Side Orders • March 24, 2016

WAIKAPU UNIVERSE . . . Some weeks, it’s all about Lahaina. Others, Wailea is in the spotlight. But this week, Waikapu is at the center of Maui’s food universe for a number of reasons.

Fresh Off the Boat just opened in an empty Waikapu lot mauka of Honoapiilani Highway. The actual food boat (in lieu of truck) trolled at Playmakers for a couple of months and before that, near Costco.

“This is a much better spot ’cause you can sit down and eat here,” says owner-chef Wayne Miyahara. “We’ve got lights, a canopy, plants and everything so we’ll be open for lunch and dinner. Our hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and we are closed Sundays.”

So far the teppanyaki steak and garlic shrimp combo is flying off the boat and so is the fish combo with ahi belly, miso walu and tempura mahimahi.

“We run the sushi dog that’s a hot dog, wrapped in rice and seaweed, we tempura it and serve it with honey-mustard mayo. It’s so ono. The whole place is going to be food trucks. It will be graded and it’s next to the Waikapu Stream and it’s convenient,” adds Wayne.

Fresh Off the Boat also specializes in sushi rolls, fusion sashimi and more. Call 281-8810.

Almost directly across the street is the Waikapu on 30, a staple for about 10 years. Just recently, it launched a Kalbi Bar outside, grilling the local favorite kalbi beef on plates from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays for $13.95. But you may also order from chow fun to hamburger steak during longer hours weekdays. For more details, call 242-1130.

The Mill House Train Bar and outdoor patio have enticed diners for some months. But the Mill House restaurant just celebrated its grand opening last weekend, hosting VIPs and the media to get a look-see and taste. Executive Chef Jeff Scheer wowed the crowd with coffee-roasted beets, beef ragu on hand-cut pasta, caraway gnocchi and mains such as pork loin with kabocha squash puree, kumquat, arugula and radish. Situated on the lagoon at Maui Tropical Plantation, it’s a sight to behold. Call 270-0333.

Maui Tropical Plantation will also set the stage for Maui County Ag Festival 2016 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 2. This “must-attend” event is for the whole family. But my favorite part of it is the Grand Taste, which will be moved to a later time from 3 to 5 p.m. with 13 top Maui chefs cooking farm-fresh fare from Surfing Goat Dairy cheese to Hana Fresh tomatoes to Maui Cattle Co. beef and you may vote on the fan favorite. New this year will be the no-host Liquid Garden with MauiWine vintages, Maui Brewing Co. beers and fun spirits by Hali’imaile Distillery and Ocean Vodka. Tickets to Grand Taste are $30 in advance and $40 April 2 and it includes admission to the ag fest event. Visit www.mauicountyfarmbureau.org to buy your tickets online.

Prefer a nighttime affair? Prior to the ag fest, the Grown on Maui Chefs Collaboration Dinner will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at Maui Culinary Academy’s Pa’ina Building in Kahului.

Visiting chef John Tesar of The Knife in Dallas and Jim Bannos of the Purple Pig in Chicago will join local celeb chefs Sheldon Simeon of MiGrant Wailea, Mike Lofaro of Humhumunukunukapua’a, Jojo Vasquez of Plantation House, Ritchard Cariago of Ka’ana Kitchen and Kyle Kawakami of Maui Fresh Streatery for a meal to remember. Cost is $75 for adults (no minors) and $600 for a table of eight. Email charlene@kauhaneinc.com.

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EASTER AND MORE . . . Hot-cross buns will be baked by the dozen at Home Maid Bakery in Wailuku and gourmet fare may be had from Mama’s Fish House in Kuau to Gerard’s in Lahaina. At Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, Spago Maui will be open for lunch on Easter Day from noon to 3 p.m. and will serve special a la carte brunch dishes, charcuterie and sandwiches, crafted by Executive Chef Cameron Lewark and you may sip Bellinis and Bloody Marys. To make a reservation, call 879-2999. Read more about Easter dining on Page 17.