Hidden gem: Da Crawfish & Crab Shack

unnamed-8Several years after the crab pot and boiling crab restaurant fad hit O’ahu, I was a bit hesitant to drive to the west side to try another place claiming to have fresh seafood in your choice of sauce, served in a steaming hot bag. But after a dinner that my friends unanimously proclaimed “phenomenal,” “outstanding,” “amazing” and “the best on the island” — despite close to two hours in pau hana traffic — I can’t wait to head leeward again.

Here’s why Da Crawfish & Crab Shack, formerly known as Maili Sunset Bar and Grill, is a true hidden gem located right across the street from Maili Beach Park in Waianae.

Shrimp Tempura

Shrimp Tempura

Known for their specialty seafood combinations, the restaurant also serves up some notable appetizers that are nicely seasoned and fresh, including the shrimp tempura, whose crisp lightness rivals traditional Japanese restaurants.

Sunset Pupu Steak w/ Onions & Poi

Sunset Pupu Steak w/ Onions & Poi

This ain’t your typical steak pupu, this guy is the bomb. It is very similar to the kalbi-style pipikaula from Helena’s and is pretty on-point too! A must have! So good!

Poke Bowl

Poke Bowl

What’s a seafood place without a winning spicy ahi poke bowl?! This was delicious, perfectly seasoned and well balanced. A nice hearty appetizer or a light entree if you are looking for something without butter and not fried.

Shrimp Burger w/ Fries

Shrimp Burger w/ Fries

The waitress highly recommended the shrimp burger, the best-selling appetizer on the menu. The shrimp is pounded out, lightly breaded, fried and placed in a sweet bun. It’s nice and crunchy with good flavor. (Note: double order pictured).

Ahi Caesar Salad

Ahi Caesar Salad

I have to have some greens in my meal or else I feel like I am being overindulgent. I don’t know if Caesar salad is the best option, but boy was this good. Anchovy dressing, crunchy romaine lettuce and ahi that looks like croutons. This was an excellent Caesar salad.

Sunset Specials

Sunset Specials

Here we go, now time for the good stuff! For the crab pot portion of the menu you can pick your choice of creature (shrimp, clams, lobster, etc), seasoning (scampi, cajun or butter garlic) and spice level (mild to spicy). They have several combinations priced from $40 to $140. These combinations could easily feed 4 to 6 people.


I’ve tried my fair share of crab pot restaurants and most of the time they are good and some are not so good. But honestly, this place is worth the drive. The seafood is tender, sweet and moist and the garlic butter sauce is superb. It’s buttery, sweet and salty, but not overpowering. I had to force myself to stop eating because the sauce was literally finger-licking good.

I recommend heading to the west side early. Go to the beach and enjoy the sunset. Bring a group of friends and share all the dishes. This hidden gem is casual, great for large parties, offers a full bar, entertainment and some super ono grinds! Someone please take me again soon.

Da Crawfish and Crab Shack
87-064 Farrington Hwy
Wed, Thurs & Sun 4:30 to 10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Reservations not required, but are suggested


Did this: Ocean Vodka’s Ultimate Cocktail Showdown


Last year, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa had their first Ocean Vodka cocktail recipe contest and had an intimate, sit-down dinner with their finalists and a handful of people. I’m sure it was nice, but in keeping with the fabulous events the Sheraton usually puts on, this year was an all-out bash with six chefs, six mixologists, and 1,500 people. Since our very own Will Chen was one of those celebrity chefs, there was no question that Olena Heu and I had to tag along to cover it.

The chefs were paired with a finalist mixologist and were challenged to figure out a dish that would pair with the winning cocktail. Then somehow Olena and I rose to the challenge of maneuvering through 1,500 people to get you photos of those dishes and drinks:


Amie Fujiwara made a cocktail called Wai’ona: Ocean Vodka, Hawaiian Ginger simple syrup, Fresh lime, Local Mango, 6 Mint leaves 3 Basil leaves & Coconut Crème


Migrant Maui chef Sheldon Simeon paired it with Ay Kudeshi garlic noodles and Tocino sweet pork.


James Shoemaker made a Pineapple Express: Ocean Organic Vodka, Fresh lemon juice, Upcountry Honey, Maui Farm fresh Thai basil, Maui Gold pineapple & Gossling’s Ginger beer. Click here to see a short video of him making it.


Hank Adaniya, who has a Hank’s Haute Dogs concession at the Sheraton Maui now, brought his lobster sausage dog to match it.



