West Maui (again) – Leoda’s, Honu & Ono Tacos

We landed, quickly secured our rental car, and then were off to Lahaina for a week of exercise, smart eating choices and moderation. *insert laugh track here*  Okay, part of that was right, we were actually going to Lahaina.  And we had mild intentions of being thoughtful about our early decision making…then we remembered how good Leoda’s was and made the kind of quick-thinking adjustment that would make us ideal candidates for The Amazing Race.  And thus began round two of Adventures in Maui…

Simply known as "the meat and potatoes pie"

Simply known as “the meat and potatoes pie”

We pulled up to Leoda’s, proceeded the wrong way into the parking lot (again), hurriedly made our way to the counter and ordered this flaky, beefy surprise.  It was a ‘meat and potatoes’ pie complete with short rib, potatoes and freshly topped crust in just the right size for two people trying not to go overboard too soon to enjoy.  The only problem with the above photo is that it doesn’t capture the actual meat.  If only there were some technology to help you see how good it was from the inside.  Wait, I had just the thing. A fork!

The short rib I mentioned above. Oh, and that sauce is an appropriately warm horseradish sauce

The short rib I mentioned above. Oh, and that sauce is an appropriately warm horseradish sauce

As you can see, the short rib looks every bit as delicious as I promised it would.  The only problem, if you can call it that, is that the pie was exceedingly hot. I suppose I should be grateful for the freshness.  Or grateful for being in a pie shop on Maui.  Or grateful for my wife and having the good fortune to be gallivanting about an island together. Quick aside: When we were in the rental car shuttle there was a family of five who we’d seen on the plane riding along with us.  The family included two late 40-something parents and three kids ranging from junior high to high school age, I think.  As we rode along to the rental car office I couldn’t help but wonder what your worldview is like if you are a teenager for whom the idea of flying off to paradise for Thanksgiving seems like a perfectly normal thing to do.  I’m not getting all self righteous right now.  I fully understand that Wife and I are pretty damn fortunate to be doing the same thing.  But I do wonder if it is hard to even imagine how much of the city/region lives their day-to-day lives when eight days on Maui at a $400/night hotel is just a normal part of life (yes, I admit, I eavesdropped overheard accidentally when Husband in said family was getting his rental car so I know where they are staying, how long and what it costs).  Maybe it’s just up to the parents to make it all work and help the kids understand the larger context.  I dunno.  Okay, back to Leoda’s.  We made quick work of the 4” meat pie, and is customary for us when on vacation, lunch included resolving a little sweet tooth. So we had a little fun with this.

It was even smaller than it looks, I swear.  Just big enough for a solid taste, no gluttony involved

It was even smaller than it looks, I swear. Just big enough for a solid taste, no gluttony involved

This was the first but almost certainly not the last crème pie that was to cross our plates over the next several days.  Sometimes, for exceedingly fleeting moments, I wish I’d never tasted anything sweeter than an apple.  Responsible choices would be so much easier if I just never knew the difference.  Alas, cursed with my mother’s sweet tooth (something I am now convinced is not at all hereditary), I settled in with our tiny little pie.  Being a glass is half full kind of guy, the bright spot here was our decision to get a 3” mini-pie, which amounted to about two bites each, so we were kind of healthy.  The point about the actual pie, of course, is that it was delicious.  Sometimes crème pies can be a little to, I don’t know, gelatinous.  If I knew how to make one I could explain what I mean better, but this pie had no such flaws and tasted like it was made in some Willy Wonka lab.  If this is how good a small banana crème pie can get when you strip away all the processing, well let’s just say this is going to be a very good week. Leoda’s was pretty inexpensive for Maui (about $12 for both pies) and it’s a simple, straightforward place.  You don’t go for the ambiance, you go because the baked goods are delicious.  I do not know of a pie shop nearly this delicious in San Diego, though I should probably find one soon.

Yep, Lahaina Roads delivered again.

Yep, Lahaina Roads delivered again.

That would be our view.  Not to get too caught up on the condo, I wrote about another Lahaina Roads condo we stayed in back in March here.  So this time I’ll just focus in on the food–except to say that the place really needed a gas stove for the couple times we dined in.

