The newspaper-wax paper was a nice touch.  

Grilled romaine heart with crispy pancetta, soft poached egg, parmesan and pesto vinaigrette.  Compared to other dishes, this dish did the least for us.  Some parts of the romaine weren't grilled all the way through. And despite having most of my favourite ingredients, the dish wasn't enough to keep me interested after a few bites.
 We ended brunch with a few sweet notes.  The server recommended the 'Carmelia Valhrona Chocolate Bar'.  We took his words and we were glad we did.  This was no ordinary chocolate bar.  The texture was smooth with rich, dark chocolate flavour. It also had pop rock crunch which fizzled in your mouth with every bite.  Very exciting stuff.  The salted caramel ice cream on the side was wonderful with everything else around it.  Kudos.
 Lemon thyme cheesecake was also really nice.  I'm not a huge cheesecake fan as some can be too rich and I find it hard to swallow down without chasing with a glass of water.  But this cheesecake was more smooth and velvety, and very lemony in flavour.  It had a pleasing presentation being served with vibrant raspberry coulis and fruit salad.
I would definitely come back to Aura again for their relaxing atmosphere and exciting creations!

AURA waterfront restaurant + patio on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Top 10 most popular food after the bar

What are the perfect ingredients for a meal to follow a long night of painting the town red?

From experience, observation and careful research, one can conclude that the major players are:

carbs + dripping grease + tons of sodium + loads of MSG = one satisfying late night meal

Sounds disgusting, but the heart and stomach want what they want.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Southern delicacies: Seafood from Surat Thani and Trang

Every time we head down south to the beautiful beaches and islands, we always have another agenda other than indulging in the scenery.   It's the unlimited supply of fresh and delicious seafood you wouldn't find at just about anywhere else.  

Surat Thani 
The province is one of the main ports to many famous islands in Thailand.  However, it is still a kept on the down low from tourists that Surat is also the main port of top-notch, ginormously succulent seafood.   My family's favourite stop, Ruen Thai restaurant never fails to offer big, meaty crustaceans and day-caught fish.  Here are a few dishes we ordered.

Meaty merry crab


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Base Eat + Drink

Last summer, I often came to E-Hwa for late night snacks, particularly for their delicious yangnyum chicken.  This year, the restaurant has changed to Base Eat + Drink.  It was completely transformed into a lot cleaner, more modern izakaya drinking place.  I still miss the old E-Wha for its eclectic decor, the loud crowd, and comforting korean munchies to go with the alcohol.  We walked in to Base around dinner time on a Saturday night.  It was fairly quiet and it seemed they just opened.  Not quite sure if the place usually picks up later at night.

The menu offered a variety of korean and fusion dishes.  I love that they have many selections to offer such as salads, appies and tapas, barbecue meat, soups, even risotto and pasta as well.  
Let's start off with fried chicken! We ordered the smaller size ($7.50) with 6 pieces of chicken in spicy sauce topped with ground peanuts.  The chicken came with a side of salad and pickled daikon. Although the spicy sauce more sweet and not exactly spicy, but it was still pretty good.

I was torn between ordering Spagetti alla vongole (clams and olive oil, $15.40) and de mare (seafood with cream sauce).  Between the two, vongole seemed less fattening.  There probably wasn't much of a difference, but that mentality made me feel a bit better.  The dish arrived with several Manila clams with shells on, while the others did not have any shells.  I'm guessing the rest came straight from the freezer as they tasted dry and not very fresh.  The pasta also had a lot of excess olive oil and tasted very bland.  

Next up was the grilled barbecue beef short ribs or kalbi ($17.95).  While the marinade was good, the cut was much thicker and tougher than the regular beef short ribs.  When I mentioned that the beef was very thick and tough, the waitress informed us that the chef had ordered a different cut of meat that day.  I didn't like the idea that they used a different cut, which made a lot of difference in the texture of the meat, and didn't tell us earlier.  I ended up sending it back as it too hard to chew and was not at all what we expected.  Nonetheless, I do appreciate the fact that our waitress was very accommodating about it and took it off the bill.  

We substituted the beef ribs with grilled chicken skewers ($6.95 for 4).  They were tender and slightly charred.  They were not bad, but again I wish they had more marinade or seasoning. 