One of our favorite cocktails was Ocean Vodka’s National Contestant, Daniel Vincent, who flew in from Texas to present the cucumber cooler: Ocean Vodka, cucumber diced, pineapple diced, pineapple juice, Agave, Pinch of Chinese five spice, Pinch of Cinnamon, 6 leaves of Cilantro, Seltzer, Squeeze of lime wedge and Ice. This was very refreshing. Lee Anne Wong expertly paired it with a spicy lamb larb. Hands down, a perfect pairing.


Allison Bellows created Pele’s Pineapple: Ocean Vodka, Combier L’orange, 2 Lime wedges, Coconut Water, Pineapple Juice, Serrano Pepper, Handful of Cilantro & 2-3 Cubes of fresh Pineapple.


Will paired it with braised pork belly with pineapple salsa and a fried risotto ball, one of our favorite dishes of the night.


This fancy drink is a Napili Tini by Victor Mendoza: Ocean Vodka, Muddled Watermelon, Napili Flo Liliko’i, Coconut Water & a Splash of Soda Water.


Shawn Gavin of the St. Regis Princeville made poke bites with tiny watermelon cubes to match. Cute!


Maui’s Jen Russo, who was a judge that night, is holding our favorite drink of the night, Ross Steidel’s Salty Poi Dog: Ocean Vodka, Thai Basil & Black Peppercorn Syrup, Yuzu Citrus, Fresh Squeezed Pomelo or Grapefruit Juice, Kosher Salt and Black Pepper Rim — it tasted like POG. (When Olena wasn’t looking, drank half her drink, too!)


Brandon Lee from Pig & The Lady made a local tomato salad with sorrel burnt strawberry vinaigrette, fried bread, and grated white chocolate. Chocolate? Yes. And yum. Click here to see him making it.


The winners were:

  • Best Pairing - Lee Anne Wong and Daniel Vincent
  • Best Dish - Hank’s Haute Dogs
  • Best Cocktail – Ross Steidel’s Salty Poi Dog

Each of the winning teams were paired with a charity, and each charity benefitted from the prize money won for them.

These were just the highlights. To see more photos, click here.

Mahalo to the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa for hosting our stay this weekend!

Footloose on Lana’i

IMG_8016As a kama’aina, born and raised in Hawaii, it surprises me when I hear someone say they’ve never been to the Pineapple Isle. It’s a unique place full of history, adventure, beauty and small-town charm. I have been fortunate enough to visit this tiny island a few times, most recently with social media influencers including my sisters Melissa Chang and Cat Toth, in addition to some of my other favorite people. We were invited courtesy of Island Air.  

This being my fourth trip to the island, I wanted to share a couple of tips on some walkable, easy-to-see adventures. In particular, if you stay at Manele Bay or camp at Hulopo’e Beach Park, a short stroll will bring you to some amazing sights. So grab your camera or phone, and come for a quick look with me.

A short walk south from the Four Seasons Manele Bay will bring you to a historic Hawaiian fishing village before you get to the beach. Head west toward the Golf Club and you will find Kapiha’a Village archaeological site. There are several native Hawaiian fishing villages on the island, but these are the easiest to get to and see.

Hulopoe Beach

Hulopo’e Beach is often called Manele Bay because it sits adjacent to the resort. But Manele Bay is actually east of the resort and along the boat harbor. Once called America’s Best Beach, Hulopo’e is frequented by spinner dolphins, tropical reef fish and a majestic black rock (west side of the bay) and white sandy bottom (middle to east side of the bay). Snorkeling, paddle boarding and swimming here are amazing because the water is so clear and inviting.


Go past the beach and head east along the rocks and you will see a rock formation that leads to a trail and a gentle hike. On the right is a large tide pool where many locals say they learned to swim. This is a must when visiting Lana’i as the tide pool is protected by the rocks and even has a metal staircase that leads to the cool, clear water (mahalo Melissa Chang for this beautiful picture).


As you venture up the mountain, if you look to your right and back toward Hulopo’e Beach, you will see down below about a dozen small tide pools. It truly is a beautiful site, and practically untouched.

Hidden Tide Pools

And there I am – jumping in! If you know me I am a bit of a mermaid who is obsessed with tide pools and anything to do with the water. Use caution when swimming in areas like these. Watch the ocean, be careful of the tides and waves and make sure you are aware of your surroundings. There was a fisherman nearby, the tide was low and the surf calm, so I felt confident it was OK to jump in.


