Mike’s Hong Kong Bistro’s Varied Offerings
Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
Mike + Hong Kong + Bistro.
The name alone provides the tip-off.
In an epic co-mingling of gastronomical styles, Mike is offering several genre’s worth of cuisine under one roof. Kind of like a little Epcot Center in Wailuku.
It’s a four-part battle for supremacy and only one will emerge as victor.
In the first corner we have Mike’s Panda Express-ish efforts.
Pick your combo plate. Choose one, two or three ($6.25, $7.95 and $9.50) items and a side of fried rice, white rice or chow mein from the offerings available that day.
The selection doubles as a veritable box of chocolates, as you never know quite what you’re going to get.
Mike’s opens at 9:30 a.m. and this leaves the impression the food is made then- and potentially only then – as well.
By 5 p.m., the sesame chicken still has good flavor, but has become as soggy as a picnic in the rain.
The orange chicken definitely involved the addition of some red dye #40. Again, the primary texture could be summarized as “smooshy.” Don’t think about the day glo red color, and the flavor is on point.
The spicy garlic eggplant is delicious. Savory, sweet, tender and super duper greasy, it’s Grease LIGHTNIN’!
Definitely pair that with the white rice and your stomach will flip flop only half as much.
If you’re not in a pre-fab Chinese grab and go kind of mood, you might consider another contender: the obligatory local style food offerings.
These run the gamut from saimin and manapua to loco moco and mochiko chicken.
We made the mistake of ordering the Roast Duck Mein ($9.95). Not our wisest decision.
First off, it took forevah.
While you wait, you can gawk at the evil-looking carnivorous fish (apparently – we were told – being raised for the slaughter) in the giant tank in the front of the restaurant or take in the modest ambiance of the dining room.
When the dish arrives, it turns out it’s a soup.
Four or five tiny pieces of duck comprised almost entirely of flab and bones sit atop an island of saimin, cabbage, and green onions.
Watch your molars and grab a fat stack of napkins because you’re going to need them.
Even once you give up and fish out the hatcheted bits of bird, what remains is a thin, slippery broth vaguely flavored with Five Spice powder (Szechuan peppercorn, cinnamon, clove, star anise, and fennel seed) and not enough vegetables to balance it out.
Nobody wants to take that walk of shame.
Thus, moving on, we come to an unexpected challenger: the “House Specialties.” These include such incongruously delightful offerings as the New York Steak Combo ($12.95), a Hamburger ($3.15) and French fries ($3.35).
Ordering a burger is worth it just for the “Wait. We offer a burger? Where do you see that?” triple take, and what arrives is perfectly acceptable, especially considering the price tag.
Rounding out the quartet of contenders are “Mike’s specialties” where “every order is made from scratch.”
Now we’re talking.
What Mike apparently specializes in is a mix of American and Hong Kong-style Chinese.
Hong Kong’s food is predominantly influenced by Cantonese cuisine and it follows suit that sweet and sour pork, beef and sour cabbage, and steamed sea bass are offered.
The Seafood Chow Mein ($9.95) didn’t really turn out as expected.
It looked a bit like the inside of a chicken pot pie, but with Chinese notes.
The sauce-drenched noodles bordered on a soup and were topped with fresh carrots, onion, zucchini, cabbage and broccoli. There were five shrimp and a few small pieces of fish on that.
Although everything was fresh and well-prepared, we would have preferred a wok-seared, less wet version. It is what it is.
On a later visit we asked Mike himself for a recommendation, and he enthusiastically proposed the Chinese Egg Foo Young ($11.25).
Egg foo young is basically an omelet and this was no exception. Packed with char sui, shrimp, carrots, cabbage and onions, it arrived piping hot and accompanied by that ubiquitous but baffling side of dark, hoisin-y gravy. What is that about anyway?
We don’t recommend using it ever, but you can do what you want, you crazy person, you.
Overall it was crisp, rich and flavorful and, once again, oily as the Gulf Coast.
Speaking of which, Mike’s list of specialties affords you your chance to get a heaping portion of the Spicy Garlic Eggplant ($11.50) made just for you.
Sweet, savory, eggplanty, garlicky, and fresh: don’t ask questions, just do it.
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)