Hanafuda Saimin in Kihei is a colorful place. The sign out front is pretty blue neon. The last time I was there, two little girls were playing at the front door. They said hi to me as I walked in. That’s a very cute welcome.
Inside, the walls are covered with $1 bills. Throughout time, locals, transplants and tourists have left their marks behind. The bills are also colored with customers’ names, creative designs and/or proclamations of how good they found the food.
If you’re dining in, it’s simply a matter of choosing a table and sitting down. The menus are already there and a friendly server will be along shortly to help you. If you are taking out, you need to go up to the counter and look down. The menu is conveniently laminated onto the counter so you can pick and choose right there at the register. Either way, they only accept cash.
A friend of mine told me the Korean Chicken was delectable. So when I stopped by recently I happily asked for it, only to find that they weren’t serving Korean Chicken on that particular evening. Instead, I ordered the fried saimin ($5.95) and the shrimp tempura plate ($9.95) from my pleasant young server. I spent only a few minutes reading through the dollars on the wall before the grub arrived.
The first thing I noticed was the massiveness of the fried saimin. It was packed with bits of fish cake, beef and chives. What’s more, the flavors of the classic dish were enhanced with the distinct flavor of brown sugar. It was yummy and I knew it would make for a great lunch the next day as well.
Moving on to the shrimp tempura plate, I discovered one scoop of mac salad, two scoops of white rice and five six-inch strips of fried shrimp. I love rice, and theirs is always good. The mac salad was a blissful blend of chewy and creamy. The tempura was perfectly golden with a pliable center and crispy exterior. Perfect comfort food, if you ask me.
I passed the smiling, laughing faces as I took my leave with my to-go boxes thinking to myself, “I have to come back for that Korean Chicken!” So the next time you are in Kihei (or near their new location in Kahului) and you feel like some local kine grinds, make a stop at Hanafuda. Oh, and on Friday and Saturday in Kihei, they stay open until 3 a.m. Brilliant! MTW