Now if you head higher up the trail you will see a delightful stroll to Sweetheart Rock lookout, also known as Pu’u Pehe. The bay below is known as Shark’s Cove. Hotel officials don’t recommend swimming or snorkeling in that bay because you are not within sight. You can see the iconic rock formation and take a closer look as you head up the mountain. It’s such a beautiful sight to see, an easy walk that takes about 15 minutes from the beach and is a must for anyone heading to Lana’i.

The legend of Pu’u Pehe can be found here.

#DearThalia: What it’s really like to be homeless

0FqahwYBssV-JSQIsja8REeA51gDAqg5xE5BUPrQ8v0,7A6R40aPKbWMOg1Vf3fUsYMHWCcZ-utTkG4x3HfTJ28,ZPjHK2Wfy7ilYMa2Zj6qqn_lfYVnvfGpJqW0yLBpSVE#DearThalia is heart-wrenching, eye-opening, awe-inspiring, raw and insightful. If you take four minutes out of your day to watch the trailer of the brand new local documentary by my high school classmate Rex Moribe, you will tear up, as I did.

The back story of how this project came to be goes way back to my home island of Kauai, where Rex and I used to sit next to each other in math class. Rex was a contender for Kapaa High School student body president. He was a funny, outrageous and positive guy who went on to become a pro bodyboarder and an entrepreneur (he’s the creator of Da Secret Sauce Hawaiian chili pepper water). He was always interested in film and once on Oahu, became an avid participant in Throwdown in Chinatown.


So how and why did this Kauai surfer-turned-businessman decide to focus all his attention, time and money on a Kakaako homeless family? I just had to catch up with him and find out.

Why did you decide to do this project?
I only knew of one homeless person (on Kauai) as I grew up. He stayed and slept in front of my favorite surf spot, Wailua Beach.

Fast forward to when I moved to Oahu in 1998. I was 18 with big dreams to become a professional bodyboarder. I’ve seen so many homeless people on the streets and on the beaches, particularly the west side, that had me thinking, “Is this normal?” This haunted me. In fact, I wanted to shoot this movie when I was 20 with mini-DV/VHS style of filming, but I never did – until now.

What have you learned during this time spent on the streets with this family?
There are many, many unsung heroes that help the homeless without being asked, even refusing a thank you. I lost count of the amount of people I met passing out food and clothing and saying “I do this because it’s the right thing to do.”

The homeless of the future could be your next-door neighbor, your aunty, your uncle, your father, your mother, your son, your daughter, even you or me.


What do you hope to achieve with this film and Kickstarter?
To create awareness that homeless people are everyday people. Yeah, we have the “crazies,” but between that and in hiding distance, there are families, regular tax-paying people who work and then end their day in a tent. I am afraid for the children of the future and the elderly of this generation.

This haunts me, because my own mother could easily be homeless in 10 years. She is a widow with three children, a high health insurance premium, and running a day care. What happens if she cannot do the day care any more – homelessness? If I have anything to say about it, NO!

What do you think the future holds for you in your career and endeavors?
The future is a mystery box and that’s what I love about life. Do I hope to make more films? Yes. Do I hope to inspire others to do exactly what they wish to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt themselves or others? Yes. I don’t know what the future holds for my career and I’m OK with that. But what I do know is that without changes now, it won’t matter what career I have – I will never be able to retire in Hawaii.


Moribe just launched a “Dear Thalia” movie 30-day Kickstarter to try to recoup the money he fronted to create this film, get it released and eventually on to DVD. He’s only asking for $5,000 but in actuality his bills have exceeded $10,000 for this project.

Here’s the “Dear Thalia” trailer on the website

Dear Thalia Kickstarter

Lauren Makk is living The FAB Life


She rose to fame on TLC’s Emmy-winning Trading Spaces and Drill Team on A&E, but interior design star Lauren Makk is still the home girl next door. The Oklahoma native-turned-Kakaako resident moved to Hawaii after coming for vacation and never wanting to leave.

Makk has been traveling the world lately for more TV productions but will continue to run her interior design business and workshops in Honolulu. Here’s a sneak peek at her co-hosts on The FAB Life, a syndicated talk show that debuts this fall, around the same time the new season of Hotel Impossible airs on the Travel Channel.


I caught up with Makk for a quick chat with her about these adventures, living in Hawaii and what we can look forward to.