286 Kupuohi St; top of Lahaina Business Park, (map)
Lahaina, HI 96761
Star Noodle was a hub of activity the afternoon I dropped in. Chef Peter Merriman, Merriman’s and TS Restaurants, was having lunch. Matt Lane, LahainaTown Action Committee Board member was also there and said to me, “We had the Nori Chicken, it was awesome. Mochiko Chicken with nori wrapped around it in bite size peices with a spicy aioli dip.” Sounds of Addiction band member Zane Monteleone was on his way out after his lunch shift. With all the socializing it was a while before I got to sit down and start to peruse the menu at Star Noodle, which has so many great choices its hard to make a decision for just one meal.
Micheal Moore, owner, is an admitted three times a week New York Times reader. He took his core Star Noodle team to New York to gain insight and inspiration from noodle shops and eateries in the Big Apple. When a brand new restaurant arrives on the maui food scene it’s usually opening in a new location or taking an old restaurant’s former space. Star Noodle is in a brand new spot, and the decor is well thought out, simple and gorgeous. Immediate impression is asian aesthetic is at work here, with an urban vibe. Bamboo, dark wood and woven seagrass along with dark river rock and stone accents are all natural elements that work together to create the chic design. The layout features a 20 top table in the middle of the restaurant that could be shared by different parties, or claimed by one big party. There is the perfect opportunity to socialize or do business over a meal here. Moore says, “We get a lot of support from others in the food and beverage industry with staff meetings and folks taking their business lunches and power dinners here.” I have never been to New York, so it pleases me just fine that the team culls fine ideas from this foodie town and filters them here for me to enjoy.
Its one thing to be in a beautiful place while you eat, but its another to eat beautiful food. At Star Noodle you will find a surprising array of different dishes, its not just a noodle house. The lunch menu actually starts off with burritos (ssam), but not the mexican kind your familiar with, these are asian burritos filled with meat or fish and veggies. The share plates are are on point with the tapas trend, its dim sum done easy, you will find vietnamese, chinese, japanese and korean influences wrapped in with Chef Sheldon Simeon‘s own local take on it all. Steamed pork buns feature melt in your mouth fluffy steamed white bun with a mildly seasoned pressed pork slab and cucumber. This is not your familiar manapua, instead it takes on a slight taco shape, and improves on the dish: where manapua ends up being too bread-y this treatment balances the bread to pork ratio and ads a veggie. I can’t get enough of it.
The vietnamese crepe is on the the lunch and dinner menu, and again a familiar dish with a bit of a twist. It is a lettuce wrap with a makeover. The large crepe is folded over the cooked shrimp and pork and bean sprout fillings, and there is a stack of maliable butter leaf lettuce leaves, mint and matchstick carrots with which you concoct your lettuce burrito. Attack the crepe with a knife pulling off sections to pile onto the mix, its a little messy but the flavors well outweight any awkwardness over that. At dinner I highly recommend the brussles sprouts starter. Not only are brussels really trendy right now, they are pan roasted to carmelization here and served with bacon and kim chee puree.
Don’t be fooled by the fabulous share plates, you want to strategize to save room for noodles here. Their recent special was tempura mahi ramen, garnished on top with pohole fern salad, a surprise topping for me that was incredible in saimin. The clear traditional ramen broth was soaked into the crisp mahi exterior in places, the mahi phenomenal. Star Noodle emphasizes making the most of local ingredients, local talent and local recipes. The latter being most apparent in the Lahaina Fried Soup recipe, which started out in another lahaina kitchen long ago, but has now been ressurected by Chef Simeon. I love the idea that you can bring back a bit of local Lahaina history in a combination of flavors enjoyed decades earlier.
The ramen is gourmet and ranges from 7 to 9 bucks, but you can also get some dry noodle dishes that are large enough to share. The singapore noodle is a dish I just discovered that is outstanding, made with a lighter vermicelli bean noodle, and served with chicken, shrimp and vegetables, its colorful. The veggies are just soft enough to still have bite to them and the noodles are seasoned to have plenty of flavor with no sauce. It feels light, and the kalamansi lime garnish dribbled over them gives a perfect citrus gift to the dish. This one is a summer go to lunch.
Dessert is fabulous and unusual. Even if you think you don’t have room, you can always fit a bit of their house made ice creams that come in tart, or sour, savory and sweet, depending on when you are there. The ling hing mui ice cream is great, even if you have never heard of or don’t eat li hing mui, just try it. The malasadas are round sugar coated sweet fried breads and served on a stick so that you can easily dip them in the condiment tray of caramel, nuts and fudge. They are good enough to just come in for dessert. My next time around I will try the Annin Tofu, fresh almond tofu served with fresh fruit cocktail
Here is the buzz on twitter about Star Noodle, or you can follow them on twitter at @starnoodle