PREMIUM SELECTION | GRONDIN FRENCH-LATIN KITCHEN
Grondin opened in 2014, carving a niche for better dining on North Hotel Street and earning glowing reviews for its hand-built ethic, nostalgic setting and distinguished, delicious menu offerings, drawn from the French and Ecuadorean backgrounds of owners Jenny Grondin and David Segarra.
The restaurant continues to impress, and has begin to offer outdoor seating on a raised patio inside the lush, green courtyard of the historic Mendonca Building.
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The charcuterie from Grondin’s kitchen might be the best in Honolulu, including pate, chef-cured ham (no nitrates) and kitchen-made mustard.
There’s a great selection of small plates for tapas-style dining. Diners will benefit from some of the energy of New York (from which the owners moved): Pork loin is cut in a Puerto Rican style (fat on), and duck is cooked with a sous vide technique. It’s all served with creative cocktails and carefully sourced, affordable wines.
62 N. Hotel St.; 566-6768
12TH AVE GRILL
Since moving into bigger digs in October 2013, 12th Ave Grill has only solidified its popularity. The restaurant routinely draws diners who drive in from all sides of the city to enjoy the meticulously conceptualized and presented dishes.
Under the direction of chef-owner Kevin Hanney, who perhaps internalized the importance of dining as drama when running a film catering company, and executive chef Jason "J" Schoonover, formerly at Roy’s, the restaurant dishes out plates that include rich flavors and creative combinations, prepared so that individual flavors remain discrete.
Fish is served perfectly here, meats treated with respect, and sides, such as roasted cauliflower, hold their own. Wine and cocktail choices are also exemplary.
There’s just one caveat: The restaurant has generated so much enthusiasm that it is once again full from corner to corner, so meals are best enjoyed with exuberant friends (with tables reserved in advance). Unless the restaurant expands once again, quiet, intimate meals aren’t on the agenda here, but the energy of the place matches the bold tastes and heady drinks at hand.
1120 12th Ave., Kaimuki; 732-9469
DIAMOND HEAD MARKET & GRILL
Diamond Head Market makes life in Honolulu better, and that’s saying a lot. For those approaching Waikiki from the Diamond Head side, this gourmet market — part upscale deli, part bakery, part fast-food grill — affords the chance to grab a bite of the good life at an affordable price.
The grill’s ahi plate, served medium-rare with a wasabi- and soy-spiked spritz, accompanied by rice and a salad with a citrusy dressing, is as good as it gets, and the french fries are the best in Honolulu.
In the morning (or anytime), Diamond Head Market’s blueberry-cream cheese scones are an ideal blend of crumbly, creamy and sweet.
There’s some kind of magic in it: Chef-owner Kelvin Ro and crew brighten familiar dishes, from prepackaged pastas to wraps, by leaving out the dull filler, added salt and questionably sourced ingredients that lesser takeout joints might offer.
With its parade of tourists, surfers and neighborhood admirers, the market bustles while maintaining a good humor and bracing, no-nonsense approach. Tip: Want to order takeout from the grill? Call ahead as early as possible and avoid a long wait out front.
3158 Monsarrat Ave.; 632-0077
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $