I didn’t expect to find exceptional Vietnamese food in the Wailuku Millyard area, I stumbled upon it. Although Wili Pa Loop is also home to Sam Sato’s famous for their noodles, it is definitely a surprise to find another great restaurant hidden up here among printing businesses, union offices and dentists. A few facts: Asian Star is open for lunch and dinner. Their menu is extensive with over 90 individual items organized by starches and protein categories. They also have a bar and wine and beer lists at the tables. The decor is sparse, a wide open dining room plays vietnamese instrumentals of cover tunes, and you have the traditional chinatown art of wood with mother of pearl inlays displaying traditional themes here and there on the walls. There is an oddly placed podium, stage and dance floor area which must be for private parties because i find no entertainment schedule here.
The first few things that jumped out at me from the menu are the ‘Steak House’ options including a New York Steak. They have Vietnamese fondue (Nhung Dam), and Vietnamese burritos. Vietnamese are known for their vegetarian options, but here it looks like beef lovers can rejoice. I started with a noodle bowl with fried spring rolls and grilled beef, Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong, number 37 ($9.95). Vietnamese cuisine is known for its use of fresh herbs like mint and basil and combining those with lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber with their dishes. As a result there is a lot of salad looking dishes with hearty elements.
My husband ordered the Vietnamese burrito, Banh Hoi, with the boneless Chicken Breast with Garlic, number 47 ($12.95), considered a house specialty. This is a dish where they bring you the ingredients of your burrito laid out on a plate, and then you get rice paper and hot water and roll your own “burrito”. Both were a good entryway into the dining of Asian Star. The spring roll and grilled beef noodle bowl came with generous portions of vegetables and the grilled beef was incredible. Thinly sliced and expertly marinated, it had flavors of ginger and lemon and sweet teriyaki. Chopped peanuts and basil grazed the top of the dish, and as you grabbed a slice of beef with chopsticks you wrap it up with some of the veggies and noodle. Each bite is different, but the combination of crunch, savory, and fresh herbs jumps out to greet your tastebuds. A dish of Nuoc Mam sauce that is sweet and sour accompanies the bowl and you pour it over the whole business before you get down to business. A total lunch treat.
Our roll you own experience was excellent as well. The rice paper surprisingly is not that difficult to negotiate. You have a bowl of hot water and you dip it in for 10 to 30 seconds pull it out and lay it on your plate. At this point it is sticky but you start laying the lettuce, mint, bean sprouts, daikon, carrot, and cucumber in there and top it with a choice piece of chicken breast, and stretch one side of the rice paper over to the other to form a roll. Dip in sauce and enjoy a bite. Preparation did not slow us down and it was gone just as quickly as the noodle bowl, and washed down with hot tea.
My next stop in to Asian Star was for dinner, I was interested in the fondue. My daughter loves shrimp and will not eat anything spicy, so my server recommended the shrimp vegetables, number 74 Tom Xao Thap Cam ($11.95). We also got summer rolls with shrimp, number 1 Goi Cuon Tom ($5.95), along with the fondue, number 53, Tom Muc & Bo Nhung Dam ($25.95). The shrimp dish was perfect, tender brocolli and cabbage in an extremely mild sauce with tail on shrimps mixed in. My daughter is a pro with shrimp, gripping them by the tail and taking them down leaving only the crusty shell behind. Their summer rolls are just as you would expect, the peanut sauce a little milder then I am used to. The fondue was the real party at this dinner.
Asian fondue are generally bowls of seasoned broth that you dip your meats into. This one was no different. The broth came on a plate with a ?? underneath that allows it to boil at your table. The broth had lots of onion and pineapple and tomato in it. The surprise here was that this was just like vietnamese burrito in presentation except you are cooking your own filling this time. The beef was very thinly sliced and cooked the fastest. The shrimp and calamari also took very little time. You just grab it with the chopsticks and drop it into the broth, meanwhile preparing your rice paper because you are going to wrap the cooked proteins up with veggies and noodles just like the burrito dishes. In no time at all we had a system down. The calamari was awesome, so tender and fresh.
Asian Star is located at 1764 Wili Pa Loop in the Millyard Wailuku, Hawaii, 96793. They are open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 9:30 pm and on Sunday from 10 am to 8:30 pm. They welcome take out orders and you can call them at 808-244-1833.
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.