Choose from Oceans of Options at China Boat
By Vanessa Wolf
For the love of General Tso, what does a person have to do to get some decent Chinese food on this rock?
If this is a question sounds familiar, we have two words for you: China Boat.
Admittedly, it’s no Char Hung Sut, but it’s arguably the best Maui has to offer.
The 100-plus item menu reads like the greatest hits of Americanized Chinese food.
Inexplicably there are also a dozen Japanese offerings containing either the words “teriyaki” or “udon,” which we ignored. Rather, eyes trained solely on the Chinese optinos, we decided to dive in headfirst and hope for deep water.
The Assorted Appetizers ($12.95) were definitely on the wrong side of the pool.
What’s that you say?
You’re way below your daily allotment of grease?
Don’t run the risk of accidentally dropping ten pounds and having your clothes hang off you like a skeleton… get yourself some China Boat Egg Rolls ($4.50 for two) immediatemente, Skinny.
Filled with cabbage, oil, bamboo shoots, oil, ginger, oil and carrots… you may want to put on a bib or even a raincoat before you bite into one of these babies.
Use of the side ramekin of nuclear red melted Jello-esque dipping sauce optional.
The BBQ Pork ($6.95), however, more than makes up for any egg roll-fueled disappointment.
Rich and meaty with the traditional flavors of hoisin and Chinese five spice powder, this is good stuff.
Curious how you might fare in a zombie apocalypse? Unequivocally identify the weakest member of your posse with the accompanying hot mustard: it will clean out your sinuses into past lives.
The Fried Shrimp ($7.95 for four) were, well, yuck.
Everything looked fine until we bit into one.
Although fried well, the shrimp themselves had the mealy texture of a wet napkin. Then some of the batter fell off to reveal intense black staining, almost like squid ink but probably just shrimp poo.
Seemingly whoever made them took the time to cut the shrimp tempura-style, but forgot to take the all-important step to devein them.
Order these at your own risk.
Lastly, the Cream Cheese Wontons (and in much smaller font) w/Crab ($6.95 for six) were nicely shaped and well-fried, but the tiny print may have served as a de facto warning: if there was crab in there, we couldn’t taste it.
Fix that little glitch, however, and we’d gladly get them again.
Until then, if you’re in the mood for appetizers we suggest you go for the BBQ Pork.
At this point we weren’t sure what to expect, but things improved radically with the Hot and Sour Soup ($4.25/$7.95).
Savory yet tart, the excellent broth is filled with thinly sliced tofu and bamboo shoots, as well as wood ear mushrooms and black fungus.
Pepper flakes are visible and the soup has some kick, but thankfully it’s not five alarm hot either.
Best of all? All that flavor and none of the MSG.
And the hideous migraine we didn’t get? Our gray matter thanks you, China Boat.
As for dinner itself, we went with the standard Chinese American classic, General (we assume Tso) Chicken ($14.95).
Chunks of white meat are dredged in cornstarch and deep fried. Coated with a traditional sweet and spicy sauce with good heat and noticeable ginger flavor, this made us smile.
Winner, winner Chinese chicken dinner. It’s as tasty a version as you’ll find anywhere.
Food comes out stunningly fast, but it also arrives hot as the blazes so there is no doubt it’s being made to order.
Service is similarly quick and efficient, albeit aloof.
Hopefully everything is to your liking, because no one will come back to check.
We don’t know if this is a cultural thing or what. More than once we noticed staff peekng around the corner looking at us, but they did not approach.
Come closer, China Boat.
We don’t bite.
The Broccoli Beef ($14.95) is another classic from the American playbook and delivers all that you’ve come to expect.
Fresh, green and crisp broccoli is well-matched with the tender and flavorful beef. There was a notable savory depth to the sauce, as well.
No surprises, but certainly no complaints either.
Last up, the Chicken Fried Rice ($9.95) was basic, but hit the spot. Frozen style peas and carrots are coupled with onion, egg and chicken and wok-fried.
It’s an above-average effort, especially when you consider the lack of MSG.
On the topic of rice, if you want some of the plain white kind with your meal it’s $1 extra. Granted, they give you a healthy portion, but why even bother charging the dollar?
With entrees all priced from the mid-teens and up, it feels a little chintzy.
Still, considering the overall dearth of Chinese options on Maui, China Boat can spare you chartering a boat to China (or even just Oahu) to get your Sweet and Sour Pork ($12.95) or Candied Walnut Shrimp ($16.95) fix.
Panda bears, Great Walls and ping pong paddle-shaped hotels, however? You probably need that boat.
China Boat is located a t4474 Lower Honoapiilani Road in Kahana. They are open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5 to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week.