12TH AVE GRILL
678 Hawaii has become a major draw for groups of young friends and a growing number of families, lured by its stylish decor (with prominent, industrial venting over tables, and waiters in black), bustling energy and competitively priced dishes with other contenders along the “Koreamoku” (Keeaumoku and Kapiolani) corridor. It stands out from the rest, with its U.S. Kobe-style beef, raised without hormones or antibiotics, and the star power of owner Kang Ho Dong, a popular Korean comedian.
1726 Kapiolani Blvd., 941-6678
Lunch, dinner, late-night happy hour. $$-$$$
3660 ON THE RISE
MORE ILIMA AWARDS
AGU A RAMEN BISTRO
Agu opened first in Moiliili, at the former Da Kitchen site, and wowed Honolulu ramen lovers with its rich, long-simmered pork-bone broth and light, Jidori chicken broths, house-made char siu and umami-laden creations such as the Hot Mess, embellished with Parmesan cheese and black garlic oil. The restaurant now also operates at a second, jewel-box location in Kakaako’s Ward Village, bettering your chances of getting a seat. The food is worth a wait, and repeat visits: Ramen choices include a combination made with rafute (Okinabwan braised pork belly) and an irresistable Spicy Kotteri, a bowl of rich pork broth with black garlic oil, heated with chilies and chili sauce, filled with thin noodles and topped with char siu, bamboo shoots and green onion. Attention is paid to the ingredients, such as free-range, vegetarian-fed chicken used to make Agu’s Jidori broth and soft-boiled egg served marinated in authentic ajitsuke tamago style.
925 Isenberg St. (across from Old Stadium Park), 492-1637
Ward Village Shops, 797-2933
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$
AHI & VEGETABLE
Ever since the restaurant was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” owner Leonard Kam has noticed mainland travelers can’t wait to try his poke. “Customers come off the plane with their luggage,” he said. Alicia’s, which features Hawaiian-Chinese cuisine, serves more than 50 types of poke, with the spicy variety being most popular, Kam said. Others include tako, raw crab, surf clam, salmon, shrimp and vegan (fried tofu). There also are poke salads and bowls. “I can make poke with anything,” Kam said. Another popular item is lomi oio, made with scraped bonefish, salmon chunks, dried shrimp, tomato and onion — especially popular with old-timers. Alicia’s also serves Chinese food, including roast pork, char siu and chicken.
267 Mokauea St., 841-1921
Lunch, dinner. $-$$
ALLEY RESTAURANT AT AIEA BOWL, THE
Given the background sounds of bowling balls knocking down pins, The Alley Restaurant might lack ambiance, but it’s certainly not lacking in quality local food. The Alley’s Tasty Chicken, boneless fried pieces dipped in a secret sauce, is among the favorites and sure to satisfy bowlers and nonbowlers alike. Among 12 other signature dishes are oxtail soup, garlic or spicy shrimp pork chops and loco moco. The restaurant also serves seven burgers/sandwiches (yes, there is a Tasty Chicken sandwich), six salads and a long list of desserts. The most unique item is the grilled Coca-Cola marinated turkey breast salad. Dessert items include a sublime lemon crunch cake, a pumpkin crunch cake and a variety of scones. Those who aren’t into anything substantial can munch on side items such as fries, onion rings and soybeans.
99-115 Aiea Heights Drive, 488-6854
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night. $-$$
ANDY’S SANDWICHES & SMOOTHIES
Andy’s, started by Andy Rodrigues and wife Norma in 1977, has about 25 smoothies, the latest being dragon fruit, or pitaya. A customer brought in the dragon fruit and said, “See what you can do with it,” said daughter Mandy, who works with her parents at the restaurant. After some experimentation, a winning recipe was developed. Other successes are the High Pro (protein powder, peanut butter, bananas and apple juice), Soy Pro, strawberries and cream, mango cream and guava smoothies. The breakfast menu is extensive, and there are salads and 30 sandwiches – the most popular being turkey – to choose from.
2904 E. Manoa Road, 988-6161
Breakfast, lunch. $
ARANCINO AT THE KAHALA
Chances are there’s an Assaggio not far from you, ready to satisfy your desire for southern Italian food. The six locations on Oahu offer slightly varying fare. A starter of antipasto, calamari or clams is a good way to start. Or go with the Caesar salad (plain, chicken or shrimp). Of course, there’s a nice selection of pasta, meat, chicken and seafood dishes. Among popular entrees are osso bucco and a seafood combination (shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels on linguine prepared spicy or mild) and the chef’s special of filet mignon and shrimp scampi.
Ala Moana Center, 942-3446
Koko Marina Center, Hawaii Kai, 396-0756
Town Center of Mililani , 623-5115
4346 Waialae Ave., Kahala, 732-1011
354 Uluniu St., Kailua , 261-2772
777 Kamokila Blvd., Kapolei, 674-8801
Lunch, dinner. $$$
ASUKA NABE + SHABU SHABU
The namesake dish at this restaurant, Asuka-style nabe, goes back more than 1,300 years to Nara, Japan. It comes with chicken, beef or pork (choose two), plus vegetables, shrimp, meatballs, tofu, noodles and gyoza. The broth contains chicken broth, milk, honey and miso. Shabu shabu, available for lunch, comes with vegetables, tofu, shrimp, udon noodles and gyoza. Fancier nabe sets are added for dinner. Mix and match the various shabu shabu and nabe selections with other broths, which include spicy and curry flavors.
3620 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 735-6666
Lunch (Thursday through Sunday). Dinner. $$$
Azure’s specialty is seafood and at the top of that food chain is Azure sashimi, which includes the highest quality ahi and hamachi as well as an avocado and watermelon radish salad with ginger vinaigrette dressing. Other signature dishes are Hibachi Garlic Prawns, Crispy Whole Fish and Azure Ocean Risotto, which includes lobster and clams. Chef Shaymus Alwin recently added a five-course tasting menu and an eight-course Royal Papa‘aina menu. Dine inside or in the cabana section, which has a beautiful view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. Some patrons get caught up in the romantic atmosphere. “We have a lot of wedding proposals at our restaurant — at least one a month,” Alwin said.
The Royal Hawaiian Hotel
2259 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki; 923-7311
Baci Bistro describes its menu as “European cuisine with an Italian flair.” This includes 14 types of pasta, made fresh daily. A favorite is Rigatoni con Salsiccia, a dish of Italian sausage, garlic and basil in a red sauce. There are also many chicken, veal and seafood choices. As far as appetizers go, a solid pick is the Gamberetti Marinati Alla Griglia, with shrimp, lime and feta cheese. Must-try desserts are the tiramisu and mascarpone cheesecake. On Mondays, Baci Bistro will take 25 percent off virtually all items, including drinks.
30 Aulike St., Kailua, 262-7555
Lunch (weekdays), dinner. $$-$$$
BANZAI SUSHI BAR
Sushi on Oahu’s North Shore? Yes, please! Banzai’s surfer-friendly, good-humored vibe and chef Hide Takahashi’s emphasis on fresh, local ingredients combine in this “tropical Japanese fusion” eatery — not classic, but breezy as its locale. Enjoy clever combinations made with just-off-the-pier fish and organic produce here, including items for vegans and vegetarians. Start with the Salmon Skin Salad, made with yamagobo (pickled burdock) and pea sprouts; or the restaurant’s signature Maui Wowi — a rice-free roll wrapping up sashimi-grade ahi, mango, shiso, avocado and micro greens in yuba (soy) paper, with a tart organic dressing — and then indulge in the menu’s many options for sushi, sashimi and poke, or cooked entrees such as baked opah or king salmon.
North Shore Marketplace
66-246 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, 637-4404
Lunch, dinner. $$
BEACHHOUSE AT THE MOANA
Fine cuts of meat and perfectly prepared seafood offerings dominate the Beachhouse menu, served within steps of the beach at the Moana Surfrider’s premier venue. Chef David Lukela took the reins at Beachhouse in 2014, after a stint at Vintage Cave (and before that, he worked as a research scientist), and the chef’s technical expertise subtly informs the preparation. The primary effect is earthy enjoyment, from prime, dry-aged rib-eye to intensely flavored salads. Choose veranda seating to enjoy a twilight sky and the wafting sounds of Hawaiian music from the courtyard below. And don’t neglect pastry chef Nanako Perez-Nava’s marvelous desserts, including gluten-free offerings and a Kona coffee cheesecake, embellished with macadamia nut mascarpone cream, caramel brittle and coffee agar jelly. Note: Vintage 1901, a wine bar overlooking the beach and the Moana’s banyan tree, opened in 2015; savory bites from Lukela are served here, and akamai diners can also order from the Beachhouse menu.
