The Best of Maui, 2012

The Best of Maui, 2012

Aloha!

Every year The Maui News runs a contest for people to vote on the best of everything Maui, including restaurants and activities. It is the Valley Isle’s “Best of Maui” survey, established in 1992. The results are in…and while I whole-heartedly agree with some, others leave me scratching my head. Huh? For instance, Alan Wong’s new “Amasia” won “Best New Restaurant” and since we were just there for my birthday (and the review will be posted later on), I can’t say I back up those reader’s opinions.

But that’s what Opinions are all about, right?

However, as we sat at Amasia (at The Grand Wailea) we looked around, and comparing it to other restaurants, said, “You just can’t beat “Mama’s Fish House” for ambience on Maui–and sure enough, listed under

“Best Ambience” was Mama’s Fish House.

Best Water Activity: Teralani Sailing Adventures. I have been on almost every boat EXCEPT the Teralani!

Best Lu’au: Old Lahaina Luau. I disagree. I would move in and live at “The Feast at Lele” luau and let them feed me their gourmet food for the rest of my life. (We have friends in Europe who say that their night at The Feast at Lele was the highlight of their entire Hawaii trip, which included multiple islands.) But I’m talking food here, and the Old Lahaina Luau’s buffet line and watery drinks just don’t do it for me.

Best Restaurant Overall: Lahaina Grill.  Oh, my. Don’t get me started on the last time we went there. A mix-up with our gift card (we were in the right, they were in the wrong)– had the waiter chasing us down the street as if we’d robbed the place. Not a fun way to end the evening. Anyway, as Mike just said, “Why would anyone go there, when Gerard’s French Restaurant is just down the street? It’s way better.”  I can’t agree more, though Gerard’s did win for Best French Restaurant.

Best Ethnic Restaurant: A Saigon Cafe www.mauivietnameserestaurant.com 1792 Main St., Wailuku. Again, sorry. Just can’t agree with those who say they crave the “exotic and fiery rice in a clay pot.” Their food doesn’t win me over, the place has a strange smell from those clay pots –maybe Chinese Five Spice?  and it has always seemed a bit seedy, but the article on its win says that it’s under a renovation that should be completed next week. But there are obviously people who love this place.

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant- Ruby’s Diner 275 Queen Kaahumanu Center www.rubys.com  Kids’ menu available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Best Resort Restaurant: Ko at the Fairmont Kea Lani Foods from Maui’s illustrious plantation heritage: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese. It just re-opened this spring after a $5.1 million renovation. It’s next on our list of places to try, but I’ve heard really good things about it from friends.

Best Sushi: Sansei, in both Kihei and Kapalua www.sanseihawaii.com This is also our choice for sushi because of their early-bird and after-10 pm discounts.

Best Pizza: Flatbread Pizza Company, Paia www.flatbreadcompany.com

Best Seafood: Mama’s Fish House www.mamasfishhouse.com What’s not to love about Mama’s?(other than the large dent in your wallet) Its ocean-view, cove-like setting makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to Trader Vic times, only better, much better. I once asked about their many wow-factor tropical floral arrangements and was told they have their own floral designer who works only for them. So that explains it. I’m not even a fish eater…but I love Mama’s.

Best Bakery: Komoda’s Store and Bakery in Makawao. They’ve been in business for 96 years, they must be doing something right! They’re best known for their cream-puffs, however all the breads are done by hand, 100% from scratch. No automation involved.

Best Steak: Ruth’s Chris Steak House. www.ruthschris.com. They have two locations, one in Wailea and one in Lahaina. We go for their prime time special, between 5 and 6 PM; the three-course special runs $42.95 and is more than we can possibly eat.

So that about wraps it up… What is your opinion of this year’s winners? Who would you add or subtract from the list?

A hui hou. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog please click the Follow Button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

You Asked for It

Maui Weather Today High 84, Low 72

You Asked for It

Aloha!
It seems we’ve been on a food theme for the last few blog posts. I have asked readers what they would like to see in this blog, and the answers came back, “Restaurant reviews.” Being that I lived for 20 years right next to the Napa Valley in California, and did Interior Design work there, I will provide some
restaurant reviews in this blog. I’m a pretty good cook, but I LOVE to eat out.

