There aren’t many restaurants crazy enough to enclose their kitchen in glass and then show it off to virtually every customer in the house. Do patrons really want to see their chefs and cooks—regular-type people like you and me—chopping, dicing, frying and otherwise touching their food? Most establishments look on their kitchen as the hospital handles its ER: staff it with the best, but don’t let family members anywhere near it.
There seems no such worry at ZuiHao, the new stylish Chinese restaurant at the north end of Lahaina Town. Indeed, the whole place seems to be on display, from the front and back patios to the open kitchen to the amber-lit bar where everyone it seems is in love with the lychee martinis.
The bill of fare is titled “The Best Chinese Cuisine on Maui,” and there’s certainly plenty of it on the menu: Mu Shu Pork, Hunan Beef, Moo Goo Gai Pan, General Chu’s Chicken. Their Wonton Soup is some of the best and heartiest I’ve had. Indeed, I’m hard pressed to think of a place on the island besides ZuiHao that serves Egg Foo Young—that classic Chinese omelet containing pork, sprouts, onions and mushrooms—this good.
But don’t think this is the place to go for those little cardboard containers full of egg rolls and cashew chicken. Look for potstickers and wontons here. The chicken spring rolls are fine—a bit thin, but tasty.
Far more interesting than all of that are the “fusion” items. Like P.F. Chang’s or Thaifoon on the mainland, ZuiHao offers Chinese dishes touched by Pacific influences. Hence the delicious Coconut Curry Chicken, Hot and Sour Salmon, Seared Ahi Salad and Crab Rangoon—deep fried Wonton-like pastries stuffed with crab, folded up like a flower and served with a spicy mustard plum sauce.
That’s nothing. Like Kung Pao Chicken? They’ve got it, but spend three bucks more and get Kung Pao Scallops. Your reward will be a plate of sizzling, delicate scallops stir-fried with scallions, peanuts and those little red demon chili pods that add delicious zest when cooked in a meal but scorch your tongue like molten steel when bitten.
Want something really different? Go for the Sticky Ribs—a small plate of meaty but surprisingly tender ribs slathered in a Mango Hoisin sauce. Or the Dan Dan noodles: think Chinese spaghetti, but topped with chopped chicken.
Every table gets a chemistry set of shoyu, spicy oils and pastes for dipping, but those sitting at the bar get an added bonus—access to the special house chili sauce. This simple but divine flavoring goes best on the lettuce wraps—a plate of delicious chopped garlic chicken much like your old Sloppy Joe mix and served with five lettuce “cups” for wrapping—but works wonders for just about every other entree or appetizer on the menu.
There are desserts, too: macadamia torte, cheesecake and lychee creme brulee, but those kinds of sweets you can get pretty much anywhere. It’s the moderately priced, dependably delicious Chinese/fusion food that sets this place apart. MTW