Slightly Salty Serves Up Significantly Scrumptious Fare
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
If the words “slightly salty” bring to mind terms like brackish, saline and briny, then prepare to log a whole new entry in your mental (and culinary) database.
Most days the Slightly Salty food truck can be found in the Food Truck Oasis, that little cluster of stands that gather daily across from the Costco in Kahului.
Although the name is wee bit misleading – we suggest “Decidedly Decadent” if a re-branding effort is ever on the table – the truck itself is particularly well done; large, stately and decked out in a vibrant ocean blue.
Looks, however, are just the beginning.
This is the food truck your mother (and cardiologist) warned you about.
Starting with the appetizers, the Crab Balls ($10) are nothing short of sinful.
The commendably crabby golf ball-sized “cakes” have just a few added corn kernels, red bell pepper pieces and onion bits, which have been rolled in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried.
The rich, flavorful balls are accompanied by a lemony aioli that in no way reduces the calorie or fat count, but does add a fantastic contrast of bright acidity nonetheless.
There’s more artery clogging goodness to be had!
Yep. The balls sit atop a generous portion of hand cut fries. Although physically attractive, we’re guessing the oil was a bit too cool when they went in, rendering them quite soggy and grease-logged. Straighten that out and they’re probably magically delicious.
It’s not over yet. On top of the fries, balls and citrus aioli are strips of deep fried onion.
Don’t get us wrong – it’s all delicious, creative, and well-priced – but don’t eat this every day unless you’re hoping to find out if the Grim Reaper is a real guy.
Regular consumption of the Crabcake Sandwich ($12) presents pretty much the same opportunity for an in-person look see at the pearly gates.
A kissing cousin of the Crab Balls, the Sandwich offers the same, rich “Southwest style” crab mix formed into a patty and served on a brioche bun.
Dressed with citrus aioli, avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and shoestring onions, it’s a similarly delicious and decadent offering, albeit a little more travel-friendly.
On our visits, the chef himself was also working the window.
Speaking of which, the truck is very large and the service window exceptionally high. It was difficult for our 5’ 6” frame to reach, and we reckon anyone under five feet tall probably needs stilts.
Similarly, the tip jar is up there and we worry he’s limiting his spare change opportunities to those 6’3” and over. Maybe an “honor system” tip jar on the ground, because surely you’ll want to leave him a little extra something for the impressive effort.
“What impressive effort is that?” you ask.
Well, as soon as he rings you up, your long, lean host puts on his chef hat and gets down to culinary business.
Everything is made to order – you can see him in there multitasking with baskets in fryers and pans on the stove – and comes out quickly.
We’re pretty sure we only saw him use two arms, but if he has some multi-limbed Hindu god in his family history, we wouldn’t be surprised.
Clearly a classically trained chef, this caliber of technique is unique for a food truck.
Upon our return we ordered the Pork Belly Tacos ($7).
The word “pork belly” set our expectations in one direction, but in all honesty the swine itself seemed to be Boston butt or a shoulder cut made into pulled pork.
That’s stated, it’s pretty standard as taco concoctions go: iceberg lettuce, tomato, cheese, a squeeze each of guac and of sour cream and a cilantro garnish.
The meat is fall-apart-tender and the entire dish perfectly acceptable, yet rather underwhelming considering the lavishness and creativity of other offerings.
However, for those hoping to delay a meeting with your maker, the “basic” pork taco is a solid choice for the less adventurous or Jack Sprat types in the bunch.
In stark contrast, enter the Shrimp Pasta ($11).
Your aorta may tremble in fear at the sight of this plate, but your taste buds will promptly seize control and order it to grow a pair.
The fresh pasta is combined with a rich cream and Parmesan-based Alfredo with hints of garlic and basil.
Topped with cherry tomatoes and a dozen good-sized shrimp, this is pure comfort food, beautifully executed. The fact that it comes out of a truck makes it even more impressive.
Admittedly, come often and you may live a year or two less than you expected.
It’ll be worth it.
Although unassuming and unexpected in looks and location, the Slightly Salty food truck more than delivers on hedonistic flavor that’s fast and fresh.
We like this guy.
We like his food.
Skip the Costco Polish sausage next time you do a midday run, and fuel up your belly across the street.
You’ll be glad you did.
Slightly Salty is usually located at the Food Truck Oasis at 591 Haleakala Hwy in Kahului. You can find them there on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Their Twitter feed (@slightly_salty) also indicates occasional pop ups at the Pukalani Longs.