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Rave Reviews: MW Restaurant, Kaimuki Superette, Kan Zaman

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Mochi-crusted opakapaka is among MW Restaurant’s most popular dishes, served with somen noodles, a trio of kimchee and namasu condiments and a yuzu-soy vinaigrette.
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PREMIUM SELECTION | MW RESTAURANT

The husband-wife team of Wade and Michelle Ueoka continues to draw a crowd to this contemporary space livened up by the chatter of happy guests.

A diverse menu of gourmet food is rooted in humble local fare. An entree of "Stew and Rice," for instance, is gussied up with oxtail roulade served over beef stew risotto made with Big Island beef tenderloin — rich and satisfying. Pork chops here are of the Kurobuta variety, and braised short ribs are served with foie gras.

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And for those who love sweets, there are Michelle’s astounding desserts. Her legendary MW Candy Bar has crunch, richness and balance, with a macadamia nut-praline crunch alongside salted caramel, Waialua chocolate and the most decadent cookie ever. Also amazing is the Kula Strawberry "Shave Ice," a refreshing and light treat of haupia tapioca, strawberry kanten, mochi ice cream and strawberry-yuzu sorbet, all topped with shaved Hibiscus Strawberry — the perfect ending to a great meal.

Bonuses: The restaurant presents afternoon tea the third Sunday monthly and the occasional pop-up dinner with visiting chefs.

1538 Kapiolani Blvd.; 955-6505

mwrestaurant.com

Lunch, dinner, happy hour. $$-$$$$

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KAIMUKI SUPERETTE

Visitors immediately find respite in the relaxed vibe of the Superette, with its nostalgic sea-green accents and natural lighting supplied by big picture windows. The counters and cases of food display a vast selection of mouthwatering cheese melts, panini, tarts and more, and the long salad counter is a veggie lover’s nirvana, with some half-dozen offerings of gorgeous local bounty.

Think huge trays of freshly roasted root salad, pumpkin and dark greens, succulent tomatoes on a bed of arugula, zucchini and green beans topped with slivers of cheese, couscous tossed with a garden variety of veggies, a mushroom medley livened with slivers of red onions, fresh tropical fruits garnished with grated coconut. On any given day you’ll see these or other variations.

Menus on the wall list the soup, melt and savory tart of the day. Then there are the standards: the He’e Roll, an open-faced porchetta sandwich, plus fish and beef offerings. I love that a list of producers is posted as well, from produce and protein farmers to coffee producers.

Understand that these recommendations may not be exactly what’s offered on your visit, since Ed Kenney’s crew always works with what’s fresh and available. For breakfast we enjoyed a savory, quichelike tart of bell peppers and tomatoes; a kale, egg and Brie sandwich; and a chia seed pudding with crunchy seeds in a coconut-milk pudding seasoned with honey and lemon. Lunchtime faves: Hawaii Lowline Cattle Co. meatloaf, ahi clubhouse and a medley of salads.

3458 Waialae Ave., 734-7800

kaimukisuperette.com

Breakfast, lunch. $-$$

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KAN ZAMAN

Mediterranean cuisine was a revelation for a local girl raised on teri beef and fried noodles. It was as though my taste buds were awakened by the assertive spices and flavors. And with the wide array of dishes, the cuisine has remained a favorite through the vegetarian and meat-eating phases of my life.

So I immediately became a fan of Kan Zaman, a Moroccan-Lebanese restaurant on Nuuanu Avenue which opened in 2013.

Standards are on the menu, from tajines to kebabs to shawarmas. A lunch menu offers shawarma and kebab meats in a pita with a slathering of hummus or tahini, as well as falafel (fried chickpea balls), merguez (lamb sausage) and kofta (seasoned ground beef) sandwiches.

For dinner the lamb tajine here is pure comfort food, a braised shank served with white beans and preserved lemon, while the beef kebab will satisfy red-meat lovers with its grilled goodness; accompaniments of rice, tabbouleh, hummus and pita round out a hearty plate. The meats in the shwarma are packed with seasoning and spices, and with a side of baba ganoush present a lively, delicious meal.

Another stellar offering is the Mezza Sampler of hummus, baba ganoush, taktouka (cooked tomato salad) and warak inab (stuffed grape leaves) all on one platter. Technically an appetizer, it’s a feast in itself for vegetarians.

The restaurant is inviting with its Middle Eastern decor and warm, attentive waitstaff. At the end of the meal, servers pour orange blossom water on diners’ palms for cleansing. The gentle fragrance it leaves behind is a lovely cap on a terrific meal.

1028 Nuuanu Ave., 554-3847

kanzamanhawaii.com

Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

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