With Bravo's Top Chef (Season 10) now down to its final 6 contestants, it is anyone's game to win. My husband and I have been cheering for contestant Sheldon, a self-trained chef from Maui, who's calm demeanor and traditional Hawaiian/Filipino food have bee winning over the hearts of viewers and judges alike. How exciting to have had the opportunity to visit his restos in Maui during our trip there last week! Here is the rundown:
This little cafe and bakeshop is located right on highway 30 on the way from our hotel in Wailea to the awesome little town of Lahaina. The first time that we drove by, we remembered its affiliation with Sheldon and figured we would stop to check it out. We had no real intention on eating here but luckily it was close enough to lunch time that we had an excuse to grab some of their delicious lunch grub, and a little treat for later:) I was very pleased to learn of their passion for local produce and proteins
I was very pleased to learn of their passion for local produce and proteins. They give kudos to the local farms that supply their ingredients- so nice to see recognition given where it is due!
Philly cheese steak sandwich- My husband can never resist ordering this classic, and fortunately, Leoda's version did not disappoint. The tender steak and generous amount of gooey cheese was served on deliciously fresh baguette, made fresh every day at Leoda's. The bread is available for sale daily, but don't leave it until too late since they sell out fast!
Fried salad- This may sound like a bit of an oxymoron but really it is a great concept. The "fried" part is flash-fried brussel sprout leaves that are amazingly light and crispy. They are served a top a bed of fresh, local greens (these are soooooooo good here in Maui) as well as the ingenious addition of celery leaves which work remarkably well in the mix. And then comes the dressing- an unbelievably sweet burnt orange dressing that gives the salad a huge punch of flavour with just a few drops (I would recommend against using the whole container of dressing that is served on the side). The combo of the sweetness with the fried brussel sprout leaves is a match made in heaven.
Apple crumb pie- Leoda's offers a wonderful selection of pies, fresh baked daily. They sell out long before closing every day so you can guarantee that they are fresh. Selections include banana cream, coconut cream pie (my hubby LOVED this one!!!), their infamous chocolate cream macadamia nut and my choice, the apple crumble. The great thing about the pies is that they are small enough for one or two people to share (although I had no intention of sharing mine!). This pie was amazing- sweet chunks of apple on a flaky pastry topped with a sweet cinnamon topping. It was so good that I had to return the next day to get another!
Aloha Mixed Plate
With only a week to discover the amazing food in Maui, we unfortunately ran out of time to visit Sheldon's pre-Star Noodle restaurant. We heard lots of amazing stuff though, so have it on the list for next time!
Last but not least, we have Sheldon's newest claim to fame, and the one that his Top Chef fans know him for. I should preface this by saying that my hubby LOVES noodles and I have relied heavily on his opinions for this review. This was one of the highlights on our trip to Maui for him.
Star Noodle is a VERY popular spot for tourists and locals alike. You cannot make reservations for small parties, so be prepared to wait anywhere from 30 min to over an hour for a table. We went late (around 8:45) and we still had to wait about 45 minutes for 2 seats at the bar. The restaurant itself has much nicer decor than your typical noodle joint. The beige decor is complemented by large wooden tables and nice hanging lights. There are multiple tables for 2-4 people and then about a dozen tables around the bar. The hostess recommended the tables by the bar so that we could be right in the midst of the action and watch the cooks with their big woks inside the closed kitchen. I would certainly second this recommendation as it added to the fun of the evening. Although Sheldon was not around that evening (we were told he was in Oahu visiting his family before heading back to Seattle for the last Top Chef shoots), we had a very gregarious and friendly waiter who made great food recommendations and shared some local gossip with us as we ate (nothing about Top Chef though- Sheldon is sworn to secrecy by a 2.4 million dollar contract!).
The menu at Star Noodle is divided into "shared plates" and "noodles". Family-style dining is recommended, and 4 dishes between two people will likely suffice. Having said that, my husband and I shared 6 dishes (he would have ordered everything on the menu had I let him!) and we left only a few noodles that we took in a to-go box.
Here is a snapshot of what we ordered:
Scallop shooters- These fun little bites consisted of pan-seared scallop served on a stick in a bath of broth that you are encouraged to take a "shot" of after each bite of scallop. The scallop was perfectly cooked and paired nicely with a little ginger "pesto" that was overtop. The broth was tasty, but perhaps a wee bit salty and therefore slightly overpowered the scallop. All-in-all though, a very fun and creative dish.
Pohole salad- This was my pick and was a no-brainer for me once I found out that a "pohole" is the Hawaiian term for a fiddlehead. This tasty green vegetable has a very short growing season in Canada but here in Hawaii, they are fortunate to able to grow them year-round. In this dish, the poholes were very simply prepared (thank goodness!) so that I could taste their beautiful, mild flavour. Also in the salad was pieces of raw, sweet Maui onion and some dried shrimp to add a bit of crunch. I am personally not a fan of dried seafood, so was not necessarily a fan of this element, but there is no denying that it gave the salad an interesting Asian twist. Again, A+ for creativity.
Pork buns- An Asian menu would not be complete without a Chinese bun and we we told that these pork buns were one of SN's top sellers. While my husband enjoyed the overall flavours, this was probably his least favourite dish, mostly because of the fatty cut of pork. The little squeeze bottles of hot mustards served with the dish were pretty neat though.
Garlic noodles- And now onto our first noodle dish, a small plate of the garlic noodles. These were simple, but very tasty. The ramen-like noodles were coated in a very flavourful garlic sauce and some thinly-diced green onion. My husband, the noodle connoisseur, gave a big thumbs-up.
Organic buckwheat soba- These soba noodles traditional-style, served cold with accompaniments of broth for dipping, daikon and wasabi. This dish is a clean and healthy contrast to some of the heavier menu items.
Pad Thai- My husband's final choice came on the recommendation of our waiter who said that this was another of SN's top-selling dishes. He has tried many-a Pad Thai in his day so he needed to try SN's version. Although he was not able to finish the whole dish (his eyes had been much bigger than his belly!), he fairly confidently referred to this as the "best Pad Thai ever". The tender rice noodles were tossed with huge chunks of chicken, small shrimp, cabbage and bean sprouts and then topped with crushed peanuts. No big surprises, just a popular Thai dish prepared well.
It is obvious why SN is such a popular spot here in Maui. What's not to like about great food, some done traditionally and some with a creative twist, sold at VERY reasonable prices, in a really fun atmosphere? Sheldon has a real winner here.
Sheldon, we are rooting for you now more than ever!