Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef. She offers her frank assessments in the interests of honesty and improving Maui’s culinary scene.
By Vanessa Wolf
In honor in this weekend’s 43rd Maui Marathon, let’s talk about a different kind of endurance.
You don’t just show up at JB’s Kitchen in Wailuku.
It’s more like something you need to condition for at spring training.
Materials you’ll need ::
- elastic waistband pants, preferably in dark colors. Alternatively, you can opt to undo the button on your existing pants. For advanced female participants, a muumuu is recommended.
- robust appreciation for local, Korean-influenced and deep fried foodstuffs
- prescription for Lipitor
Suitable for :: Comfort Food Enthusiasts; The Unapologetically Hedonistic; Neighborhood Locals; Activists in the Fat is the New Black Movement.
Not Suitable for :: Whiners; Health Food Nuts; Anorexics; The Recently Stomach-Stapled; People Running the Maui Marathon on Sunday; Vegans.
Estimated time: 45 to 90 minutes.
1. After sipping some water and exchanging small pleasantries with fellow diners, prime your stomach with the kimchi and other assorted banchan. Do not adjust waistband. You haven’t even started yet.
2. Order any one (or two or three) plates that catch your eye. The varying fried rices, meat jun, bi bim bop, and the ever-rotating specials are unlikely to fail you or your pants. Speaking of which, now release 1.5 to 2 inches of your waistband discreetly.
3. No matter what you ordered or how full you think you’ll be, order some fried chicken. For serious.
4. Remember to breathe. We’re counting on you, Champ.
If you get overwhelmed or start to panic, put your head between your knees and trust the friendly waitress to make reliable suggestions.
JB’s offers zero to no ambiance minus this strange “fun house mirror” theme.
A large building behind it casts a long shadow, even in the daytime. It kind of feels like you’re in someone’s basement even though you’re above ground.
That’s all right though. You don’t need to see another palm tree-flanked sunset.
You’re here to pig out and hate yourself for days to come.
Portions at JB’s Kitchen are downright offensive.
What do we look like? A linebacker? A sumo wrestler? A family of five?
Seriously, JB. What have we ever done to you?
The Meat Jun ($8.95) is perfect for people who love kalbi, but not the hassle of all those little bones.
Very thinly sliced cuts of cross rib or top sirloin beef are marinated in what tastes liked the standard kalbi soy, sugar, mirin and ginger combo.
They are then egg-battered, pan fried and served with a soy chili sauce.
Doesn’t sound all that good?
For less than nine bucks you get five large pieces of meat, rice, mac salad and kimchi. JB is no doubt partly to blame for the state’s recent “F as in Fat ” report.
Obviously you shouldn’t eat there every day, but when you do, try some Kimchee Fried Rice ($8.95).
As near as we can tell, this is rice fried with kimchi and onions and topped with green onion and an over easy egg.
That’s it: rice, kimchi, onion, egg, oil.
It has absolutely no business being as tasty as it is, which leads us to conclude there are witches working in the kitchen.
Clearly you have no shame.
The Bi Bim Bop ($10.95) is on the money. The bottom is crisply toasted by the cast iron pot: Asia’s answer to paella. The rice-topped bowl features the usual suspects of spinach, bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, egg and gochuchang chili sauce.
JB’s Special ($15.95) is so gargantuan it should be one of those “eat all of this in one sitting and it’s free” challenges.
Expertly prepared kalbi, spicy chicken and barbecue beef arrive in gut-busting portions alongside a couple mandoo (Korean dumplings).
It’s enough food to feed a village: a very grateful village.
Casting a shadow larger than the adjacent building is the fried chicken, which comes in a variety of sizes.
An eight piece will set you back $10.95 and find you forsaking the Colonel for the rest of your life.
It’s made to order, so expect to wait as long as half an hour for it.
If you have ever harbored a fantasy in which you purchase a bucket of KFC extra crispy, eat only the crispy crunchy skins and toss the rest out the window like Henry the VIII, well then you are obviously some kind of sicko.
Oh, and by the way, this chicken is exactly like that.
Or, er, so we imagine.
JB is clearly not only staffed with witches, but in cahoots with some kind of plus-size clothing line.
Proceed with caution, especially if you have a history of addictive behavior.
We welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)