Aloha Gastroforkers! This is my first of a few posts from my travels to Maui. Brian and I travelled for a wedding, which was absolutely beautiful (check out the spread later in this post). I’ve had so many debates with people who’ve previously been to Maui, Honolulu and the Big Island as to which island is ‘better’ than the other – but to be honest, it’s always about personal preference – much like food.
The closest restaurant to our condo at Grand Wailea Champions (which, by the way, is a gorgeous and well kept property that doesn’t break the bank!) was Monkeypod Kitchen.
Monkeypod Kitchen supports local produce, organic and sustainable farming, ranching and fish practices. Meats are well taken care of – beef is grass fed, fish on the menu are renewable species and they offer sustainable hormone free poultry. This is so important and I’m so glad to help be a part of this movement – even if it’s only dining!
Our first encounter was with a huge group 7 of us were present and another 6 were on their way to join us. They happily obliged and sat us at a large booth. While we waited for our other guests to join us, we ordered appys to start off.
We started off with two orders of Poke Tacos ($17.95). This was by far the best place we had Ahi Poke in Maui. Deep fried wonton shells were crispy and held the raw ahi well – the sauce: ginger and shoyu and with delicious avocado cream sauce on the top. The cabbage lined the bottom of the tacos to give this dish an extra crunch. The fish was cool and very flavourful. Everyone agreed this was their favourite dish.
Up next was the Raw Bar Mixed Plate ($19.95). There are three offerings: Sesame Ahi Poke, Shrimp Ceviche and Tako Poke (octopus). Another dish with Ahi Poke? Sign me up! This one went quick, it was in sauce and sprinkled with green onions and toasted sesame. The Shrimp Ceviche was fresh and clean tasting with a little buttery taste from the avocado graciously heaped in the middle. Finally, the Tako Poke was a blend of interesting flavours and refreshing.
Our last appy was the Crispy Rock Shrimp & Calamari ($13.95). In the dish, everything is deep fried. There is a lot of shaved Maui onion (which is sweet) and Fried Pineapple (which made for an interesting burst of taste between the deep fried meats). The dish is served with a buttermilk malt vinegar aioli which is the perfect balance of creamy and salty flavours to pair the dish with.
The bride ordered the Kale and Macadamia Nut Salad ($10.95), a big mix of Maui onions, golden raisins, oranges, miso sesame vinaigrette and kale. It looked amazing.
Our friends ordered the Fresh Fish Tacos ($16.95), Fish of the Day special and the Maui Cattle Company Cheese Burger ($12.95). This cheeseburger was so inspiring that one of our friends offered to write me a review (which will follow this one)! I love when food is just so amazing it makes people want to write about it.
We went back a second time and I just had to have the burger as well – but look for that later on in the post.
Brian ordered the Fish of the Day (not entirely sure what the name was!) served with lobster on top of a taro cake. I had a bit of the taro cake and it was delicious, it’s almost like making a latke or a soft hash brown, but not as crispy. Taro is normally a little sweeter but this one wasn’t too sweet.
I ordered the Kiawe Grilled Ahi Tuna ($29.95). What an amazing tuna steak. You’d be hard pressed to find a serving of Ahi Tuna this size anywhere else.
This dish is served with vegetables, Jalapeno mashed potatoes and sesame soy and Maui onion sauce which is at the bottom of the Ahi rather than drizzled on the top (thank goodness). The Ahi Tuna is a monstrousity like I mentioned and I divided it up so that everyone could have a try – they all loved it. It was seared and cool in the middle with still great flavour. The outside was seared with a bit of pepper so it gave it a big of a bite, which was nice. The sauce complimented the Ahi well, but seriously, I could’ve eaten this on its own. The local vegetables are so flavourful and delicious. The Jalapeno mashed potatoes weren’t as spicy as I thought they would be, so if you like the taste of Jalapeno but not the burn, this is definitely a great side item for you.
Just wanted to touch on the fact they have happy hour here daily from 3-5:30 and 9-11pm. They have a huge variety of beer on tap (I think it was over 33 types) which they serve through a state of the art ‘Blizzard’ system that guarantees every beer is served at 29 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course).
Okay fast forward to the end of our trip, we ended up coming here for a quick dinner before our flight. A completely different mood (I think our first dinner was at MonkeyPod, so we were happy – but our last dinner leaving Maui was a bit somber!). We all ordered the same thing – the Maui Cattle Company Cheeseburger.
I cut mine in half to show you what it looked like in the middle. What amazes me the most is that almost anywhere I’ve been in Maui, they offer beef patties done whatever way you want – in this case, medium rare. I know that might be a tad bit difficult for Vancouver restaurants to do this, but this really makes the taste of the burger that much more delicious.
The burger is served with a heaping portion of dijon aioli, sauteed onions, fontina (one of my favourites!), vine ripened tomato, lettuce, a House-made Quick Pickle all covered in their Portuguese House-Baked Bun. The most important items in a burger has got to be the patty (which was phenomenal here) and the bun. It’s very hard to find a place that makes an amazing patty that doesn’t obliterate the bun from it’s juices. This burger held very well and required very little napkins or fuss. All the flavours blended nicely. It’s served with a side of kimchi, which is a little more gingery than I’m used to but a great refreshing break from a big burger. You can also order fries separately.
I’d definitely recommend a visit to Monkeypod if you’re coming to Maui!
Again, I’d like to say a big Congratulations to Ben & Jen on their gorgeous wedding on the island. I’d have to say it’s the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to!!
Check out their website and menu: http://www.monkeypodkitchen.com/