Pau Hana Patrol: Maile’s Thai Bistro

Oct. 31, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Server Kealohilani Rice, left, and owner Maile Symmonds hold aloft some of the pau hana pupu available at Maile's Thai Bistro at the Hawaii Kai Towne Center. (Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com)

Server Kealohilani Rice, left, and owner Maile Symmonds hold aloft some of the pau hana pupu available at Maile’s Thai Bistro at the Hawaii Kai Towne Center. (Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com)

BY NINA WU / nwu@staradvertiser.com

Confession: I kept wanting to check out Maile’s Thai Bistro every time I made a Costco run at the Hawaii Kai Towne Center. But it was just sort of there, in the back of my mind, while running weekend errands, and I never quite made it in.

MAILE’S THAI BISTRO

Hawaii Kai Towne Center, 394-2488, mailesthaibistro.com

HAPPY HOUR

3-6 p.m. daily

» Selected wines, house wines $4.50-$6 a glass
» Well martinis $4.50
» Beers $2.50 to $3.50
» Appetizers $3 to $6

It seems like an unlikely place to go for pau hana, but if you’re a fan of Thai food, it’s a great place to sample appetizers on the menu at discount prices.

The restaurant is equipped with a full bar, professional servers, friendly bartenders and your choice of beer, wine and cocktails.

It was a pleasant surprise for me, especially once I realized that the bistro’s happy hour offers the option of appetizers before that Costco run.

THE FOOD

At up to half off the regular menu prices, appetizers are the highlight of pau hana at Maile’s Thai Bistro.

The classic, crisp spring rolls ($6) are offered as a smaller serving, but they’re still filling, with cool mint and cucumber to wrap in fresh lettuce leaves. The rolls included generous amounts of mushrooms, carrots, ground pork and long rice, unlike ones I’ve had that held little inside.

Calamari ($6) comes with a curry batter that gives it a twist (it’s not spicy, as you might expect), along with wontons that are satisfyingly crunchy, served with a sweet Thai chili sauce.

The edamame ($6) was coated in a tasty oyster garlic sauce. Shoestring fries were served piping hot in a rattan bucket ($3).

We also enjoyed cold tofu ($3), unusual as happy hour fare but nevertheless a nice, refreshing balance to the fried foods, topped with a light ginger soy chili sauce.

The absolute hit, though, is Maile’s pork jerky ($6) — strips of pork marinated in Thai spices, deep-fried and served with shoyu vinegar sauce — perfect with a cold beer or glass of wine.

Dishes include calamari, upper left, pork jerky and spring rolls. (Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com)

Dishes include calamari, upper left, pork jerky and spring rolls. (Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com)

THE DRINKS

A simple, local beer or house wine seemed like the best deal and accompaniment for Thai food when I stopped in, at $1 to $2 off during happy hour.

The house wine is Crane Lake Cellars of California — choose from a glass of chardonnay or merlot ($4.50). Crane Lake has for years offered inexpensive, prize-winning wines. I found the glass of merlot to be smooth and satisfying, a nice pairing with the pork jerky.

If you prefer a happy hour cocktail, there isn’t a huge array of choices, but the well martinis include classics like a cosmo or apple martini ($4.50).

Bartender Ian Watanabe is just fine being called a bartender, rather than a mixologist. Service is friendly and prompt.

THE EXPERIENCE

On a recent Thursday afternoon, seats at the small bar in the restaurant were filled with a few patrons, while the tables were clear. It’s a more mature crowd, as you might expect in a suburban shopping center, but this would make a nice neighborhood date spot.

The restaurant is spacious, with a modern decor and white tablecloths. If you go earlier in the afternoon, it probably won’t be too congested because that’s the lull before the dinner crowd comes in.

When servers are dressed professionally, in long-sleeved shirts and slacks, it always adds a touch of class.

Outdoors, your view is the parking lot, with the Koolaus in the backdrop across the street. The perk here is that parking is free. Walk outside, and around the corner you’ll find a relaxing ambience in the grassy area next to the marina.

THE VERDICT

It’s worth a visit for the tasty appetizers, even if you’re not making a Costco run. It might tempt you to stay or come back for dinner. I, for one, am already thinking about going back to try the full menu.

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