Maui Food and Dining

Maui’s Secret Restaurant Revealed

June 18, 2013, 3:43 PM HST
* Updated June 18, 4:03 PM
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By Vanessa Wolf

The venison prepared by The Pig & The Lady. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The venison prepared by The Pig & The Lady. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

On the third weekend of each month, Maui residents and area visitors can partake in a “pop-up” restaurant for one night.

On Sunday, the latest offering occurred at Leoda’s in Olowalu.

Previous incarnations have been held at a private home in Kapalua, Malama Farms in Haiku, and at Ocean Vodka in Kula.

If you’ve never heard of a pop-up restaurant, then clearly you’ve been living under a rock. Or on one.

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We jest.

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A trend that began about a decade ago in large cities, pop-up restaurants or supper clubs are when a chef and their team take over a venue for the night in order to create a brief culinary moment that is gone almost as soon as it began.

Kupu Maui has been creating these culinary adventures each month.

Kupu, a Hawaiian word meaning sprout or upstart, is a particularly fitting name for the enterprise.

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Led by Chef James Simpliciano and Dania Katz, the Kupu events pair unusual (and occasionally familiar) locales with talented chefs.

In March, the pop-up was an overnight camping event at Camp Olowalu in Lahaina.

Lee Anne Wong, from the first season of Bravo’s Top Chef and Star Noodle’s Sheldon Simeon from Season 10 cooked dinner for the guests, who then camped out in A-Frame cabins and tents.

An optional chef-prepared breakfast the following morning was available, as well.

Last Sunday’s Leoda’s Pie Shop event featured Chef Andrew Le, of Oahu’s the Pig and the Lady.

Mama Le's Pho. Regular pho will never quite be the same. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Mama Le’s Pho. Regular pho will never quite be the same. Photo by Vanessa Wolf.

Chef Le is accustomed to popping up, as that is his entire business model. Together with his mother, Loan Le or Mama Le, they regularly appear at Oahu Farmer’s markets.

His recent eclectic menu started with red beets cooked in goats milk, roasted golden beets, and in a most unexpected mix of the experience of fruit and 7-Up, carbonated lychee.

He then presented charred tako on a bed of oxtail and strawberry sofrito with orange slices.

The small filet of local venison was as pretty as Christmas. On a bed of fermented black onions and artichoke cream, the tiny pink flowers on top made it almost too attractive to eat.

Arguably the most adorable Vietnamese woman you’ve ever seen, Mama Le, made the Pho Tai Nam. She came around to the tables to explain that she’d cooked the broth for 10 hours and the roasted brisket for 12.

The finished product?

Sadly, it was so outstanding she probably ruined every single person there for future pho experiences.

The meal concluded with “coffee and donuts,” a donut gelato that somehow tasted exactly – exactly – like donuts.

Next month, on July 20th in Kula will be Kupu’s “Pie Tweet Up.”

Unlike the other Kupu events where seating is limited, July’s event is a come one, come all offering with no charge to attend… so long as you bring a pie.

Pies can be sweet or savory and Katz reported that attendees of last year’s Pie Tweet Up brought in over 200 pies.

Sound like your cup of tea?

You can look on the Kupu website for further details on the Pie Tweet Up or to sign up for notification of future Kupu Maui events.

We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)

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