Mark, my vegetarian co-worker, is forever recommending restaurants. I wonder if he realizes that I wrote this year’s Best of Maui blurb for “Best Steak.” Regardless, I found his argument for “best restaurant ever” convincing, and went one recent night to Pho Mai, a charming Vietnamese restaurant nestled between the ABC store and the glow putt place in the Lahaina Center.
Right away I knew I’d like the place. I cringed a bit when my wife asked our server if they had Thai iced tea, but was ecstatic when she answered yes. Looking around as we sipped our delicious concoctions—if a more perfect beverage exists, please let me know—I relaxed and took in the restaurant’s bright, open dining area. The large room, highlighted with splashes of color provided by numerous beautiful floral displays and a few live plants, nicely absorbed its 10 tables.
After scanning Pho Mai’s massive menu—it contains 90 items, with an additional vegetarian menu offering 49 more—we decided on the Crispy Deep Fried Spring Rolls to start off. Red chili sauce, green lettuce and mint nicely complemented the six rolls and white rice noodles. They were smoking hot and delicious.
Our next choice was the Chicken Pot Stickers. After the spring rolls, the presentation and flavor of the pot stickers was a bit of a letdown, though they were interestingly wrapped in a more breaded than noodle-based casing. And they were delicious when smothered in the table’s four-alarm fire red chili sauce.
Properly warmed up, we fired off three entree orders at our bewildered host. “Are you sure you want that much food?” she asked.
We were. We went with the Rice with Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, the Thai Basil and Eggplant Stir-fry and the Pho with Beef Meat Ball Soup.
The chicken arrived first. Served “local style” with two scoops of rice, the moist, marinated chicken completely justified my vegetarian friend’s faith. It’s just a shame he can’t eat it.
“Is it possible for skinless chicken to taste this good?” I asked my wife.
“Whymmblwrbll,” she said. Apparently it was.
The basil and eggplant stir-fry came next. The heaping pile of eggplant, onions and basil drenched in an oyster sauce diverted us momentarily from our poultry orgy.
Finally we were confronted with our final dish: the meatball soup. “Do you remember the Jackass episode when Johnny Knoxville ordered the soup-” my wife began to say when the soup arrived.
“Yes, I do,” I said, cutting her off. “Thank you very much.”
Her attempt at inappropriate humor didn’t stop me from enjoying the wonderful soup. The scrumptious broth came packed with sausage, rice noodles, mint, basil, bean sprouts, lemon and jalapenos.
Exhausted, we awaited for our check, which I was sure would be $300. Shelling out just $52 later, it was time to leave.
“How was everything?” asked our server.
“Well, what’s Vietnamese for delicious?” I asked.
“Non,” she said. “N-G-O-N.”
“Exactly,” I said, and we walked outside. MTW