Matsubara’s Bloom-Mi from Forty Carrots
I haven’t been to Italy, but I’ve been to Porchetta in New York, a famed East Village spot specializing in takeout sandwiches stuffed with fatty roast pork, and it’s nirvana. That was more than a decade ago, and the closest I’ve come to replicating that experience has come my way courtesy chef Jon Matsubara and Forty Carrots.
Matsubara’s Bloom-Mi ($15) is inspired by the Italian street food as well as a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Herbed, juicy Shinsato Farms pork is topped with Forty Carrots’ own pate (decadence on top of decadence!), pickled carrots and daikon (more fresh and delicately flavored than at the usual takeout joint) — all served on a French roll with a lightly vinegary, lightly chilied dipping sauce. It is a satiating delight. — Elizabeth Kieszkowski
>> View the print replica
>> Top restaurants, A-I
>> Top restaurants, J-R
>> Top restaurants, S-Z
Inside Bloomingdale’s at Ala Moana Center; 800-3638
Skyler V’s Shaved Ice Cream
Shave ice is a staple in Hawaii and everybody loves ice cream, so it’s no surprise how successful LemonTea Cafe owner Alan Vuong has been with his take on the iconic island treat. Skyler V’s Shaved Ice Cream is named in honor of Vuong’s son, the inspiration for the frozen dessert.
Blocks of ice cream in flavors like vanilla, chocolate, pineapple, matcha and strawberry are loaded into a machine typically used to make shave ice, and the results are an adventure in textures. Each spoonful starts out like a puffy cloud of creaminess, but that changes as soon as the ice cream hits the tongue. The sensation is intriguing, with the ice cream transitioning from frozen to liquid form almost instantaneously. And at just $3.25 per serving, it’s an affordable indulgence. — Jason Genegabus
Kamehameha Shopping Center, 1620 N. School St.; 629-9586
Honu Bakery’s Turtle Bread
I know I’m late to the party, but I only discovered Turtle Bread last year. A colleague brought one of Honu Bakery’s signature breads into the office “just because.” Bless her. At first glance it looked rather unremarkable, sort of like a batch of plain old dinner rolls. I almost passed it up until I heard an excited buzz coming from the snack table. Then I spotted the fluffy cream tucked in the middle of the rolls, with raisins and chestnuts peeking out.
After tearing off a section of bread, which gets its name from its resemblance to a honu’s shell, I understood the fuss. The soft bread, filled with the delicate not-too-sweet cream, is a little bite of heaven. Note: At the South King Street location, the sign says “Bakery (Boulangerie)” — its original name when it opened in 2004. $8.50 per loaf. – E. Clarke Reilly
1495 S. King St.; 949-1588; and Kamehameha Shopping Center, 1620 N. School St.; 842-1588; honubakery.com.
Fried Chicken Skin from Seafood City
When I’m 90 I plan to eat anything I want and as much of it as I want. Hopefully Seafood City will still exist because I plan to eat fried chicken skin every other day, and the best source of that is this Waipahu market. Fried chicken skin takes something not really good for you and reduces it to its worst part nutrition-wise, but best part taste-wise. I like to think of it as chips with more protein and fewer carbs than potato chips. Yeah, rationalization works for me. They go for $9.99 per pound (but they’re very light, so a few bucks buys a lot). — Betty Shimabukuro
94-050 Farrington Highway, Waipahu; 675-2350; seafoodcity.com
Chawanmushi from Rinka
Memories can easily be made around mediocre food, but it’s so much better if the food is outstanding. Such was the case at Rinka Japanese restaurant, site of a family dinner that continues to linger in my heart and on my taste buds. The chawanmushi ($7.25 at dinner) was beautiful, and by far the best I have ever tasted. The texture was smooth and silken, the seasoning spot-on, the morsels of seafood perfectly flavored and cooked to tender perfection. — Erika Engle
1500 Kapiolani Blvd.; 941-5159; rinka-dining.com
Chyler’s Hawaiian beef chips
Imagine what would happen if beef jerky and a potato chip got together. Would the outcome be as good as chocolate and peanut butter? Yes! Chyler’s Hawaiian beef chips have all the beefy goodness of jerky with the crispy snap of potato chips, plus a little sweetness for another layer of flavor.
This addicting snack can be found only at Side Street Inn locations, in mild and pepper flavors, for $12 per 3.25-ounce bag. — Michelle Ramos
Side Street Inn, 1225 Hopaka St.; 591-0253; and 614 Kapahulu Ave.; 739-3939. chylerhbc.com
Tea Leaf Salad from Dagon
Dagon restaurant’s beloved Tea Leaf Salad, a gorgeous flavor bomb of a dish, is jampacked with freshness and texture, making it a feast for the senses. Romaine lettuce is accompanied by tomatoes and lemon, plus fried garlic, peanuts, fried split peas and sesame seeds, plated beautifully and then tossed before eating. Vibrant, fresh flavors in the veggies are given depth by cooked Burmese tea leaves, dried shrimp and the garlic, while the nuts, seeds and lentils offer heartiness. A spicy version adds chili pepper and fish sauce. Order either version for $10.99. — Joleen Oshiro
2671 S. King St.; 947-0088
Nosh’s Pao de Queijo sliders
I don’t know too many people who are apathetic about cheese. Like cilantro or natto, it seems to inspire culinary passions, both for and against. I am squarely in the pro-cheese camp. Fellow cheese lovers have a new friend in Nosh, a pop-up offering Brazilian cheese bread. Its pao de queijo is offered plain (swoon-worthy in and of itself), filled with a host of ingenious flavors and as sliders. My favorite (so far) is the bacon ranch slider with egg and tomato. Nosh’s treats are all gluten-free (they use tapioca flour) and are priced from $2 to $5. — Stephanie Kendrick
Gashoken’s Shrimp Ramen
In the course of a year I am able to taste many a splendid thing. Over time, the memories blur, but a few dishes stand out.
This year, one was the ramen at Gashoken, a standout among dozens of vendors at Japan Village Walk. I love Gashoken’s creamy tonkotsu broth, with depth of flavor from simmering for 20 hours, and its signature char siu shiro ramen. But it was the shrimp ramen that got my attention. The broth has an over-the-top, intensive, dry-shrimp essence. Some days there is more shrimp flavor than others, depending on who’s in the kitchen, but it’s an eye-opening departure from standard pork broths.
The ramen is topped with three pieces of equally flavorful garlic shrimp and green onion for $20. Worth braving the crowds. — Nadine Kam
Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, Ala Moana Center
Honolulu Kitchen’s Fried Manapua
You’ve tried steamed manapua and probably baked manapua. But if you haven’t tried fried manapua, head to Honolulu Kitchen. The Waipahu restaurant makes dozens of varieties daily, taking manapua to unexplored places, then frying it for a crunchy taste experience.
You’ve got the usual char siu, but also kalua pig, pork adobo and pork guisantes. Flavors aren’t relegated to pig. Try pizza, cheeseburger, jalapeno or the top seller, crab cream cheese. Sweet versions include strawberry cream cheese, honeydew and azuki bean. The many varieties warrant multiple visits. And if you’re torn between choices, not to worry — free samples! — Joe Guinto
94-861 Farrington Highway, Waipahu; 671-5241