2365 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, 921-4600
Bernini is one in a growing number of Japanese-owned Italian restaurants, opened by chef Kengo Matsumoto and Motoyo Koyata in April 2011. Top pasta items are the Ricci di Mare (sea urchin, peperoncino style) and beef ragu (braised angus meat sauce). A favorite entree is Tagliata (grilled Angus beef steak with balsamic reduction on a bed of arugula and Parmigiano). Also available are thin and crispy Roman pizzas. Customer favorites are Prosciutto e Mascarpone (mozzarella, prosciutto from Parma and mascarpone, with tomato cream sauce) and Norcia (mozzarella, Italian sausage, mushrooms and walnut and truffle oil). Bernini Honolulu has a seasonal menu, which changes four times a year.
1218 Waimanu St., 591-8400
Dinner (closed Mondays). $$$
This stylish Kakaako hideaway is a haven for hipsters, in the truest sense — those who appreciate the handmade and the attractive, in settings and servings. Craft cocktail enthusiasts would follow co-owner Christian Self to most any location, and they followed him here when he launched Bevy, after Chinatown trendsetter thirtyninehotel closed its doors. His cocktails are akin to a chef’s creations, with handmade mixers and the finest ingredients. In the kitchen, Bevy has rotated through different chefs since opening in 2013, but a constant has been its attention to carefully curated offerings. The menu focuses on tapas, with Mediterranean and international influences, served in a low-lit, urban room distinguished for its DIY and globally sourced decor. Try the Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic), Tres Quesos (manchego, pecorino and sharp cheddar cheeses inside a warm, flavorful puff), or the Strawberry Beet Salad served with Humboldt Fog cheese and a Mojito Chia Dressing.
661 Auahi St., 594-7445
Johan Svensson started out as a dishwasher in his native Sweden, worked at a couple of restaurants in New York and now is the chef and creator of fine dishes at BLT Steak. The rib-eye and American wagyu skirt steaks have drawn rave reviews. Also available are braised short ribs, braised rack of lamb and Shinsato Farm pork chops with an herb-Parmesan crust. For those who crave seafood, BLT Steak has Keahole lobster with a king crab crust and Cantonese-style crispy whole fish. There’s also a seafood platter for one to four people, offering a selection of jumbo shrimp, oysters, snow crab claws, littleneck clams and snapper ceviche. The popovers here are among the island’s best.
Trump International Hotel
223 Saratoga Road, Waikiki, 683-7440
No matter when you feel like eating breakfast, Bogart’s Cafe has you covered. Choose from a variety of omelets, eggs Benedicts, pancakes, waffles and bagels. Top menu items are the acai bowl (granola, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and honey), Hawaiian Waffle (blueberries, strawberries and bananas topped with haupia sauce) and Mama’s Fried Rice (scrambled egg, corn, spinach, asparagus and mushrooms). Pastas, sandwiches and salads are offered for those who have moved on to lunch. There are a couple of restrictions: no waffles after 3 p.m. and no potatoes after 5 p.m.
3045 Monsarrat Ave., Kapahulu, 739-0999
Breakfast, lunch (cash only). $$
Opened in April 2014 as the younger sibling of REAL a Gastropub, Brew’d lives up to its name with an impressive selection of suds: 19 beers flow from rotating taps; 200 plus come in bottles. Indecisive? Helpful staff will help you home in on a pick. The menu gets tweaked daily, but you’ll always find popular mainstays including fish tacos, a local beef burger, and fish and chips. The poutine – that beloved Canadian dish comprised of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy – undergoes frequent iterations from Korean kalbi to Buffalo chicken. Notable is the nonalcoholic root beer on tap: It’s crafted by Rogue Ales in Oregon, and is also available in an ice cream float. Fret not if your favorites are no longer on the menu. Daily specials can include a smorgasbord of items, from oyster shooters to customer-requested “throwback” dishes. The bustling pub fills up quickly, so aim for an early pau hana or a late-night snack; otherwise, be prepared to wait. Look for special events including trivia nights and tastings. Check the website for the latest offerings.
3441 Waialae Ave., 732-2337
Pau hana, dinner, late night. $$
BUCA DI BEPPO
Budnamujip, the flagship Hawaii outpost of a 37-year-old Korean restaurant specializing in high-quality beef, flaunts its meat-cutters, who work in full view of diners, as well as its premium Wagyu beef. The Korean owner gave the site a multimillion dollar renovation, and the restaurant quickly gained a following for its premium dishes and pristine yet rustic setting, with custom-designed ventilation hoods. Wait staff will do the cooking for you on a tabletop grill, ensuring that the high-quality, high-priced meats are prepared right.
871 Kapiolani Blvd., 593-8822
Lunch, dinner. $$$$
CAFE DUCK BUTT
This neon-lit, contemporary-budget-Asian lounge and karaoke joint continues to draw patrons who crave good grinds and reasonable drink prices. Cafe Duck Butt turns out tasty Korean-style fried chicken, kimchee pancakes, poke and flavored soju, and while it’s paved the way for new competitors along the Kapiolani corridor, the cafe remains a local favorite.
901 Kawaiahao St., 593-1880
Happy hour, dinner, late-night. $-$$
If you like eggs Benedict and waffles, Chrissie Kaila Castillo’s restaurant is the place to go. The daily menu covers many varieties of both items, and weekly specials provide an additional 12 Benedicts and 22 types of waffles. Meat eaters can go with steak and eggs. Breakfast is served all day. Also popular: buttermilk pancakes, the frittata omelet and a chicken Parmesan sandwich. In mid-February, Cafe Kailua started serving dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. Top items are the meatloaf, lasagna and chicken potpie. Refreshing espressos and lattes also are available.
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., 732-3330
Breakfast, lunch, dinner (W-F). $$
Cafe Maharani boasts that its northern Indian dishes “can contain a blend of 20, 30, 40 or more spices and herbs.” Popular items are the chicken tikka masala, with tandoori-baked cubed chicken pieces sauteed with traditional spices and topped with a classical tomato and cream sauce, and lamb vindaloo, for those who like spicy food. There are other solid chicken and lamb items along with meat, seafood, rice and curry dishes. For bread lovers, Cafe Maharani serves naan in a variety of ways.
2509 S. King St., Moiliili, 951-7447
cafemaharanihawaii.com. Dinner. $$
CASABLANCA MOROCCAN CUISINE
Casablanca Moroccan Cuisine is influenced by the flavors of Africa, the Mediterranean, India and Asia, according to owner/chef Fettah Benali. The restaurant opened in Kailua 21 years ago and the food and decor have kept many customers coming back. The meals are prix fixe here with the top choice being rack of lamb. Customers sit on pillows and dine on low, round tables with exotic music in the background and beautiful rugs on the walls. You can eat with your hands – as is Moroccan tradition – or use utensils. The mint tea, served at the end of the meal, is a real winner.
19 Hoolai St., Kailua, 262-8196
Nothing fancy, nothing over the top, Champa Thai focuses on the classics in the Thai repertoire, delivered with high standards for freshness and authenticity. The large menu has all the standards but also some dishes hard to find elsewhere: curries made with bitter melon or scallops, for example, or a stir-fry of calamari and ong choi. Those not so adventurous can go with the favorites: pad thai, panang curry, papaya salad, spring rolls.
306 Kuulei Road, Kailua, 263-8281
Pearl Kai Center, 98-199 Kamehameha Highway, Aiea, 488-2881
Lunch, dinner. $
CHART HOUSE WAIKIKI
A visit to the Chart House is like going back in time, with a relaxed atmosphere and prices that seem a bit more affordable than other places in Waikiki. Kick back with a cold one while enjoying a sunset over the Ala Wai Boat Harbor and Ala Moana Beach Park, or ask for longtime bartender Guy Maynard to make you his world-famous Guy Tai — he’s still there after more than 35 years, sending visitors home happy with take-home souvenir glasses. Got an appetite and money to spend? Order some top-drawer A5 Miyazaki or Tajima New York Strip BMS Wagyu steak, Alaskan red king crab or live Maine lobster, or the Whole Fish Delight — one side is sliced up into sashimi, with the rest deep-fried.
1765 Ala Moana Blvd., 941-6669
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$-$$$
Chef Chai Chaowasaree manages to assemble delicious dishes with an emphasis on healthy eating. No butter is used here, fat and sodium are limited and gluten-free items are available. A signature starter going back years for the chef is his jumbo tiger prawn wrapped in strawlike strands of kataifi and crusted with macadamia nuts. Also recommended is the ahi katsu appetizer with wasabi yellow curry sauce, and the entrees of Thai-style oxtail soup and mahimahi with red curry sauce. For early birds: A four-course dinner is just $40.
1009 Kapiolani Blvd., 585-0011
Happy hour, dinner. $$$
CHEF MAVRO RESTAURANT
CHEZ KENZO BAR & GRILL
The Counter really takes the “have it your way” philosophy to heart. A five-step, easy-to-follow checklist lets you create your own burger, choosing from among five types of burgers, 12 cheeses, 22 toppings (limit four), 21 sauces and four buns. Order forms, available online, may be faxed or submitted electronically. For those who prefer predetermined ingredients, the Counter Burger – beef, provolone cheese and crispy onion strings – is a top choice. Popular appetizers include fried dill pickle chips and the Fifty-Fifty, a combination of fries and another selection.
Kahala Mall, 739-5100
Lunch, dinner. $-$$
Cream Pot stand outs amid the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. The restaurant, owned by Nathan Tran, has a beautiful garden, and patrons enter through a white wooden archway. It’s almost like entering a cottage in the European countryside. The breakfast/brunch restaurant is known for its variety of souffle pancakes. Other popular choices are the beef stew omelet, classic French rolled omelet (maple-cured bacon, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, potatoes and Gruyere cheese) and four varieties of eggs Benedict (ahi and salmon are top choices). There also are crepes, French toast and Belgian waffles.
Hawaiian Monarch Hotel
444 Niu St., Waikiki; 429-0945
Breakfast, brunch (closed Tuesdays). $$
D.K STEAK HOUSE
Chef-owner D.K. Kodama certainly puts in the time to create the perfect steak. The restaurant dry ages steaks in a process that takes 14 to 30 days, and the finished product is well worth it. Try d.k Steak House’s signature 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye or the 20-ounce bone-in New York. Have it dry-rubbed paniolo style, with accompaniments of grilled sweet Maui onions and creamed corn. There is a vegetarian menu for the noncarnivores in your party, and seafood entrees include Maine lobster and Alaskan king crab legs.
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
2552 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, 931-6280
dksteakhouse.com. Dinner. $$$$
A new addition to the Kalihi dining landscape, Da Hub is a must-try for poke aficionados and those looking for great value when it comes to plate-lunch fare. Owner Kealoha Fernandez takes pride in the fresh fish he buys direct from the fish auction at Honolulu Harbor, which is then mixed with a combination of more than a dozen toppings and sauces to each customer’s liking in order to create a perfect poke bowl. Plate lunches at Da Hub are reminiscent of the old Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch in Liliha, where a single plate could feed two or three people. Da Hub kicks it up a notch, however, with items such as monchong katsu, guava chicken, head-on butter garlic shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallops. Order the Kanak Attack plate for a taste of just about everything.
1328 Middle St., 847-7653
Lunch, dinner. $$
Restaurants that serve really good food for vegans and meat eaters are tough to find. But with Da Spot, couples with conflicting diets no longer have to settle on staying home for dinner. This Mediterranean restaurant serves curry plate lunches, sandwiches, gyros, acai bowls and a large selection of smoothies. Try their Moroccan chicken or their lamb gyro with house-made pita. Afterward, splurge on their house-made baklava with haupia ice cream topped with chocolate syrup and fruits.
2469 S. King St., Moiliili, 941-1313
Lunch, dinner. $
Start with Dagon’s signature dish: green tea leaf salad. This favorite includes crunchy peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, green and yellow split peas, fried garlic, tomatoes and sunflower seeds, topped with fermented tea leaves. Pumpkin stews (made with shrimp, pork or chicken) also are a hit. Dagon features the cuisine of Myanmar, influenced as it is by the bordering countries of India, Thailand and China. The variety includes an array of curry, noodle, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, vegetable and fish dishes.
2671 S. King St., Moiliili, 947-0088
DEAN’S DRIVE INN
The Kaneohe restaurant has been in expansion mode, moving in mid-February from Adon Plaza down the street to a bigger space. Being featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” played a huge role in the decision to go big. Host Guy Fieri called Dean’s “the epitome of casual gourmet.” Owner/chef Dean Mishima has added three new cooks and now has 30-40 tables rather than just five. Signature dishes are the surf-and-turf combo (ahi cakes and teriyaki steak) and any fish plate topped with soy ginger sauce.
45-270 William Henry Road, Kaneohe, 247-1300
Lunch, dinner (closed Friday and Saturday). $-$$
DIAMOND HEAD MARKET & GRILL
Doraku always seems to be on the cutting edge — no surprise since owner Kevin Aoki is the son of late Benihana founder Rocky Aoki. The sushi is outstanding, from nigiri to specialty rolls. The Doraku, Red Dragon, White Dragon and uni rolls are among the most popular, with garlic steak, pan-seared salmon, miso butterfish and, when available, salmon/hamachi kama cheeks leading the list of entrees. New on the menu: miso pork udon and green tea tiramisu. There also is a Doraku Waikiki.
1009 Kapiolani Blvd., Kakaako, 591-0101
Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki, 922-3323
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$
DOWNBEAT DINER & LOUNGE
Downbeat features a retro experience with vinyl booths, milkshakes and burgers. Every item on the extensive menu – from wings to chicken wraps to ham and cheese – can be made vegan or vegetarian. Most items are under $10, and pupu are half off from 4 to 7 p.m.
42 N. Hotel St., 533-2328
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night. $
Tucked behind Big City Diner in Kaimuki, this diminutive shop turns out innovative sandwiches — from the most popular French dip sandwich with its tasty roast beef on a fresh baguette and a side of jus to the homemade Kulana grass-fed beef sliders. Owner Justin Parvizimotlagh mixes up the sliders daily with different cheeses and fixins. The Turkey Jam Sam — turkey salad with a smoky bacon jam – and a satisfying avocado toast also hit the spot. You’ll often find creative specials including braised pork carnitas and the peanut butter pastrami, which has a whole-grain peanut butter Dijon (oddly, it works). The sandwiches are made to order, so there can sometimes be a bit of a wait. But that gives you time to find them on Facebook and Instagram: @earlkaimuki. Those are the best places to find out specials, events and ways to earn a free sandwich. Parvizimotlagh says the shop’s name is a double meaning: It’s a play off the 18th century aristocrat, Earl of Sandwich, and an acronym for “Eat a real lunch.”
1137 11th Ave., (next to Jawaiian Irie Jerk), 200-4354
Lunch, dinner. $
This unassuming Mexican joint is easy to miss as you drive into Wahiawa on Kamehameha Highway. But it’s definitely worth a stop to sample the authentic homestyle cuisine. The dining area has only six tables, which you’ll often find occupied by families and service members from nearby Schofield Barracks. You can’t go wrong with one of the platillos (the Platos Mexicanos is a good way to sample a tamal, a sope and a gordita) or the huevos con chorizo y papas (scrambled eggs with spicy sausage and potatoes). The tamales, handmade steamed corn masa stuffed with shredded pork served with sour cream, aren’t available during the Christmas season due to demand from special orders, so plan accordingly. The horchata, a sweet, rice milk drink redolent with cinnamon, helps cool all things spicy. A word to the wise: There’s a reason there are three warnings on the menu about the homemade salsa. It comes free with the first round of chips, but use it cautiously, it’s muy picante.
177 S Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa; 622-5829
Lunch, dinner, open for breakfast on weekends. $$
Elena’s is another deserving local restaurant to win the praise of Guy Fieri of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The crispy pork belly is combined with fish sauce, Hawaiian salt, tomatoes and onions. Elena’s is run by siblings Richard Butuyan and Mellissa Cedillo, whose parents opened the restaurant in 1974. Other favorites are pork adobo fried rice omelet and sari-sari, a mixture of vegetables, shrimp and pork belly in a flavorful broth. The restaurant also has a fleet of orange-colored lunch wagons.
94-866 Moloalo St., Waipahu, 676-8005
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$
Fendu Boulangerie might be the only European-style bakery that has a lychee-inspired item as one of its top sellers. Chef-owner Niel Koep’s Lychee Streusel Danish is baked with vanilla pastry cream, almond cream and Danish dough. In addition to a long list of sweet treats, the bakery also produces multigrain breads. On the savory side of things, the oven-roasted smoked turkey, black forest ham and curried chicken salad sandwiches, as well as the pesto chicken panini, are hits. Among rustic gourmet pizzas is Hamakua Farms Mushroom Mania (alii, oyster, shimeji and shitake mushrooms with cracked black pepper).
2752 Woodlawn Drive No. 5-119, 988-4310
Breakfast, lunch, early dinner (breakfast, lunch only Sunday). $
FOOK YUEN SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Let’s start with lobster. At Fook Yuen, have it with black bean sauce, garlic, black pepper sauce or in a salt-and-pepper preparation. The seafood favorites continue with Dungeness crab, prawns, clams, steamed fish and the always popular honey walnut shrimp. Don’t like seafood? Try the sizzling platters, or other beef, pork, and noodle dishes. Given the amount of traffic in the area and the limited parking, you might want to avoid rush hour, and you can — Fook Yuen is open until 3 a.m.
McCully Shopping Center
1960 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 200, 973-0168
Lunch, dinner, late night. $-$$
Reno Henriques, chef and owner of Fresh Catch, enjoys fishing, diving and cooking, so it seemed inevitable that he’d open a seafood restaurant. Top selections at the two locations are the poke, squid luau, ahi katsu, seared ahi, furikake salmon and fish tacos. Fresh Catch also has smoked meat, fried rice and local favorites such as beef stew and laulau. The restaurant runs weekday food trucks at Campbell Industrial Park (91-165 Kalaeloa Blvd., 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and Sand Island Industrial Park (1130 Sand Island Parkway, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.).
3109 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 735-7653
45-1118 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, 235-7653
Lunch, dinner. $
Established in 1991 by sisters Gina Song and Yong Hae Han, this restaurant boasts huge portions and it’s difficult to argue with that approach. Plate lunches include four choices of vegetables and three scoops of rice. There is a lot of quality going on here as well, especially in the kalbi, meat jun, fish jun, barbecue chicken and bulgogi. Gina’s special is packed with multiple items: kalbi, bulgogi, barbecue chicken and mandoo. It’s the most expensive item on the menu at $11.50. For meals on an even bigger scale, the family pack feeds four to six. Gina’s also caters.
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., 735-7964
Lunch, dinner. $
Variety will never be an issue for those who dine at Golden Duck. The menu offers 223 numbered items and that doesn’t include the daily specials. The breakdown of the main categories: 36 fowl, 33 pork/beef, 37 seafood and 30 noodle. Dishes that have received praise include cold ginger chicken, honey walnut shrimp, boneless minute chicken, string beans and pork, salt-and-pepper shrimp, shrimp canton and taro kau yuk. To get a little for a lot, the lunch, dinner and Golden Duck plates are all under $10.
1221 S. King St., Moiliili, 597-8088
GOLDEN PORK TON-KATSU RAMEN BAR
Relax along the waterfront with a meal of Greek favorites and a view of the marina. Choose lamb souvlaki, lamb shank, moussaka or a Greek steak, loaded with the classic flavors of garlic, olive oil and cinnamon. Appetizers run hot and cold (literally) from choices of fried eggplant, fried kalamari and marides (deep-fried fish eaten whole) to cold dips of hummus, tzatziki (yogurt with cucumber and garlic) and taramasalata (a caviar-based dip served with pita).
Koko Marina Center
7192 Kalanianaole Highway, Hawaii Kai, 396-8441
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
GREENS & VINES
Sylvia and Pete Thompson went vegan on the New Year’s Day following Pete’s heart attack in late 2003. Their new diet led Sylvia to open Licious Dishes in 2007. Five years later, the venture expanded into Greens & Vines. The menu is raw and vegan, with an extensive wine list (Pete’s specialty). Sylvia’s signature dish is a Living Lasagna of zucchini, pesto, sun-dried tomato marinara, a cashew “ricotta,” spinach and sliced tomatoes. Other favorites: Kaffir Miso Pad Thai Salad and the Wicked Chocolate Tart. All dishes are gluten-free, non-GMO and made from scratch.
909 Kapiolani Blvd., 536-9680
Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays). $$
GRONDIN FRENCH-LATIN KITCHEN
Cooking it yourself doesn’t get much more fun or more tasty than at Gyu-Kaku. This Japan-based yakiniku chain, with three Oahu locations, has a wide selection of items to grill, including beef tongue, kalbi, filet mignon and Angus beef ribs. Top-of-the-line choice is Kobe-style rib-eye steak. Vegetable, poultry and seafood selections fill out the meal. Dessert items include several gelatos, the most popular being Yakimochi (with grilled mochi rice cake) and S’mores.
1221 Kapiolani Blvd., No. 105, 589-2989
Windward Mall, 744-2157
307 Lewers St., Waikiki, 926-2989
Lunch, dinner. $$
All your typical Vietnamese delights are offered here, from barbecue pork and chicken, to pho, to salads. The real show stealer, though, is the Imperial Roll, filled with imitation crab, ground pork, long rice, carrots and onions wrapped in rice paper and fried until crispy. A vegetarian version includes tofu, chop suey yams, long rice, cooked mung beans and potatoes. Also popular is the Vietnamese fondue, a shabu-shabu-style dish with shrimp, calamari and beef.
1140 12th Ave., Kaimuki, 735-7581
Lunch, dinner. $$
HALEIWA JOE’S SEAFOOD GRILL
Haleiwa Joe’s has earned its good reputation as a dependable lunch and dinner spot, at both its Haleiwa and Haiku Gardens locations. Diners can often expect to wait for a seat because of the restaurants’ popularity. Prime rib (served in limited quantities), big hamburgers and barbecued ribs are consumed avidly, but don’t forget that this restaurant does a fine job with seafood, too. Try the grilled fish tacos or crab and avocado salad for proof. Servings are oversized; order accordingly or plan to take food home.
66-011 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, 637-8005
46-336 Haiku Road, Kaneohe, 247-6671
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
HANK’S HAUTE DOGS
Though Hank’s has long been an established venue in Honolulu, let’s not forget about chef Hank Adaniya’s indelible contribution: He gave everyday isle folks access to gourmet food via a truly affordable platform — the hot dog stand. His Kobe and lobster dogs, dressed in quality toppings, are the most obvious examples, but there’s also the buffalo, wild boar, alligator, andouille, chorizo, Portuguese sausage and other dogs. A homemade burger has a strong following, as do Hank’s truffle cheese fries and truffle macaroni and cheese, made with English cheddar and Italian white truffle oil. Now, Adaniya has revamped his hours, opening for breakfast and lunch exclusively. A simple late-breakfast themed menu is offered 9 to 11 a.m., with such items as Portuguese sausage egg and hollandaise with Breakfast Fries. His beloved lunch menu follows.
324 Coral St., Kakaako, 532-4265
Executive chef/co-owner Rodney Uyehara showcases fine American-French cuisine with his top dishes of escargot and Hamakua mushrooms, osso buco, a Maryland crab Reuben, cioppino, pork chops and Harris Ranch rib-eye steak. Co-owner Terry Kakazu also owns the adjacent HASR Wine Co., with more than 500 labels, making myriad choices available for pairing with dinner. Oh, and the name? It stands for “Highly Allocated Spoiled Rotten.”
