Monday, March 31, 2008

Maui 2008: Izakaya Matsu

OH how I looove Izakayas (居酒屋) ! Shin's mom is an awesome cook (even though I recently found out she actually doesn't enjoy cooking that much), and one of my favorite bday meals that she treated me to was her own Izakaya-style cooking.. SO GOOD.

Upon discovering the existence of an authentic izakaya in Maui, we HAD to give it a try... TWICE. (for some reason, Chicago does not have izakayas, which makes us overexcited when we find them in other cities)

Izakaya Matsu is in Azeka Center (a little strip mall in Kihei). Cute atmosphere, very sweet and cute waitresses, and seemingly warm-hearted owners.

Chef was very good at making fried foods. Their agedashi tofu was one of the best I've ever had –- the tofus were partially soaked and softened in dashi, so ½ of it remained crisp. Seldom do I get agedashi tofu that isn't completely soaked and softened.

Their fried oysters, chicken-kushi (fried, moist chicken on skewers), potato croquette (panko-crusted mashed potatoes/vegetables) all had that perfect crispness at times are difficult to find at restaurants. The panko crusts makes the layer thin and less greasy too.

I also loved the gyu-tongue, tho my dad felt it was slightly overcooked. I just love the chewy texture.

Onto the famous Osaka goodies...their Okonomiyaki (flour, seafood, vegetables pancake with seasonings and mayo) was crisp, delicious, stuffed with ingredients. Takoyaki (octopus-stuffed flour base balls covered with fish flakes) on the other hand was only okay... maybe the batter was overdone, or they didn't stuff enough octopus?

Saba misoyaki had good flavors, with well-cooked fish and eggplants.

We had to get the yakitori (chicken skewers) since it's typical izakaya food. The chicken was so moist and tender! Both the shio (salt) and shoyu (soy sauce) were delicious, but I still love shio (salt) the best.

I'm not a huge fan of yakisoba, but my brother wanted to order this dish. It's made well for what it is (nice chunks of crispy vegetables contrasting the thin, chewy noodles), but I still don't think I'm a big fan.
How can I forget to mention the absolute necessity at an Izakaya? chilled sake, mm... they overpour the glass to slightly fill the bamboo container...

Ahi sashimi with grounded yama-imo (yam-potatoe).. for those that never had yama-imo, it's a VERY healthy vegetable with no flavor that's of a slimy texture. It's often served cold but my mom puts it into soups too (which lessens the sliminess). Picture the consistency of okra after you cut it up.. the sliminess is the same. This was refreshing, nothing special.Hamachi sashimi -- mediocre
yaki-mochi... this reminded me of japanese crackers, but obviously it's bigger with thicker consistency. It was too sweet for my taste, probably a regretful order:

Their raw oysters came with a nice soy-based sauce w/ green onions, but the oysters itself weren't as fresh as another seafood restaurant we went to in Maui, so we weren't as impressed:

Ahi Poke had nice balanced flavors -- probably the best poke we tried on this trip:

Mentai Ika - as Andrew Zimmern said on his "Bizzare Foods - Taiwan" episode, I don't understand why Mentaiko isn't as popular...I too LOVE this stuff. Mentaiko (明太子) is marinated pollock roe (typically slightly spicy). It's like sausages with fish eggs instead of meat. I love eating it with rice, used as a pasta sauce, even in our breakfast oatmeals. Anyway, in this dish, the eggs were taken out to place on top of ika sashimi (squid). The result was clean & simple -- mentai was very fresh.

Next time, we would love to try the shabu shabu that many locals ordered, as well as their shoyu ramen that became available all day (instead of only after 9pm) by popular demand. Didn't quite get to those two things after all the chowing above...

Izakaya Matsu
(Azeka Center)
1280 South Kihei Road
Kihei, HI 96753


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