Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Aloha from Maui: Part II

Dear Readers,

The Maui update continues.....
(In this review: Umalu Restaurant, Maui Ocean Center, Hula Girl Ice Cream, Feast at Lele)

Saturday, May 16th

A perfect Maui day. We began our morning at golden Kaanapali Beach (Sid checked out Black Rock, Miranda snoozed on the beach, we both baked our sun-starved northeastern selves in the sun).

Being on East Coast time, we got hungry early and began the long walk down the Ka'anapali Boardwalk to the poolside restaurant at the Hyatt, Umalu.
Though described in our guidebooks as amazingly good food (and the best of the myraid poolside eateries on this beach), we didn't have too high of expectations.

But we were pleasantly surprised--the food was, frankly, awesome. Our server was really friendly and tipped us off to the big portions, encouraging us to share an appetizer and an entree (and, in the process, saving us at least $30). We went for the Mixed Greens salad with Seared Ahi Tuna (dressed with a ginger citrus vinaigrette, candied pecans, and avocado).

For an entree we shared the fish tacos, which were absolutely delicious (the Mahi Mahi was beer battered and fried and served in soft flour tortillas with a chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, and a variety of hot sauce choices). The servings were, as advertised, huge. We could barely finish them, especially when washing them down with fruity drinks :)

After lunch we drove down to the Maui Ocean Center. This place seems seriously under-visited by tourists - it wasn't at all crowded. Its well-worth a trip. They have beautiful educational displays, awesome tanks full of Hawaiian sea life, touch pools, turtle pools (where you can see adults and babies alike), shark tanks, and a mind-blowing underwater tunnel (you are surrounded on three sides (including up) by sting rays, eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, and countless colorful fishes). It is incredible (a highlight included Sid getting to feed the Green Sea Turtles and watching a scuba diver feed the Eagle Rays from his hand while a unicorn fish swam around happily in the bubbles from his regulator).

Conveniently nearby is Hula Girl Ice Cream, which serves up scoops, shakes, ice cream sandwiches, and sundaes of the rightly-famous Roselani ice cream. We sampled the Kona Coffee Mudslide and the Chocolate Macadamia Nut - a perfect afternoon snack (watching them feed the turtles and rays at the Ocean Center was tiring work!).

After a short afternoon rest, we headed out for the evening's entertainment - dinner and a cultural show at the Feast at Lele in Lahaina. Even though we both like to avoid overly touristy events, its really a shame to come to Maui and not go to a luau. The ones at most of the resorts are pretty tacky, but a company in Lahaina runs two that are good: the Old Lahaina Luau (traditional with pig roast, buffet-style dining, and a hula show) and the Feast at Lele). We chose the Feast at Lele because it was a sit down dinner (at your own table rather than cheek-to-jowl with other diners) and because the hula show there featured dances from New Zealand and Samoa (including the Haka and Fire Knife dance).

The meal is served in four courses, one each for the cultural influences on Hawaii - Hawaii itself, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa. The food was hit and miss (mostly miss, to be honest). The Kahlua pork served with the Hawaiian course was pretty good, as was the ceviche served with the Tahiti course and the steak from the Samoa course. Everything else ranged from just so-so to downright nasty. The service was also pretty limp (they seemed to have too few servers for too many tables). For $110 per person (including unlimited, and very tasty, drinks), the food should have been much better. The show, however, was great and more than made up for the mediocre eats. The performers were real pros, the dances were beautiful and perfectly choreographed, and the Fire Knife dance at the end was (literally) breathtaking.

Aloha until our next post!

Feast at Lele on Urbanspoon

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