31 N. Pauahi St., 533-4277
Lunch, dinner (no dinner Monday), closed Sunday. $$$
HAU TREE LANAI
The ambiance is difficult to beat at Hau Tree Lanai, which literally sits under the hau trees at The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. Chef Rene Caba’s food is quite spectacular as well. For breakfast, Hau Tree Lanai is known for poi pancakes and six types of eggs Benedict. For lunch, papaya chicken salad is a top choice. At dinner, seafood takes center stage, with the spotlight on a mixed grill of lobster, jumbo shrimp, scallops and fresh island fish with a Boursin sweet chili sauce. Other favorites: miso-sake salmon and garlic ahi.
The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel
2863 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, 921-7066
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $$-$$$$
HAWAII POT SHABU SHABU HOUSE
Once upon a time, the only way westsiders could dine on shabu shabu was to leave the west side. Then came Hawaii Pot, right in the heart of Kapolei near Foodland, and we all lived happily ever after. This place has the formula for great hot pot all figured out. The staff is welcoming and friendly, the broths loaded with flavor, the add-in ingredients fresh and plentiful. The original soup base is a no-fail choice, but the Passion Hawaiian with tomato and pineapple is a cut above. Lunch sets, starting at $12.99, are a great deal, or pick a personal pot for just $4. The seafood and mushroom broth choices come with so many add-ins that you won’t need many side dishes to come away happy.
Kapolei Village Center
485 Kapolei Parkway, 693-8666
Lunch, dinner. $$
HE’EIA KEA PIER GENERAL STORE & DELI
Enjoy a meal with priceless views of Kaneohe Bay and the Koolau Mountains at this Kaneohe landmark. The streamlined menu offers plate lunch staples like shoyu chicken, loco moco and fish katsu, plus their trademark Old School Burger and Grandma’s Lumpia. Breakfast is an all-day affair as well, with the kimchee fried rice bowl a highlight. It’s always hard to pick just one plate here, so we order the entire menu and eat leftovers the next two days.
46-499 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, 235-2192
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $
HELENA’S HAWAIIAN FOOD
Craig Katsuyoshi, owner of Helena’s Hawaiian Food, says some families have been coming to the restaurant for three generations, and many consider it a vital part of the Kapalama community. Helena’s has been family-run since Katsuyoshi’s late grandmother, Helen Chock, opened it in 1946. Katsuyoshi; his mother, Elaine; wife, Kaleilani; and niece, brother-in-law and nephew all work for the restaurant. Customer favorites are the pipikaula-style short ribs, which are seasoned, hung up to dry and pan-fried, and the butterfish collars (fried or boiled). Other winners are the kalua pig, squid luau, lomi salmon and haupia. In 2000, Helena’s became one of a handful of local restaurants to win a James Beard Foundation regional classic award.
1240 N. School St., 845-8044
Lunch, dinner (closed Saturdays-Mondays); cash only. $-$$
Chef and owner Suman Basnet serves up Indian and Nepalese cuisine at this Kaimuki establishment. A favorite appetizer is the Everest Choeela (chicken tikka marinated with mild spices and mixed with green onions, jalapenos and onion). Popular entrees are the Mix Tandoori Grill (with chicken tikka, lamb and shrimp) and chicken tikka masala (boneless chicken cubes grilled then simmered in a rich, creamy, lightly spiced tomato sauce). You’ll also find biryanis, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes, as well as Himalayan and madras curries. Included among the 14 tandoori breads are a number of naan choices.
1137 11th Ave., second floor, Kaimuki, 735-1122
Lunch (Tuesdays-Fridays), dinner. $$-$$$
HOME BAR & GRILL
Home Bar & Grill is a happening place to be after a long day of work. It’s usually bustling and it can get loud – from the music to fans watching sporting events on TV. Among the many ono pupu-style dishes, Tater Tot Nachos (cheese, bacon bits, jalapenos, olives, green onions, sour cream and salsa) are a big hit, as well as Big John’s Kim Chee Fried Rice, wafu steak, kalbi fried noodles, garlic chicken and poke. The burgers and steaks are delicious. Dine and drink until very late: The restaurant closes at 2 a.m. daily. Check out Home Bar & Grill on Instagram for the latest specials.
1683 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, 942-2235
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$
HONOLULU MUSEUM OF ART CAFE
The Honolulu Museum of Art Cafe offers a lot of cool sights to go with a satisfying lunch. The courtyard dining area is surrounded by gardens, a waterfall, an 85-year-old monkeypod tree and sculptures. The menu offers 10 salads, including one topped with grilled shrimp. The filet mignon sandwich is served with red onion-Dijon caper relish, while the portobello mushroom sandwich includes roasted red pepper, fontina cheese and caramelized onions.
Honolulu Museum of Art
900 S. Beretania St., 532-8700
Lunch (closed Sundays and Mondays). $$
HUGHLEY’S SOUTHERN CUISINE
It’s easy for the eyes to get bigger than the stomach when perusing the extensive menu of this go-to venue for Southern fare — ribs, brisket, pork chops, oxtail, catfish, chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, po’ boys and classic sides of candied yams, hush puppies, fried okra, “famous fries,” red beans and rice, coleslaw, collard greens and more. Beware of ordering one too many a dish in all your excitement. Entrees come with two sides and cornbread, and portions are generous. Brisket and ribs are hearty with a full-bodied smokiness — thoroughly delicious and well suited for local palates. And Hughley’s bills its chops as the “best pork chops in the 808.” But amid all the heavy-hitting meats, the catfish still demands equal time in the spotlight. Dusted in cornmeal and fried, its solid crunch on the outside is well balanced by delicate and tender flesh inside. Creamy tartar sauce finishes it off perfectly. As for the sides, you can’t go wrong with the decadent mac and cheese or mashed potatoes with gravy, and those who love having green on their plates will be gratified when they taste the collards. The restaurant is BYOB with no corkage fee. And to top off that bonus, dine-in guests will enjoy jazz coming through the speakers and an exceptionally well-mannered, attentive waitstaff.
Aiea Town Square
99-080 Kauhale St., 380-4200
It’s all about the sauce, and with the variety of sauces, relishes and mustards here, you can create dozens of flavor combinations for your hot dog. First, select your bread — white, wheat or bacon taro. You get a small loaf, which is punctured and toasted on a spike. Then you choose either Polish sausage or a veggie dog. Next, pick your sauce — original, jalapeno, chili pepper or habanero. Top it off with some relish and mustard, and grab a delicious cup of fresh-squeezed lemonade. It’s a fast, filling, tasty lunch. Don’t forget to ask for the kamaaina price.
2370 Kuhio Avenue (inside Food Pantry), 634-2834
1050 Ala Moana Blvd. (Ward Warehouse), 585-8715
66-236 Kamehameha Highway, next to North Shore Marketplace, 923-4510
HY’S STEAK HOUSE
If you’ve never been to Hy’s and want to make the best choice off the menu, the restaurant makes it easy. Hy’s lists its “all-time favorites” of nine mouthwatering choices. The chef’s selection is the roast rack of lamb. All steaks are USDA prime, aged and trimmed on-site and cooked over kiawe wood. Other recommendations: Escargot a la Hy’s, a seafood and avocado salad, filet mignon, porterhouse T-bone steak, lobster tail, bananas Foster and cherries jubilee.
2440 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki, 922-5555
One of Imanas Tei’s top sellers is chanko nabe, a hot-pot dish that sumo wrestlers consume in huge quantities to put on weight. The stew includes chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, scallops, crab, clams and a variety of vegetables. Another favorite is Seafood Dynamite, with scallops and shiitake mushrooms in a mayonnaise mixture that contains masago (fish eggs), white miso and sugar. Imanas Tei, with Keisuke Asai as chef/owner, also serves shabu shabu, sushi and sashimi. Of course, a quality lineup of beer and sake is available.
2626 S. King St. (next to Puck’s Alley), 941-2626
This restaurant for garlic lovers incorporates the bulb in dishes of mushrooms and tofu, ahi spinach salad, crab and stir-fries. Irifune’s signature dish is garlic ahi; a favorite appetizer is breaded tofu with ginger-tori sauce. Need more choices? Try one of the sushi, poke, sashimi, curry, chicken, tempura, donburi, katsu or seafood items. Cap your visit with the ice cream crepe.
