Chinese chefs on Maui all know how to wok fry, steam and braise Cantonese fare. Some even throw in some spicy Sichuan items for fun.
But Mandarin cuisine is only to be found at China Boat in Kahana and its newer, more casual sister eatery, China Bowl in Kaanapali (see story below). What you'll find is a feast for the senses, both in presentations and aromatic and authentic tastes.
Simon Tay, who is from Taiwan, and his wife, Angela Tay from Shanghai, are the owners of both. China Boat has been an award-winning institution in West Maui for 19 years now and it offers lunch Monday to Friday and dinner nightly.
“We serve the food of Northern and Central China,” says Chef-owner Simon Tay, who has cooked in his native Taiwan, Chicago and Washington, D.C., before opening China Boat 19 years ago.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Located on the Lower Honoapiilani Highway near the Kahana Gateway, it was originally an old cane house. But it was upscaled to include rock walls, windows that open to the lush greenery, Chinese artworks and memorabilia and a covered patio.
Adding to the ambience is a massive mango tree, which provides shade to the courtyard. Waiters cater to your every whim with hot tea and suggestions of specials along with sauces to try during dinner.
Peking duck is a signature Mandarin dish, and at China Boat you'll be presented with a whole bird with succulent meat and crisp skin. Hoisin sauce is served with scallions and rolls and you may eat it like a sandwich. This is a good one for take out.
Moo shu is part of the imperial-court-style cuisine and the entrees are favorites. Cabbage and wood-ear mushrooms are wok-fried with your choice of chicken or pork. You roll them in flour pancakes and dab with the above-mentioned hoisin for a healthful meal.
Since China Boat is a seafood restaurant, you may savor all manner of flavors from the deep blue. The China Boat special of lobster meat, scallops, shrimp and white-meat chicken is expertly prepared.
Other seafood specialties are crispy fish in butter-garlic sauce; asparagus with shrimp and scallops; clams in black bean sauce; fried calamari; won tons stuffed with crab and cream cheese; and scallops with braised black mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
"Our walnut shrimp was created here in America, because walnuts are so popular," Simon says. "Shrimps are lightly breaded and mounded with a sweet and creamy white sauce and candied walnuts- all surrounded by a ring of fresh steamed broccoli. It's very nice."
But seafood doesn't stop there. Fresh abalone topped with black mushrooms is an exquisite treat. So is the crisped whole opakapaka, deep-fried and scored so you may chunk off the meaty and juicy morsels. The presentation is simply phenomenal.
Sichuan entrees have a chile pepper icon next to them on the menu and they include General's chicken, Hunan beef and hot-spiced eggplant with pork. Cantonese and vegetarian items are are also featured. China Boat offers literally something for every Chinese taste. And everyone may rest assured no MSG is used.
Can't decide what to order? Begin with the pupu plate of egg rolls, crab lagoon, shrimp toast and Peking barbecue ribs (meaty and tender). Or opt for the special family dinners for two or more people.
Make sure to save room for desserts such as cool and silky lychee, ice cream, almond tofu and cheesecake. Simon also offers a nice selection of imported beers such as Tsing Tao along with Chinese plum wines and a host of American wines and beers. Look for the coupon in today's Scene for 15 percent off food at both stores during dinner.
For reservations, delivery or take out, call 669-5089.