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Who needs turkey

December 8, 2011

Due to its wide cultural diversity, Hawaii offers a range of Asian fused cuisines along with many unique and interesting dishes. There are two things that appeal to me the most – fresh seafood and fish and sweet tropical fruit.  Needless to say the minute I got off the plane, I mostly indulged in fruit for breakfast and fish plates for lunch and dinner.

I don’t discriminate when it comes to fruit; I have not yet met one that I don’t like. Fresh tropical fruit can be enjoyed straight from a local farmer’s market or a fruit stand either whole or as a refreshing smoothie, which I did daily.

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This time on our trip, I could not get enough Papayas (it’s like what you’d get if mango and avocado had a baby Smile) and I also tried a new fruit – starfruit, which you can eat without pealing by cutting widthwise so it looks like stars.

Our first dinner stop was at Aloha Plate in Lahaina, a casual spot with relatively cheap prices (about $10 per plate) and simple fresh food. Best way to kick off the vacation is with a couple of cold ones.

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I had the fish of the day, which happened to be Ono, with some green salad, while Eric chose a mixed plate (a piece of fish, beef and chicken). We then shared a slice of Taro Bread pudding, which was fairly unremarkable.

For the Thanksgiving celebration, we splurged on a dinner at the best restaurant on the island (according to both opentable.com and urbanspoon.com). We drove about 40 minutes east to get to it. This place was fancy judging by the prices on the menu and the “free” tasting items between meals like a pumpkin bisque sip of soup, a spoonful of sorbet to clear our palates and a tiny piece of Haupia (Hawaiian coconut dessert) along with a hot wet towel to end our meal.

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I chose their signature dish – Macadamia crusted Mahi Mahi stuffed with crab. It was good but not the best. I think I like my mahi more simple, where I can actually taste the fish more. Eric had Opah with a spicy vegetable sauté on top. It was very good.

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For dessert, we split a pineapple cheesecake. Very fancy presentation for a small piece of cheesecake. Have y0u noticed that the fancier the restaurant the smaller the dessert it seems. It was for the best since I had a bathing suit to get into the next morning.

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Best sign of a tasty dinner.

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We lunched at Hulu Grill once while bumming around on the beach, mostly because it was less than a mile away from our hotel and surprisingly got decent reviews, but there Ahi salad was nothing special. The best Ahi I had on Maui was strangely at a breakfast spot on the south end of the island – Kihea Caffé.

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My favorite place of all was Duke’s. We first discovered it on our way to the airport on the last day in Kaui. Luckily, it’s a Hawaiian chain with locations available in Waikiki and Maui, and it so happened the restaurant was only 2 miles away from our hotel. This place has everything I could ask for.

Beautiful ocean views of the sunset

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Giant Mai Tais

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Best seafood risotto (twice as much seafood than rice)

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and the most amazing Hulu pie

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Eric and I polished off the entire mountain of pie in less than 5 minutes. The waiter was so impressed that he gave us a coupon for a free one for our next visit.

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The place was awesome, and so we went back the next day for lunch (The free Hulu pie was calling my name). It was not all Hula pie and Taro sweet buns on our trip, and I had a pretty disappointing experience at Sansei sushi. From all the reviews I’ve read about Sansei, it was supposed to be one of the best places in Maui. It even won the Maui Best Restaurant award last year. The word gets around about this place (especially about their Happy Hour half off sushi), so be prepared to wait for 45-60 minutes. The place is pretty small, and very crowded. After an hour waiting around, we were offered a seat at the sushi bar with no option to upgrade to a full table. The bar was so packed that you had to squeeze your way into your seat. I ordered panko crusted ahi and a dragonfly roll, but the atmosphere was so uncomfortable that this is the first time I lost my appetite half way through and we left early. When you live in Seattle you get pretty spoiled with fresh sushi, so Sansei will not be on my list next time.

[Jane Asks]: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?

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