563 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu, 737-1141
Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays and Mondays). $-$$
Few people think about going to a teppanyaki restaurant after hours to eat tofu. But at Izakaya Gazen, the homemade tofu sampler makes the entire visit worthwhile. This dish includes zaru (tofu served in a basket), sukui (in light milky broth) and kurogoma (with black sesame seed). Other favorites: Kahuku shrimp “kakiage,” Japanese-style omelet, Hamakua tomato and crabmeat salad, and rib-eye steak with garlic-lemon sauce. There also is a top-notch lineup of sushi. It all goes well with the many selections of sake and beer.
2840 Kapiolani Blvd., 737-0230
Dinner; open late Fridays-Saturdays. $-$$
This traditional izakaya offers an extensive array of local-style Japanese bar fare, with everything from fresh sashimi to grilled and deep-fried foods. Specialties range from a crab and avocado salad with a light yuzu dressing, to karei karaage, deep-fried flounder that’s delicious bones and all. Other crowd pleasers are Nonbei’s wafu steak with garlic and onion sauce, and misoyaki butterfish. And a maguro mori platter offers a sampling of three grades of ahi, including the vaunted fatty chutoro and otoro. Devotees also return for the restaurant’s signature frozen sake slush. Fiery, salty, sour yuzukosho sauce at the table is a plus.
3108 Olu St. (just off Kapahulu Avenue), 734-5573
IZAKAYA TORAE TORAE
At Torae Torae, chef Hide Yoshimoto does his best to keep guests guessing about what he’ll plate next. Sushi and seafood provide the menu’s foundation, so you may find yourself first gulping down a seafood shooter that is the equivalent of a sashimi mix in liquid form, with a small dice of oyster, scallop and shrimp, ikura pearls and a dollop of uni suspended in ponzu sesame sauce. Ahi tataki is one of the chef’s signatures, dressed up with sweet onion, wakame, kaiware sprouts and the crunch of garlic chips, flavored with ponzu and finished with zigzags of garlic mayo. It’s not all about seafood. Pork belly kakuni, rib-eye steak served with your choice of teriyaki or sizzling garlic sauce, and crispy skin Jidori chicken have their share of fans. Omakase meals liberate you from having to edit your desires. You’ll be sitting in close proximity to fellow diners, the better to enjoy their meal vicariously.
1111 McCully St. (at Young Street), 949-5959
The slogan of J.J. Dolan’s is “Cheaper than therapy and way more delicious.” That typifies the laid-back, fun atmosphere at this Irish pub that specializes in New York-style pizza. Top choices include The Giacomo, with sausage, pepperoni, salami and olives, and the Scampi Pie, which features bay shrimp, mushrooms and J.J.’s scampi sauce. Or, create your own pizza from among 21 toppings (limit four per pizza). Wash it all down with any number of J.J. Dolan’s authentic hand-poured beverages.
1147 Bethel St., 537-4992
Lunch, dinner, late night (closed Sundays). $$
JADE DYNASTY SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Jade Dynasty has made life easy for dim sum lovers by making its delectable small dishes available until 5 p.m. Favorites include mochi rice with dried scallops and chicken, shrimp dumplings and custard tarts. Fill out the meal with other Chinese favorites — many diners like to spice it up with Sichuan fish fillets and beef dishes. Live crab, lobster and Kahuku prawns can be prepared many ways.
Ala Moana Center, 947-8818
Lunch, dinner. $-$$$
JAPANESE BBQ RESTAURANT YOSHI
Chef Jon Matsubara puts forth six specialty menu items, including Singaporean Chili Lobster Tails and a 6-ounce filet mignon with lobster tail. Japengo’s bouillabaisse is a seafood dish with a little bit of everything — lobster, prawns, clams, scallops and island fish. Steak lovers find the Hawaiian Ranchers 16-ounce pulehu rib-eye to be a no-fail choice. Sashimi and sushi are of the highest quality, as is the top dessert selection, coconut creme brulee.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
JAWAIIAN IRIE JERK
Owner and chef Cassie Simmonds learned about Jamaican cooking from his grandmother while growing up in Portland, Jamaica. This restaurant is known for jerk cooking, a style in which a spicy mixture coats meat in a dry rub or wet marinade. Chicken, shrimp, rib-eye steak and chicken or pork sandwiches are all served jerk-style, with the chicken being a top choice. Also recommended: oxtail stew and goat curry. For dessert try the Caribbean-style bread pudding or Jamaican coconut rum cream pie. For a taste of Jamaican culture, sample the live steel-drum music on weekend nights.
1137 11th Ave., Kaimuki, 388-2917
Lunch, dinner; closed Tuesdays, Sundays dinner only. $$
The udon and broth served here come close to what you’d see in Japan’s finest establishments. A top selection is nabeyaki udon, which includes Chinese cabbage, Chinese peas, shiitake mushrooms, egg and choy sum. Shrimp and eggplant tempura are served alongside. Tempura udon, served hot or cold, is another popular choice. Not a noodle fan? Various curry, katsu, fish and donburi plates are also done well. And if you just can’t make up your mind, pick a combination plate.
1936 S. King St., 947-2211
Lunch, dinner. $$
JINROKU PACIFIC TEPPAN GRILL & BAR
The top draw here is okonomiyaki, a Japanese mega-omelet that involves customers pouring pancake batter onto a grill and adding various toppings. Among the nearly 15 okonomiyaki selections are pizza, seafood, curry, beef and pork. Entree items include the Jinroku combination (steak, seafood and grilled vegetables), special combination (steak, lobster, scallops and grilled vegetables), New York strip steak and filet mignon. For dessert, try the Cream Kuromitsu Milk Pudding a la Mode.
2427 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki, 926-8955
Lunch, dinner. $$$
JJ BISTRO & FRENCH PASTRY
This cozy, classy bistro gets it done on two fronts – in the cafe and in the bakery. The cafe serves French and Laotian cuisine with a favorite entree being the Fisherman’s Pot Pie (salmon, scallops, shrimp, bamboo, eggplant, red bell peppers and zucchini with green curry sauce, served on a puff pastry shell). Also popular: pad thai with lobster, grilled New York steak brioche and baked lamb Wellington, plus a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. For a sweet ending, the bakery offers more than 50 colorful desserts, including JJ’s signature Chocolate Pyramid Mousse.
3447 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 739-0993
Lunch, dinner. $$
Kick off your lunch experience with a tour of one of Oahu’s majestic farms on a wagon pulled by a tractor. Then kick back in the cafe to sample dishes that show off produce from those fields. Most of the ingredients are fresh from Kahuku Farms or a neighboring farm; most of the menu items are vegetarian. Refreshing drinks, smoothies, ice cream and sorbets are made from the farm’s pineapples, bananas, papayas and lilikoi. For something more substantial, pizza and a panini sandwich of grilled vegetables are solid choices. For dessert, grilled banana bread (topped with vanilla caramel and vanilla haupia) is a real winner.
56-800 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, 293-8159
Lunch (closed Tuesdays). $
KAHUMANA ORGANIC FARM & CAFE
This difficult-to-find restaurant in Waianae serves good food for a good cause. It’s part of the Kahumana Community Center, whose mission is to “co-create a healthy, inclusive and productive farm-based community with homeless families, people with disabilities and youth.” The produce can’t get much fresher, as it is grown on the farm. Chef Robert Zuckerman’s top dishes are the organic “keiki” green salads (with 12 varieties of baby Asian greens and baby lettuces), pestos (topped with fish, chicken or shrimp) and stir-fries (tofu, chicken or shrimp). For dessert, popular choices are Robert’s Lilikoi Cheescake and Supa’ Chocolate Brownies.
86-660 Lualualei Homestead Road, Waianae, 696-2655
Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays and Mondays). $$
KA IKENA LAAU’E
Serving a multicultural menu with unique choices made from fresh ingredients, Kai Market brings elegance to the buffet dining experience — with all of the action taking place just steps from the waterfront in Waikiki. With selections laid out beautifully and constantly refreshed, the Kai Market buffet line is as much a delight to the eyes as it is to the stomach. The poke station is a must, but don’t forget to try the alae salt-crusted prime rib, crispy pork belly or the seafood curry stuffed with clams. For dessert, search out the mango custard. Don’t forget to bring a local ID, either; kamaaina get 25 percent off the buffet’s regular price of $55.