First of all, I don’t know how any restaurant survives these days. Especially on Maui, with the price of food. We used to buy the good canned crab meat
at Costco on a somewhat regular basis, and it was $ 8.99 per can. (I make a mean crabcake.) Then the price went to $9.99 then $12.99 then $15.99 and the last I saw, it was at $18 can. We stopped buying it. So if crab has doubled on the shelf at Costco, how much are restaurateurs having to pay? The same with our electric bill; it’s doubled on Maui in the last few years. Business people are paying those same rates.

When you come to Maui on vacation, you are in vacation mode. You have set a certain amount of money set aside to spend… and do so gladly. We are the same way when we go on vacation, our filters are different. We just go with the flow and if we want something, or want to eat out, we do it. It’s just the price of taking a vacation.

Not so when you live in a place. So eating out on Maui can be a minefield… We don’t have it in the budget to eat at the normal tourist places. And when we do eat out, we are more critical than a normal tourist would be.I laugh when I remember the time my stepdad John was here visiting from California, and one day we went to Ruby’s http://rubys.com/ in the Kaahamanu shopping center for lunch. It’s a hamburger place mostly, with a 1950’s diner vibe. John and I spent a lot of time in California comparing hamburger joints. There is so much to choose from there, with Nation’s, and In-and-Out Burger. The first thing we would do when he picked me up at the Oakland airport was go straight to Nation’s for a cheeseburger. It was our ritual. You can get out of In-and-Out Burger with a nice freshly made cheeseburger, fries, and a drink for around five bucks. It’s an eat- in restaurant, and has booths, the same as Ruby’s. And when we opened up the menu at Rubys, and John saw that the hamburgers were going to be about $12 a piece, I thought he was going to fall out of the booth. (He was a big guy, so that would’ve been quite difficult for him to do.) I ordered a cheeseburger and a drink. He ordered a bowl of chili, onion rings, and a shake.

The bill came to somewhere in the neighborhood of $27. He talked about that bill at Ruby’s for the next three years. To anyone who would listen, he said, “How in the world does anyone afford to live on Maui? When you can’t even go out for a cheeseburger….”
And I agree.

Just going out and having a good time without worrying about the tab can be a real challenge on Maui. I remember when I first moved here and was working at the hotel, I met one of the maintenance guys who had also recently moved here from Northern California. He had a good job at the hotel, his wife also worked. But they were moving back to the mainland. I questioned him, but you just got here, why are you leaving? His answer: “Because we are so
spoiled with going out to eat in Northern California, and we simply can’t afford
to do it here.”It was their thing, and it just wasn’t going to fly in Maui.

It does become a bit of of “look, but don’t touch.” I know there are a lot of nice restaurants at the hotels in Wailea and also in Lahaina, but we just don’t go eat there, because it’s not in the budget. This was a huge
adjustment for me, being from Northern California, and having Napa Valley right there at my disposal.

You can find good, honest chef-prepared food in Napa Valley for not much money. Also, a few years ago we went to LA to the Great American Pitchfest, with one of my scripts. Afterward, we drove to Santa Barbara to stay for a couple of nights. This was going to be the “vacation” portion of the trip. And because we were on vacation, I was prepared to pay good money to eat out. We got some recommendations from the concierge and headed downtown.

And were blown away. First, by all that there was to choose from. It was like its own little Napa Valley right there on the main street of Santa Barbara. Once we chose a restaurant (not an easy feat), we were treated to some of the most mouthwatering, gourmet food I have ever had for such a good price. I still think about that meal. We had an appetizer and entrées; I had one glass of wine and we shared a dessert, and were out the door for about 60 bucks. Amazing!
This is never going to happen on Maui. So, any restaurant reviews that I do on this blog will be through the eyes of hard-working Maui people with normal working people’s budgets. Not a tourist’s budget. Forewarned is forearmed.

You asked for it!

Let the games begin.

A hui hou (til next time). if you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica