Address: 286 Kupuohi St, Lahaina, HI 96761
Star Noodle was a hub of activity the afternoon I dropped in. Chef Peter Merriman, of Merriman’s and TS Restaurants, was having lunch. Matt Lane, LahainaTown Action Committee boardmember, was also on hand, thoroughly enjoying the nori chicken with spicy aioli dip. Musician Zane Monteleone of Sounds of Addiction was on his way out, satiated. With all the socializing, it was a while before I got to sit down and actually peruse the menu, which is so loaded with choices it’s hard to make a decision.
When a 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, on the other hand, is in a brand new spot. The decor is well thought-out, simple and gorgeous with a kind of urban-Asian aesthetic. Bamboo, dark wood and woven seagrass along with dark river rock and stone accents work together to create an effortlessly chic vibe. A 20-top table sits in the middle of the restaurant and can be shared by multiple parties or claimed by one big group. It is a great place to meet or do business. “We have a great following in the local food and beverage industry, with staff meetings and folks taking their business lunches and power dinners here,” says owner Michael Moore (no relation).
It’s one thing to be in a beautiful place while you eat, but it’s another to eat beautiful food. The lunch menu starts off with exotic Asian burritos, filled with meat or fish and veggies. The share plates are on-point with the tapas trend; it’s dim sum done easy. You’ll find Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean influences folded in with Chef Sheldon Simeon’s own local take. Steamed pork buns feature a 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 doughy, this treatment balances the bread-to-pork ratio and ads a veggie. I couldn’t get enough of it.
The Vietnamese crepe is on the the lunch and dinner menu, and again presents a familiar dish with a twist—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, mint and matchstick carrots with which you concoct your burrito. Attack the crepe with a knife, pulling off sections to pile onto the mix; it’s a little messy but the flavors well outweigh any eating awkwardness. At dinner, I highly recommend the Brussels sprouts starter. The Brussels sprouts—a trendy veggie at the moment—are pan-roasted to caramelized perfection and served with bacon and kim chee puree.
Fabulous as the share plates are, you’ll want to save room for noodles. A recent special was tempura mahi ramen, garnished with pohole fern salad, a surprise topping that was incredible in saimin. The clear, traditional ramen broth was soaked into the crisp mahi, a phenomenal flavor and texture combo. Star Noodle emphasizes local ingredients, local talent and local recipes, the latter being most apparent in the Lahaina fried soup, which started out in another West side kitchen long ago and has been ressurected by Chef Simeon.
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 outstanding, made with a lighter vermicelli bean noodle and served with chicken, shrimp and vegetables. The veggies are soft but still have bite to them and the noodles are well-seasoned, lending plenty of flavor. It’s a light dish, and the kalamansi lime garnish gives a perfect citrus kick. This is the epitome of a summer lunch.
Dessert is fabulous—and unusual. House-made ice creams come in tart, sour, savory and sweet, depending on when you dine. The ling hing mui ice cream is great; even if you’ve never heard of or don’t eat li hing mui, try it. The malasadas are round sugar-coated fried breads, served on a stick so you can easily dip them in the condiment tray of caramel, nuts and fudge. They’re good enough to just come in for dessert, although with all the choices, I don’t know why you would.