I wanted something to drink and ordered the Korean rice wine makgulri ($10).  When it arrived, I noticed that it had a thicker consistency than other makgulri we have had and it also had a very powdery texture.  I did not enjoy it at all and could not force myself to finish a drink either.

The verdict
Yangnyum chicken wasn't bad......................

The waitress was very attentive and asked if we were enjoying the food.  Unlike most asian restaurants, she was willing to take feedback and take the food back when necessary.  I think some fine tuning would go along way for the restaurant.  But then again, maybe Base is more of a drinking/partying spot with less emphasis on the food.

   BASE Eat + Drink on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Late night feast at Misai Japanese Restaurant

I wasn't going to write a post on Misai since we arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes before last call.  My understanding was that we were going to grab a quick bite at last call and be on our way. I wasn't too hungry and wasn't too interested in what we would be eating either.  What was wrong with me??  Due to time restraint and my mental state, I didn't prepare myself in taking down information on what the dishes were called or how much they cost.  However, as more and more dishes arrived, our late night eat soon turned into a full on feast for 3 people.  I guess we went overboard in ordering just to make sure we would have enough to eat before they close down the kitchen.  I managed to take photos and I apologize for not listing proper name of the dishes but I just want to share what we ordered that night.  
Salmon sashimi

Fish liver in ponzu sauce
I've never had monk fish I believe before and I was surprised to see how big the pieces were.  They looked like foie gras!  The texture is very similar but with a very distinct fishy taste.  The flavour and texture of the liver were contrasted by the tanginess of the ponzu and crunchiness of green onions and grated radish.
Teppanyaki style beef with fried garlic
In order to make sure we had variety, I ordered beef teppanyaki which were topped with green onion and fried garlic.  They were not chewy and well seasoned, maybe even a bit on the salty side. With a bowl of rice, it would already be a complete meal.
3 cones; spicy salmon, california, and spicy tuna
Hamachi tataki with quail egg

Potato croquettes

Fried oysters

Salmon sashimi and salmon roe on sushi rice
I'm normally too scared to eat ikura, or salmon roe, due to the sheer size unless they are really fresh.  Surprisingly, they were really fresh at Misai.
Salmon roll topped with mango and masago

The verdict: Good selections!
I really appreciate Misai's wide range of selections and the food was quite good.   The service was extremely friendly, attentive, and helpful despite us popping in at almost closing time and ordered almost everything on the menu.  
Misai Japanese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Cru was another establishment I've been hearing reputation of, mostly amongst Vancouver food bloggers documenting how exquisite their dishes are.  When I was invited to a dinner at Cru, there was no way I was turning that down.  Situated in a commercial area, Cru was much harder to notice and smaller than I thought.  Seating no more than 10 tables plus bar area, the restaurant's narrow space can become a rather lively atmosphere during the dinner rush, or an intimate dining experience out of peak hours.

Now let's get to the food.

The appies
P demanded the soup of the day, carrot and fennel soup.  Most puree taste and texture often remind me of baby food.  Topped with creme fraiche and orange drizzle, I was taken by surprise to taste its vibrant lusciousness.   At a medium consistency and a touch of cream, the soup was hearty with a slight citrus twist.

Cru's unique Cellar Door caesar with their signature garlic butter croutons is one of their most popular dishes on the menu. The salad at first looked seemingly simple and deconstructed, yet, in fact, the lettuce was harbouring tons of toppings and dressing.  It was a refreshment to actually see anchovies in caesar salad.  Some people hate it, but I find that its saltiness helps make caesar salad the way it should be.  The sharpness of the asiago cut right through the flavour of the dressing with the tanginess of lime while the garlic croutons were big in size, crispy and buttery.  This particular caesar salad was in a different ball park from the rest of other restaurants 'straight-out-of-the-bag' caesar salad.
Cru's carpaccio
Cactus Club carpaccio
The second appetizer, beef tenderloin carpaccio, looked a lot similar to Rob Feenie's version at Cactus Club, although much more refined.  It was topped with with caperberries, truffled aioli, and shaved parmesan and served with mini crostini.  I could definitely taste the truffle fragrant in the aioli.