Lunch at Honu

We went to Honu because one of our friends read it had the best Poke on the island—except we got there and they weren’t serving it when we arrived.  Alas.  The good news was that having been there before we already had some idea that the food was outstanding.  It was a 5-minute walk from our condo, so really a no-brainer to join them.  First up was this

A nice island take on one of our favorite starters

A nice island take on one of our favorite starters

If you aren’t familiar with bruschetta, this goes on the list of reasons to love Italians.  Maybe not as high on the list as the David or, ya know, enhancements to municipal infrastructure, but definitely on the list.  And, as seems to be the case with many places where cultures collide, here the chef came up with a nice island variety.  Replacing traditional tomatoes seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper was this gem with edamame puree, olowalu tomatoes, 20-year old balsamic vinegar on flax see toast.  You may notice that the balsamic not only is drizzled on the top but kind of seeped its way up into the nutty whole grain bread the ahi arrived on.  These little nuggets were delicious.  A quick word to the cost conscious, I completely understand being on a budget, even a strict one.  So allow me to address your sticker shock now.  The dish pictured above was $28.  Yes, I know, it’s a starter.  Yes, I also know it’s not a full meal.  Yep, I even get that it might be more than you would pay somewhere else on the island that doesn’t have Chef Mark Ellman’s name on the project.  All I can say to you is

A great shirt that with a useful message

A great shirt that with a useful message

This is a handy little shirt I picked up at O’Brien’s Pub, a fantastic craft beer-centric pub in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego.  I am being a little tongue-in-cheek about the quote on the shirt, but not much.  I am making two useful points.  One, the price is not wallet-friendly for every budget and armed with this information you can make a well-informed choice.  Two, things like farming and transporting and serving and washing dishes and cooking and prepping cost money.  I hope Chef Ellman pays his back of house team well, and I’d like to think we are contributing to a decent standard of living by paying a little more for the food.  Speaking of food, we also shared this

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This wasn’t my favorite, but was still very good.  The fish tasted great and the presentation was fantastic.  I did, however, really enjoy this

All I can remember was that it was good and had the words 'dori style' in the description

All I can remember was that it was good and had the words ‘dori style’ in the description

The great thing about this dish was that the fish stood up all on its own.  Sometimes chefs get carried away slathering fish with all sorts of goop.  Maybe because we are on an island and the fish can be caught daily, or who knows why really, but whatever the reason, I have found good restaurants on Maui are more willing to let fish dishes stand on their own.  The red quinoa on which the fish rested wasn’t spectacular, but then again is that really ever a proper adjective for quinoa?  It was fine and it didn’t get in the way of the fish so I have no complaints about that part of the dish.  The fish was cooked perfectly, which is a thing lots of places don’t get right.  Everyone else at the table got some rendition of this

Very fresh fish sandwich

Very fresh fish sandwich

It was lunch after all, so fish sandwiches were perfectly appropriate.  At about $15-18, these seem on the high end, even for large pieces of very fresh fish.  It’s a bit more than the price at Coconut’s and you have the added benefit of a kick-ass view and not being in a strip mall.  No disrespect to Cononut’s, I found the fish there delightful, but I’m just saying if the price point is similar and you can relax with an amazing view of the ocean, why not do that?  After sufficiently stuffing ourselves and declaring that we had no more room for another bite, these showed up.

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As a surprise birthday thank you for my buddy who was turning the big 4-oh, we rounded out the meal with the dessert above, a peanut butter mousse pie with chocolate crust and candied macadamia nuts, and this one

CAM00393

I’d like to talk about these in tandem.  See, I particularly enjoyed the peanut butter dessert.  It was rich.  I mean, like Mark Cuban or Oprah rich.  The other dessert was a turtle cheesecake with chocolate ganache, caramel cheesecake and those yummy candied nuts again.  I thought for sure there was no way we’d finish these two delicious treats.

I blame Honu for forcing us to eat these delicious desserts

I blame Honu for forcing us to eat these delicious desserts

So, yeah, about that not having any more room for food, thing.  Not so much.  Bear in mind there were eight happy mouths, it’s not like I pulled this off all on my own.  I should mention that we managed to work in a kale salad along the way.  Kale and I have an interesting relationship.  I want to like kale.  No, I actually do occasionally really like kale – and not just disguised as coloring in a smoothie.  I prefer when it has had some of the toughness cooked or marinated out of it.  The kale salad here was just okay.  And maybe that’s my own fault for not being a sophisticated kale consumer or having an unrefined palate for kale, but to me raw kale is like chewing on fortified parchment paper.

