Maui Fresh Streatery: Turning Japanese
By Vanessa Wolf
- Radiohead – Creep
- The Who – Pinball Wizard
- Warrant – Cherry Pie
- Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
What do these four songs have in common?
If you guessed, “They’re all sung by men,” well, thanks Captain Obvious.
However, if you know your obscure rock history, you’re aware that despite the extreme commercial success of all four tunes, the singer-songwriters are over it: they downright hate and refuse to perform these anthems live.
Legend has it Warrant’s Jani Lane wrote his one hit wonder on the back of a pizza box to get back at record executives: something of a “I dare you to play this on the radio.”
They loved it.
Lane has reportedly stated, “”I hate that song. I had no intention of writing that song … And my legacy is Cherry Pie, everything about me is Cherry Pie, I’m the Cherry Pie guy. I could shoot myself in the f***ing head for writing that song.”
The good news is, that is a problem the chef/proprietor of Maui Fresh Steatery will never have to face.
This pop up-cum-food truck changes its menu more frequently than some people wash their hair.
The bad news is, if you become attached to an item on the menu, well, tough beans. ‘Cause when it’s gone – and it will be – it’s gone.
“I’ll just order it every day of the week while it’s still on the menu. Save a few in the freezer.” you might plot. Well, good luck with that plan as you have just six hours to get some.
No, not six hours a day.
Six hours a WEEK.
Maui Fresh Streatery has got such a good thing going they only open the truck for two hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and sometimes they don’t even last that long.
Thus, the minute we heard there was a new menu we raced over there to get you the down low while it’s still news. They say you’re out of the date the minute you publish, and by golly those words have never rung more true.
Enough bellyaching, let’s talk about getting some food in your belly.
The current Maui Fresh Steatery menu brings a smattering of options that run from Japanese-influenced to straight outta Tokyo.
The Kansai Style Okonomiyaki ($10) is a popular fried “pancake” or “pizza” often found in Japanese izakayas.
More like a fritatta, the only standard ingredients are a yam-based batter and cabbage, and Maui Fresh Streatery has added bay shrimp, shredded pork and scallions to the mix. They fry it up until it’s crispy on the outside and moist and tender in the interior.
But it doesn’t stop there.
As per tradition, it’s then covered with Kewpie brand mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce (typically made from Worcestershire, ketchup and honey), katsuoboshi (similar to bonito flakes), beni shoga (pickled ginger) and kizami nori.
Mind blown yet?
Wait until you taste it.
The dish is at once comforting, homey, foreign, simple, flavorful and exotic.
On a more familiar note, the Spicy Tuna Poke Bowl ($10) starts with the familiar flavors of tobiko, mayo and Sriracha and tops them with cucumber, avocado, nori, tenkatsu negi (tempura crumbs) and an unagi drizzle.
It wouldn’t surprise us if the next menu were an homage to the BRAT diet: offer some bananas, rice, applesauce and toast and call it a day.
That stated, the bowl takes everything you’ve come to expect from Foodland and kicks it up several notches. We love the freshness brought by the cucumber, the lusciousness of the avocado against the tuna and the unexpected crunch of the tenkatsu negi.
Whether or not it’s intentional, the truck’s trademark item has turned out to be gussied up crinkle-cut french fries.
You name it, they’re probably put it on a fry at this point.
The Japanese version – currently dubbed Kamikaze Fries ($6) – finds those babies drizzled with wasabi mayo and unagi sauce and then liberally coated with scallions, furkikake (a seasoning that typically contains seaweed, dried fish, sesame seeds and MSG), shichimi (chili pepper) and salt.
We particularly enjoyed the unagi sauce (which somehow tasted rather like balsamic vinegar when added to the fries. Side note: that would probably be good too.) and shichimi touches.
The Uchinanchu Shoyu Pork ($10) was our hands down favorite.
The term used by Okinawan immigrants to Hawaii, those Uchinanchus sure know how to treat a pig. Shoyu marinated and slow-cooked, it’s moist, tender and succulent. Accompanied by steamed white rice and a simple green salad you simply cannot go wrong with this one.
Now we don’t know the chef/proprietor of Maui Fresh Streatery personally, but we do know one thing: the man has balls.
To serve a fully authentic Nasu Agedashi ($6) from a food truck situated in a gas station parking lot requires them. Big ones.
Chunks of tempura battered, deep fried eggplant float in a dashi broth and are garnished with shredded daikon radish, copious katsuboshi (dried skipjack tuna flakes) and scallions.
It’s so Japanese you feel like you’re standing on the streets of Tokyo… minus the oppressive, blazing Maui sun.
Speaking of which, the truck’s location kind of sucks.
On a hot day, waiting for your food is downright agonizing. There is absolutely nowhere to sit and eat, although some friendly homeless guys have a sweet looking camp under the large tree in the empty lot adjacent to the truck. Unless you take it to go, picnicking with them seems to be your only option.
Whatever you decide, be sure to pick up a Mango “Rare” Cheesecake. Billed as a Japanese cheesecake, those familiar with the Land of Rising Sun’s offering might expect the eggy souffle-like version they typically offer.
Maui Fresh Streatery’s is more of a gelatin-based unbaked concoction.
No matter. It’s light, creamy and bursting with fresh mango flavor. Cold and refreshing, consider eating it first before the great fiery ball in the sky has its red-hot way with it… and you.
Maui Fresh Streatery can be found parked in the Shell Gas Station located at 137 E Kaahumanu Ave on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
They will also be at today’s Made in Maui Festival at the MACC.