|Entrance to Star Noodle driveway|
On our first visit, we arrived shortly after noon and, although the place was humming, we were seated immediately. Our server came over quickly and told us about the restaurant’s family-style approach: that their dishes were designed to be shared. She was also very well versed in the dishes’ ingredients and how each was prepared.
We chose two appetizers: the scallop shooters ($13) and the mushroom medley ($12).
If you watched Top Chef Seattle and saw Sheldon, you’ll recall that the judges waxed rhapsodic about his broth. But mere words cannot do it justice, and I won’t attempt to do so here. Suffice to say his broth alone is practically worth the trip all by itself, and has inspired my wife and me to kick our own broth up a notch.
The afternoon’s special drink was a creation the bartender called an “iced tea” of passion fruit, strawberry, and mango nectars with a splash of iced tea and topped with club soda ($5 for the non-alcoholic variety). While delicious on its own, the sweetness also provided a nice counterpoint to the spiciness of the kimchee.
On our next visit we brought a friend who has lived on Maui for more than a decade and knows the island quite well, so it surprised him that he had not heard of Star Noodle. After eating there, he was as delighted as we were.
This time, we kept it a bit less adventurous due to a food allergy, but that highlighted the place’s inventiveness even more.
A house green salad ($5) topped with a house-made vinaigrette started things off on a fresh, crisp note. The dressing had a touch of Asian sweetness but was not overwhelming.
On, then, to the yakitori ($6). Five skewers provided the three of use plenty of the sweetness of the teriyaki sauce and whet our appetites for the Hapa ramen that followed ($12). Our friend commented on the silky texture of the ramen’s broth, as well as the complexity of the flavors, which was due in part to the fact that Star Noodle uses the pork bones from the Kahlua pig cooked for a nearby luau in making the broth for this dish. The deep, rich flavors from the bones that have been cooked for hours added a layer of complexity that can’t be created quickly.
The Hapa ramen did not have as much kick as the kimchee ramen we’d enjoyed earlier, but was equally delicious in a more subtle way. A shot of the chili sauce served on the side kicked it up a notch for those of us who wanted the punch.
The steamed pork buns came out next ($10). Unlike steamed hum bow, these were more analogous to tiny soft tacos made of crispy pork belly, garnished with cucumber slices and served with hoisin sauce and Chinese hot mustard on the side.
For dessert, we opted for a trio of ‘screams – ice cream scoops in three flavors: corn/chili, Thai iced coffee, and pumpkin pie ($7). All were delicious, though the corn/chili could have used more chili as the corn taste was all that was evident. Still, the sweetness of the corn worked well with the other sweet flavors of this frozen confection, making it the most subtle of the three. The pumpkin pie and Thai iced coffee flavors were true to their inspirations, but we all agreed that the coffee flavor was our favorite.
|Interior of Star Noodle|
Star Noodle is in its inauspicious location because it started out as the kitchen facility for several affiliated restaurants. Given Sheldon’s success, even before appearing on Top Chef, the place was converted to an actual sit-down restaurant.
While Sheldon has since moved on from Star Noodle, he is an amazing success story. He started out as a dishwasher as Aloha Mixed Plate, a restaurant on Lahaina’s Front Street. He worked his way up and is a self-taught cook. As I’m sure you’ll agree if you’re able to visit Maui and Star Noodle, where his legacy lives on, he had a great teacher.
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