Japanese are the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii. At their peak in the 20’s, “Local Japanese” made up 43% of the Hawaiian population [Wikipedia]. So with all of that concentration, one is bound to find some great Japanese-inspired cuisine — even on the lesser inhabited islands.
Restaurant Matsu and Oyako Tei were the two authentic “Local Japanese” restaurants we visited on our recent trip to Maui. Not only did these places make my favorite Spam Musubi’s on the island [as referenced in a previous post], but they also tied for my favorite food experiences of the trip.
We ate at Matsu thrice during our trip to Maui and I’m not sure if I got my fill. True, I was a bit of a hermit crab with my ordering. Each meal was the same. One Mochiko Spam Masubi, One Katsu Spam Musubi, One Mac Salad. The tastes still resonate in my mouth.
I couldn’t help it! These comforting dishes where just too good to stray from. I was lucky, however, that my wife explored the menu and I was able to do a little sampling:
Matsu is a simple place with no frills in sight. Perhaps this is why so many yelpers have given it a mid-range score. I, for one, feel that it doesn’t get much better than this place.
“Friends and Family Gather Here” read from a plaque on the wall. Overflow of kitchen supplies piled in the dining room of four tables. A shrine to the Spam Gods amassed behind the counter, bentos and musubis sat warm and ready for to-go customers and a group of older Japanese women shuffled around creating a chorus of comfort food.
The food had a true “grandmother” feel and was practically perfect in every way [sorry Mary Poppins]. We ordered the Miso Butterfish, Spam Musubi, Mac Salad and Kimchi. Everything was worth ordering again, especially enjoyed that comforting butterfish.
Which one of these two gems would I go to if only given the choice of one? I can’t say. Anyone have a coin to flip?