2255 Kalakaua Ave., 921-4600
Breakfast, dinner. $$$
Kaiwa, with executive chef Hideaki Kishishita in charge, is a sushi and teppanyaki restaurant that is Tokyo chic from the decor to the food. A top teppan selection is heart of palm tempura. Popular entrees are the grilled seafood (Tristan lobster, Atlantic salmon, black tiger shrimp and scallops), grilled Kurobuta pork (pork loin with chunky barley miso and deep-fried Tokyo negi) and wagyu garlic sirloin steak. The sushi here is of the highest quality. The banzai roll (soft shell crab, avocado, perilla, cucumber, pea sprouts and mountain burdock) and aburi tuna roll (seared tuna, avocado, cucumber, Maui onion and fried garlic chips) are can’t-miss selections. Desserts include green tea parfait and soy milk pancake.
Waikiki Beach Walk
226 Lewers St., second floor, 924-1555
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$$
Perhaps no other plate-lunch establishment combines casual atmosphere and gourmet cuisine better than Kaka‘ako Kitchen. Executive chef Russell Siu has a huge selection of local dishes, such as beef stew, loco moco and furikake tempura catfish. House specialties include madras chicken curry and boneless deep-fried pork chops. There also are salads, wraps and sandwiches. This year, Kaka‘ako Kitchen’s 12 Months of Giving campaign sets aside 20 percent of sales from a featured monthly dish to a designated nonprofit organization.
1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 596-7488
Lunch, dinner. $$
Kimukatsu is known for its 25-layer pork cutlet, served at its Shirokiya location in Ala Moana Center. What makes the Waikiki location different is its collection of tonkatsu versions. A must order is the nanban, a sweet-sour sauce and a creamy tartar sauce served over Kimukatsu’s original tonkatsu. Or try tonkatsu topped with ume, daikon and shiso leaf, served with a ponzu dipping sauce. Those on low-carb diets will enjoy the unlimited cabbage salad served with every katsu set. Cheap parking is pretty nonexistent, but kamaaina get a discount, which partly makes up for that.
320 Lewers St., Waikiki, 922-1129
Lunch, dinner. $$
KONA BREWING CO.
Don’t let the name of the restaurant fool you. Yes, there is plenty to drink at Kona Brewing Co., but you’ll find a lot of good grinds here, too. The restaurant, with its view of Koko Marina, is known for nearly 20 types of pizza. Customer favorites are the Hawaiian Luau (kalua pig, barbecue sauce, Maui onion, mozzarella, chevre, pineapple salsa) and Captain Cook (Canadian bacon, Parmesan sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, mushrooms, tomatoes and black olives). Other top items: fish or shrimp tacos, imu pork, sesame-crusted ahi and Sriracha-glazed fish. And last but not least, Kona Brewing Co. brews more than a dozen beers all year.
Koko Marina Center
7192 Kalanianaole Highway, Hawaii Kai, 396-5662
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
KONA KAI SUSHI
The specialty here is omakase, in which dishes are selected by the chef. There are no set prices or items and customers usually eat until full. You’ll get the best cuts of fish available, likely including big-eye tuna. You might also be served high-quality fish, scallop, salmon and ikura. Of course, customers can just order what they like. For those who don’t like sushi, South African lobster tail is a popular entree. Nobu Kurokawa has taken over as owner and for those who haven’t been to the restaurant in awhile, don’t worry, it hasn’t missed a beat.
3579 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 594-7687
L&L HAWAIIAN BARBECUE
LA CUCINA RISTORANTE ITALIANO
La Cucina is a prime example of the importance of culinary lineage. Chef-owner Don Truong captures the bold, intense and rustic homespun essence of Italian cooking in the spirit of mentor Fabrizio Favale of Il Mediterraneo. The restaurant is small, which is manageable for Truong, who creates his dishes from scratch with a couple of drawbacks: The size restriction makes it hard to get a table without a reservation, and service runs slow. Still, people are willing to show up for housemade pasta that begins with semolina flour for an elasticity and heft that gives his ribbonlike trenette a wonderful, toothsome al dente quality, able to stand up to such weighty ingredients as his homemade Italian sausage, sauteed with onions, garlic and porcini, and topped with a sprinkling of pecorino Romano in the dish Trenette Norcina. The menu is full of classic dishes ranging from pesce Provencale sauteed in a lemon-butter sauce with fresh herbs and tomatoes to squid-ink Ravioli Neri filled with lobster and served in a sauce of basil and saffron cream. You’re welcome to create your own dish by choosing a pasta, sauce and topping of chicken, fish or shrimp.
725 Kapiolani Blvd., C-112, 593-2626
LA TOUR CAFE
La Tour Cafe’s top seller is its brightly colored macaron, a light, fluffy cookie of French origin, available in 19 flavors including melona, matcha green tea and yuzu. Before you scarf one (or more) down, try the Kobe French dip sandwich (American wagyu beef and caramelized onions on rustic bread served with au jus), the La Tour burger (with caramelized onions, havarti cheese and salsa verde on challah bun) or bacon jalapeno cheddar burger (with Dijon sauce on challah bun). Or choose from a wide variety of other sandwiches, soups, salads, flatbread pizzas and desserts.
La Tour Plaza
888 N. Nimitz Highway, 697-5000
Gateway Shopping Center
1140 Kuala St., No. 108, 369-7317
Brunch, lunch, dinner. $
LEGEND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
In the late morning, this Hong Kong Cantonese-style establishment is a delight for dim sum lovers. Popular options are the deep-fried taro puff, bao (steamed, stuffed dumplings), chicken feet and egg custard tart. Seats fill up quickly, so the restaurant encourages patrons to arrive before 10:30 a.m. on weekends. At night, this is the place to be for seafood, with a plethora of lobster, crab, prawn, clams and fish dishes. For big parties, a banquet menu is available.
Chinatown Cultural Plaza
100 N. Beretania St., 532-1868
Lunch, dinner. $$
LILIHA BAKERY and COFFEE SHOP
When you talk about Liliha Bakery and Coffee Shop, you won’t get far without mentioning Coco Puffs. The sweet morsel debuted in 1970 to underwhelming results, but 20 years later the recipe was perfected. The bakery now reports that it sells 4,800 to 7,200 every day — now available in original chocolate and green tea. The display cases show off a large selection of pastries, cakes and pies, but it’s not all about the sweets. Both locations are also known for hearty local-style dishes such as loco moco, hamburger steak and mahimahi.
515 N. Kuakini St., 531-1651
580 N. Nimitz Highway, 537-2488
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night (closed Mondays). $
Located in the same strip mall as Mitsuken, Lili’s BBQ is where you can get some of the best Southern-style AND Korean-style barbecue. The plate lunches are huge! Celebrated local plates include the kalbi and fish jun combo. But the best options are barbecued ribs or beef brisket, served with a side of cornbread, kimchee and mac salad. It’s the best Southern-style brisket on the island. Period. Be careful, they run out.
2300 N. King St., Suite 101, 842-9100
Breakfast, lunch, dinner (closed Sundays). $
LITTLE SHEEP MONGOLIAN HOT POT
Hot pot venues abound in Honolulu, but this one — an international restaurant chain with origins in China — stands out for its aromatic broths that feature up to 36 herbs and spices. Little Sheep offers a formidable lineup of selections for cooking, including more than three dozen beef, chicken, pork, seafood, and, reflecting its namesake, lamb items. It also features an array of sausages, meatballs, dumplings, noodles, tofu and even quail eggs. Veggie options are diverse, from the usual mushroom and cabbages selections to lotus root, chrysanthemum greens and taro. A condiment bar of dipping sauces is varied as well to accommodate different palates with its standard ponzu, fiery chili pastes and more. Beyond the pot are sides of grilled skewered items, cold salads, steamed and fried rolls, a Mongolian beef pie, a sesame cake and pupu standards such as edamame and pot stickers. Lunch here is a deal at $12.95 weekdays before 3 p.m., and happy hour runs daily before 7 p.m. and after 9:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The space also features a party room and full bar.
