Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sam Sato's

Seattle's weather is slowly, very slowly, starting to shape up. With the sun making a couple appearances, I can't help but wish I were in Hawaii. Last year, I had the chance to take a weeklong trip to Maui. Even though it was low season, the weather was amazing, and I had four memorable eats. The first of those eats was at Sam Sato's.

If you're staying in Lahaina, Sam Sato's can feel like a far drive. But really, I don't think I mind a drive on Maui, especially when it's sunny, warm, and clear. Even if it's raining, it's well worth the trip. Chipped out of an unassuming building and packed with locals, Sam Sato's serves up some of the best dry noodles, or dry mein, I've ever had.

The components of this renown bowl of Dry Mein are simple: fat al dente ramen noodles, smokey and sweet cha siu barbecue pork, a heavy dose of chopped green onions, and a moderate pile of refreshing bean sprouts. All this comes with a light, dashi-like broth on the side. The noodles were perfect, with just the right amount of chewiness. The noodles weren't so dry that they clung to each other, but if they ever did get too dry, the broth did a good job at loosening them up. The noodles also tasted like they were briefly stir-fried in a little bit of soy sauce. You also have the choice of adding hot sauce, but I liked the noodles the way they came. The bean sprouts and green onions added some welcome texture and good flavors. The pork was heavenly. The appearance of the pork suggests a relatively simple method, but the flavor had a lot of depth and heartiness. The pork also had just the right amount of fat and tender meat.

I saw people dipping the noodles in the broth, pouring some of the broth into the noodles, and sipping the broth on the side. For good measure, I did all three. I think the best way to showcase the noodles, but still incorporate the flavors of the broth, is to lightly pour some broth onto the noodles every few bites and enjoy the broth by itself on the side throughout the meal.

I also got to try a couple Beef Sticks. The amount of beef that comes on one skewer is awesome. You definitely get a lot of bang for your buck, especially because the skewers only cost a little over a buck. The marinade is sweet, like a teriyaki sauce, but not too sweet. In typical teriyaki fashion, the beef was a little overcooked for me, but that didn't stop me from downing the whole thing in one bite.

The Chicken Sticks were not as generous, but made up for it in taste. The chicken had a great, chargrilled taste to it that balanced out any sweetness and made me wish I had ordered just one more.

Conscious of the constant line, my friends and I made our way out. As we neared the exit, I couldn't help but notice some of the plain-looking pastries on display. They didn't look like much, but I thought that if the rest of the meal was any indication of their pastries, the pastries were probably pretty awesome. Lucky for me, my friend knows one of the people who works there (props to that friend for making sure we ate here on our trip, by the way), and before we had a chance to place an order for some pastries, he gave my friends and I a paper bag filled with an assortment of pastries. Score.

The bag included a couple Manju treats. The one pictured here is an Azuki Bean Manju. The outside was amazingly flaky for a manju. The filling was a little bit brittle at the beginning of each bite, but a few milliseconds after taking each bite, the azuki softened up into a delicious paste that was never too sweet.

The bag also contained some Turnovers. These come with a few varieties of fruit filling. I tried the one with apple filling and another one with a peach and pineapple filling. The apple one was like eating an apple pie with a flaky and buttery crust. Like the manju, this one had just the right amount of sweetness. The peach and pineapple turnover had a lot more sweetness to it, mainly because of the inherent sweetness of the fruits. I didn't know how the combination of peach and pineapple would shape up in a turnover, but I really enjoyed how the straightforward sweetness of the peach balanced with the slight tang of the pineapple. I also loved how the crust on both of these turnovers were baked to a darker brown on the edges, giving the turnovers an undeniably homemade pie taste. If I had to choose one, I'd go with the apple one, but they were both pretty solid.

Sam Sato's represents local, cheap, no-frills eating at its best. To this day, the noodles still haunt my taste buds, in the best way possible. This place could definitely get away with marking up the prices, but everyone knows they never will. Their genuineness comes through in their food and service, and it's that genuineness that assures everyone who's ever eaten at Sam Sato's that this spot is going to continue to be around for a long time.

Sam Sato's
1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, HI 96793
(808) 244-7124

GET: Dry Mein; Azuki Bean Manju; Apple Turnover.


  1. Ominars. I really want that bowl of noodles. I've never had dry mein. Have you had it anywhere else?

  2. I've only had dry mein in Hawaii. Don't know of any places that do it in LA...So good though...


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