I was really interested in trying the onion tart based on its menu and description, and was quite pleased with it.  The sauteed caramelized onion was rich and tasted familiar like french onion soup.  The phyllo crust was thin, crispy and flakey. All together with micro-green bits and dabs of sour cream, it was quite the harmonious bite. It was gone so quickly and I wanted more!

The cheese special was Barrata cheese, which was very light and fluffy, along side with port cherries and toast.  Its subtleness was accented by the sweetness of the cherries.  For $17, though, I thought it was a bit too expensive for a small cheese plate.

Now for the rest of the meal... since we couldn't decide, we'll just get one of everything please?

Now to more fulfilling dishes!  The perfectly cooked mushroom risotto garnished with shaved parmesan and arugula was simple, earthy, and uncomplicated.  Everyone along with myself really appreciated its creamy texture and its subtlety.  To make sure I get all the sauce, I licked the spoon until it was bone dry.
As the cavatelli bolognese arrived, it may seemingly appeared to be the most average dish out of the bunch.  However,  after a couple bites, I started to really taste and appreciate the richness of the red wine meat sauce.  It was quite savoury and rustic, and I quite enjoyed it wishing there was more sauce with the pasta.

When I think of eating ribs, the best utensil is probably your hands.  While in front of a friend's parent though, I was less inclined of doing so.  Even though the Syrah-braised short ribs was under 'small plates' category, its portion would probably convince me it belonged with the entrees.  Served with a side of watercress salad and mac and cheese, the ribs looked gorgeous bathing in marinade.  The meat was tender and fell easily off the bone.  It was good and filling, but in comparison to the uniqueness of other dishes, this one fell behind in its class.

Finally, duck confit with bacon vinaigrette spatzel goat cheese hash, served on top of a really tasty coleslaw. The duck confit was not as crispy and tender as Bistrot Bistro, but the elements surrounding it made it much more interesting. I'm not a big fan of coleslaw, or cabbage in general, but it was very tasty here and I really enjoyed it with the duck.  The soft textured spatzel, a type of round noodles, mixed with smoky bacon vinaigrette was rustic and savoury.  It went very well with the duck and the cabbage.  
The winners!
Moroccan-spiced lamb chop cooked medium rare with sauteed faro, eggplant, zucchini, olives and yogurt.  The spice crusted lamb may appear rare for some, but they were perfect for us.  The meat was so fragrant, juicy and tender with few fat trimming on the edges.  I'm not a fan of grains but the sauteed faro went really well with the lamb in this dish.   Alas, some of us carnivores made sure no parts go to waste and got every single bit out of it, even the bone.  

It may sound simple, but "bacon and egg on toast" was anything but.  It was something special, almost divine.  The 'bacon' was actually crisp pork belly with a bit of fat.  It was sweet and savoury and amazingly good, but exquisite when topped with poached egg.  The toasted brioche absorbed all the flavours from the pork belly and the runny egg yolk that dripped down.  The video below shows the egg yolk cracked and oozing down the bacon and egg. You can hear us squeal with excitement in the background, please enjoy. 

Just when we thought there was no room left for dessert, as always, we managed to squeeze in just a bit more.
AW and I were quite curious to try the goat cheesecake with candied pecans and orange soaked apricots.  For those who can't stand pungent cheese, you won't appreciate this dessert.  It's still got the distinct goat cheese flavour, though more subtle and with very soft, velvety texture.  I thought it was quite unique and not too sweet, but probably not something I can have very often.

The lemon meringue had a creamy custard like texture while the soft, spongy cake was light and fluffy and served with fresh raspberries.  It's best enjoyed with a cup of Earl Grey!

 Voted best out of the three, the Grand Cru chocolate tart was served warm, rich, and had the bitterness of dark chocolate.  It was contrasted with tangy rhubarb and floral lavender ice cream.  Absolutely delicious, but, wow, do we need fat pants!

The verdict...
Based on our experiences, we are now all a fan of Cru.  The executions of the dishes are much more refined than others in its category, while pricing is absolutely reasonable.  We can't wait to return with our loved ones!

Cru on Urbanspoon