As I mentioned, portions are HUGE in Hawaii. Outrageously ridonkulous. So most days, David and I took the big brunch and dinner route. It was like weekends in New York, but everyday. Not a bad thing.
In Maui, our two favorite places for breakfast/brunch were Gazebo and Sam Sato’s. Both places had something for each of us: fat pancakes for David and non-breakfasty Asian-inspired food for me.
Sam Sato’s is known for saimin, the Hawaiian version of ramen. (Saimin is even on the menu at McDonald’s in Hawaii.) I ordered a small Saimin ($4.95), and it was a medium bowl (Small in Hawaii is like a regular size in New York) of curly egg noodles and porky broth, topped with roast pork and scallions. The pork was dry, but I liked the chewy noodles and the hot soup. After reading about saimin on Wikipedia, I had expected the soup to be a lighter and fishier, but the waitress told me they use a stock made from dashi and bones, usually pork and/or beef bones. She also said when people get sick, they order the soup to-go and cook it up with ginger at home. I could see that being a good cold remedy, but really, how do you get sick in Hawaii? It’s seventy degrees and gorgeous all year round! In any case, my first saimin was a success. Hot noodle soup is definitely my kind of brunch.
David opted for the Breakfast ($5.90), two eggs with a choice of starch and protein, and a Hot Cake ($2.60). He chose toast for the starch and a hamburger patty for the protein. The eggs, toast, and hamburger were average, but the Hot Cake ($2.60) was big and fluffy with a really nice crumb structure that quickly sopped up the super sweet pancake syrup and melted butter. Completely delicious. It reminded me of when I was little I would get the hot cakes at McDonald’s because they looked good on the menu. Unfortunately, after one dense and rubbery bite, I would always regret it. If they tasted like the hot cakes at Sam Sato’s, I would have been a happier and more rounder child.
At Gazebo, a small gazebo restaurant overlooking Napili Bay, we went the sweet and savory approach again. Sweet and savory for him, and savory for me. I ordered a half order of the Fried Rice Plate ($6.50), fried rice with bacon, Portuguese sausage, ham, red cabbage, peppers, and scrambled eggs on top. I rarely ever order fried rice in New York since it’s so easy to make it at home, but for breakfast/brunch in Hawaii, it was homey and comforting, even if it was heavy on the soy sauce. If the eggs were fried instead of scrambled, I would have loved it even more. Fried eggs with runny yolks make everything taste better. If I ever go back, I’ll make sure to ask for fried or poached eggs on top. I’m sure it would be easy for them to accommodate the request. In Honolulu, at a restaurant called Hula Grill, they were happy to oblige, and they even brought me a bottle Sriracha along with the fried rice. It was like they read my mind. It was absolute heaven.
David had the Two Egg Breakfast ($7.50) with potatoes and toast, but again nothing too exciting. More exciting were the Macadamia Nut Pancakes ($7.75 for a short stack), two large macadamia nut pancakes crowned with a giant dollop of whipped cream and garnished with chopped macadamia nuts. Pancake syrup and coconut syrup were served on the side. Again, the pancakes were thick and fluffy, but with the addition of airy whipped cream and drizzled with coconut syrup and pancake syrup, it was amazingly good. Coconut syrup is a little hokey, in that tropical gimmicky way, but we were eating macadamia nut pancakes in a gazebo in Hawaii after all, and it had a nice coconut flavor and it wasn’t too sweet. Combined with the pancake syrup, the sweetness level was perfect.
To drink, I bypassed my usual alcoholic brunch beverage for a POG ($2.95), a juice blend of passion fruit, orange, and guava juice. We were taking a boat out after brunch to snorkel, and I wanted to play it safe since I have problem with sea sickness sometimes. I’m sure the people of Hawaii didn’t want me to sully their beautiful azure waters with semi-digested fried rice. (By the way, I didn’t get sea sick and snorkeling was extremely fun. I saw two turtles!) POG was pretty much everywhere we went in Hawaii. Again, it’s one of those touristy things, but it’s tasty, like a light tropical punch.
One tip, lines are long at Gazebo, but if you get the food to-go, you can skip the line. As long as you can handle the heat, order your food to-go and take a seat by the pool of the Outrigger Napili Shores Condo right in front of Gazebo.
Pancakes and Asian-inspired food for brunch, not sure if a place like that would ever open in New York, but if it did, I would be there in an instant. Until then, Gazebo and Sam Sato’s awaits, albeit ten hours away…
1750 Wili Pa Loop (map)
Wailuku, HI 96793
5315 Lower Honoapiilani Road (map)
Lahaina, HI 96761-9005