One quick note, two of our friends had an Overboard IPA from Big Island Brewhaus.  From what Google tells me, the owner is a mainland transplant who used to brew at Maui Brewing Co.  I can’t confirm this but I can tell you I enjoyed the beer.  It’s nice to see the island diversifying its craft beer options a bit.  It made me think there are some real opportunities in that market, though I wonder how much the raw ingredients would cost on the island and how much shipping in yeast or hops would be.  I do know that among the 81 craft breweries in San Diego, there are plenty who could supply Honu if needed.  I learned that Stone Brewing Co. is available in the new Andaz hotel, so I’m sure they could put a few extra crates on the plane or the boat.  If you know the owner of Honu, pass this along, I’m happy to put him in touch with my friends at Stone Brewing or any number of other fantastic brewers around San Diego.

Ono Tacos

What do you get when you take a couple guys from Hermosillo, a grill and a bunch of recipes transplanted across the ocean and across international borders?  Effing delicious street tacos on the side of the road, that’s what.  I don’t even remember how we stumbled upon Ono, wait, yes I do.  We’d tried to come here back in March but it was closed—and across the street, which presented its own hurdles, but I’ll save that story.  We’d had the somewhat late lunch I described above and weren’t super hungry, but also thought we should grab something since our body clocks were out of whack.  So we headed up to Ka’anapali and dropped ourselves in front of Ono Tacos.   Let’s start with this

If I could find a way to make this photo smell like the walk-up restaurant, I would

If I could find a way to make this photo smell like the walk-up restaurant, I would

The next great Internet invention will be a digital scratch and sniff emoticon.  The smell coming off the comal (I think that’s a comal on the right) and sitting in the air around the streetside patio was unbelievable.  And we chose to sit basically underneath the thing so our sense of smell was pleasantly overpowered.  As it turns out, we made another trip to Ono and so I can offer a better photo of the shrimp

After we ordered we asked Jose (the owner) about his place and he mentioned that he was from Hermosillo and we were pretty excited to get into the food.

We ordered: Shrimp (outstanding with cabbage), 2 lengua (too fatty and chunky for wife but I enjoyed), 2 fish (good, not great), pork bathed in deliciousness (outstanding with pineapple salsa), shredded beef (very well seasoned, quite tasty, could have been slightly more tender).

Underneath the cabbage is a really nicely seasoned portion of shrimp

Underneath the cabbage is a really nicely seasoned portion of shrimp

I snuck in this photo of the Baja dog, a bacon-wrapped dog with tomato, mustard, ketchup and mayo on a bun I normally wouldn’t order but found very, very tasty.  It was from our second visit.

Bacon-wrapped hot dog from our later trip to Ono (yes, we went twice)

Bacon-wrapped hot dog from our later trip to Ono (yes, we went twice)

And then there was this pork taco cluster, also very deserving of your wallet.

These pork tacos were good enough to have on both our visits.

These pork tacos were good enough to have on both our visits.

Please help yourself to the sauces, especially the bright red one, which is likely to be too hot if you are from much of the U.S., but really good if you are from southern California or the southwest.  Hot enough to wake up your tongue just enough that it is ready for the flavor that comes along for the ride.  And it is one of those hot sauces that lingers in your mouth for 30 minutes or so and reminds you how good the meal was.

Bill: $25

I usually don’t put the price when I write about things.  It’s not that I don’t care about pricing, but any Internet search will probably get you the price information.  I put it here in part to balance out the price information from Honu.  Two very different meals and experiences, both good in their own ways.  Please note, Ono Tacos moved since March of 2013, as of at least November 2013 it is on the same side of street as Ono Kau Kau just across the parking lot.

We found it because of Samira’s recommendation back in March and also an Internet search that gave us this one.  If you are in a pinch and want something easy on the wallet that still is worth going out to eat, this little walk up fits the bill perfectly.  I’m pretty sure it is cash only, so keep that in mind.  There is also no alcohol officially allowed on the premises, which is not to say you should violate Maui law, it is just to say there is a sign that they can’t allow anyone to consume alcohol on premises.  The place was pretty busy, so I wonder how faithfully they could monitor that issue, but I nevertheless thought I should mention it.  Thanks for reading.

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