Excellent | Worth a Detour
Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom
Tin Roof is a celebrated chef’s relaxed lunch counter for “local food” favorites. It’s only opened for four hours each day and the tiny space stays very busy. The vibe is free and loose. The design has the feel of a fast-casual chain. Much of the menu is devoted to “kau kau tins,” simplified versions of the full Hawaiian plate lunch, just meat over rice with half a soft-boiled egg. Garnishes like kimchi and mac salad are available on the side to complete them.
The signature dish is braised pork belly. We took the opportunity to try an upgraded bowl featuring the pork served over the restaurant’s other specialty, garlic noodles. As a daily chef recommendation, it came with a salted cabbage, scallion pesto, a tomato salad and a sweet soy glaze. The pork is skillfully butchered to not be too streaky (a usual problem with pork belly preparations), and is gently braised to have a little bite, not completely stewed soft. The noodles had a mild, unctuous savoriness and real complexity. They stood up to some of Maui’s best. They happened to be an excellent match for the pork belly too, even if it did taste as though the belly was conceived to go atop rice. The sauces and add-ons don’t add all that much to the dish, but they taste very good when we try them on their own. Perhaps the condiments would make more of a point if they were more generously applied, but likely, it would just make for too busy of a bowl. The noodles and pork were plenty flavorful on their own anyway.
Curious to see what a chef’s mac would taste like, we try the ulu (breadfruit) mac salad. It is the only mac salad we’ve tasted yet where the pasta isn’t cooked to nearly a paste. It still has a pleasant bite. The dressing is brightened by carrots, but wasn’t spiced enough for us, it tasted mostly like slick mayo.
The noodles, pork and mac salad being all quite heavy, we countered with the daily poke bowl. Every day a rotating selection of fresh fish is offered with unique seasonings over rice. Today’s offering is kajiki, which is a local blue marlin. Marlin being a firm fish, we worried that it might be tough. It actually ended up being much softer than ahi. The fish melted after only a single chew. We differed on whether it was the best poke we tried on Maui, but we agreed that it was delicious. Perhaps it was slightly hampered by an overly sweet dressing. If nothing else, it was nice to try a fish besides the ubiquitous ahi in a poke bowl. It comes with a flavorful dusting of furikake and rice crackers that we enjoyed as well. Like all of the food here, it tasted elevated in a comfortable way.
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