1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 593-0055
Lunch, dinner. $-$$$
LITTLE VILLAGE NOODLE HOUSE
Nuanced Northern Chinese cuisine is the focus of this Chinatown restaurant, known for sophisticated versions of favorite dishes. Preparation is meticulous and flavors are marked by a good balance of spices rather than thick gravies. For a memorable multicourse meal, match every standard choice — taro duck, for example, or honey walnut shrimp — with something unexpected. Dried string beans in chili garlic sauce are a favorite, along with the Lamb Stew Hot Pot, Smoked Cornish Hen and Volcano Pork Chop. Dining alone? Try the Duck Leg Ramen, which comes with hearty kai choy and makes a complete meal in a bowl.
1113 Smith St., 545-3008
Lunch, dinner. $$
It’s all about quality over quantity at Lucky Belly. The number of ramens and plates is limited, but none will disappoint. A popular appetizer is pork belly bao with sake hoisin sauce and pickled cucumbers. Top ramens are the Lucky Bowl (bean sprouts, soft egg, wakamae, sesame seeds, green onion and ginger), Beast Bowl (dinner only; brisket, short ribs and oxtail wontons) and Belly Bowl (pork belly, bacon and sausage). Unique for lunch: tempura shrimp tacos with Asian slaw and yuzu mayo. Lucky Belly also serves a handful of salads.
50 N. Hotel St., 531-1888
Lunch, dinner, late night; closed Sundays. $-$$
LUIBUENO’S MEXICAN & LATIN CUISINE
Luis Silva moved from San Diego to the North Shore in 1992 but it wasn’t until 2010 that he finally fulfilled his dream of opening a Baja-style Mexican restaurant. Silva learned the cooking techniques as a youngster by watching his mother cook for the family. Top items at Luibueno’s are ahi fajitas, carne asada and beer-battered mahimahi tacos. Other solid options are the chipotle baby back ribs and paella (short-grain saffron-spiced rice with shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, calamari, chicken, chorizo and peas). Of course, you have a variety of burritos and quesadillas as well. To wash it all down, Luibueno’s boasts nearly a dozen margaritas and a huge selection of tequilas.
Haleiwa Town Center
66-165 Kamehameha Highway, 637-7717
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$-$$$
MAC 24/7 BAR + RESTAURANT
Executive chef James Aptakin was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in 1992 and in charge of feeding about 6,000 crew members. So you know this guy can feed the masses. His cuisine has gotten a lot more sophisticated since then. The lineup at MAC, which stands for “Modern American Cooking,” includes the MAC-Daddy Pancake Challenge (three 14-inch pancakes that the diner is challenged to consume in 90 minutes), fresh island fish and chips, chicken-fried steak, mini ahi poke tacos and Mac-Aloha (barbecue chicken, kalbi, seared ahi, fried rice and wakame garnish). All breakfast, lunch and dinner items are available 24 hours.
Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel
2500 Kuhio Ave., 921-5564
Open 24 hours. $$-$$$
Maguro means tuna, or ahi, in Japanese, so with that as the house specialty you can bet you’ll be getting premium sushi and sashimi here. Top dishes are magurozukushi (tuna served three ways — as sashimi, grilled and deep-fried), maguro rib (sashimi and deep-fried) and poke don (ahi, sea asparagus, vegetables, macadamia nuts and sesame-based dressing). Order omakase for top-notch sushi at the bar or ask for Maguro Iroiro for all tuna sushi. Top desserts are the Japanese custard cake (a sponge cake-like creation), and warabimochi (fern plant, kinako flour and syrup).
3565 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 732-3775
Lunch, dinner (closed Mondays). $$
After building a career on Hawaii’s ninth island — Las Vegas — Jesse Aguinaldo returned home to open his startup, Mahaloha Burger, where diners can enjoy juicy burgers made with grass-fed Parker Ranch beef, sold in single or double patties, and served on buns grilled in caramelized whipped butter. The flavors are local through and through, and if the basic burger isn’t enough, try the loco moco burger. Those who don’t eat beef can opt for a turkey burger or mahimahi sandwich instead. Then consider a side of Parmaroni fries combining fries, pepperoni and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Hot dogs are also delish. This company is growing fast and after tackling Oahu, Aguinaldo may one day be returning to Vegas with his own biz.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2233 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 9, 926-6500
143 Hekili St., Suite 150, Kailua, 263-2777
MAILE’S THAI BISTRO
Maile Sengoura owns two restaurants with totally different cuisines. Maile’s Thai Bistro, opened in 2009, known for pad thai, panang curry (thick red curry, coconut milk, bell peppers, onions and basil topped with peanut sauce), fried chicken (seasoned with lemon grass and Thai spices with a sweet-sour sauce), fried spring rolls (mushrooms, carrots, long rice and ground pork) and New York steak. The Thai crepe is a favorite dessert. In July 2015, Sengoura opened Bellini Bistro, an Italian restaurant on Ala Moana Boulevard.
Hawaii Kai Towne Center
333 Keahole St., 394-2488
Lunch, dinner. $$
Chef Marc Anthony Freiberg is especially proud of new lunch and dinner items that accompany longtime favorites of lobster linguine, the lobster club, a chilled crab salad and the Mariposa burger. New at lunch is a Waialua asparagus sandwich, made hearty with a pan-fried egg, truffled cheese and speck, and Italian ham. At dinner dig into the new shellfish curry, swimming with shrimp, clams and crab in a kabocha-coconut curry sauce. Local ingredients are a priority for Freiberg, as evidenced by another new item, Kona abalone bruschetta. Mariposa, located inside Neiman Marcus, offers upscale casual dining, which might seem like a contradiction until you see the airy, refined dining space with its view of the ocean. At lunch you’re presented with a celebrated Mariposa popover, and that will seal the deal before you even order.
Ala Moana Center
Neiman Marcus, third floor, 951-3420
Lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch. $$$
MEI SUM DIM SUM RESTAURANT
Dim sum is served all day here, offering the promise of such favorites as deep-fried garlic soft-shell crab, deep-fried garlic eggplant, and spinach and scallop dumplings at any time. If you prefer something sweet, get the coconut sesame balls and custard tarts. Selections are affordable, priced by size of the dish. The regular menu includes a wide selection of beef, poultry, seafood, noodle, rice and soup dishes. It can get loud at Mei Sum and it’s crowded at certain hours, so reservations are highly recommended for large groups.
1170 Nuuanu Ave., 531-3268
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $
MICHEL’S AT THE COLONY SURF
Michel’s boasts “the island’s best oceanfront view of sunset and the Honolulu city lights.” It’s difficult to argue that, and it’s also difficult to question the quality of this restaurant, which features French haute cuisine with island flair. Start with the lobster bisque (Maine lobster meat flamed in cognac), which is prepared at your table. Top entrees are Michel’s Ocean Bounty (Kona baby abalone, Tristan lobster tail, blackened ahi, oysters Rockefeller, potato-crusted mahimahi and scampi-style prawn) and cioppino (Maine lobster, prawns, island fish, Galician octopus, mussels and clams).
2895 Kalakaua Ave, 923-6552
You can count on Million Restaurant to get the basic attractions of yakiniku right, and with its efficient service, large tables and fluorescent lighting, you can get down to business enjoying the impressive array of side dishes and better cuts of meat, served at an attractive price. Open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant takes on a festive atmosphere on weekends, as dating couples, friends and family groups headed to or from a night on the town stop in for good grinds.
626 Sheridan St., 596-0799
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$-$$$
MING’S CHINESE RESTAURANT
Shanghai, Cantonese and Korean items are served here, with the top seller being the Shanghai-inspired xiao long bao, a steamed dumpling filled with flavorful soup and ground pork, normally dipped in red vinegar. For those who really want to venture off the beaten path, Ming’s also serves Cantonese-style chicken knees, made from knee cartilage, found between the drumstick and thigh. It’s made into a crunchy nugget topped with salt, pepper and jalapenos. Of course, the restaurant also serves beef, poultry, seafood and noodle dishes.
Waiakamilo Shopping Center
1414 Dillingham Blvd., 841-8889
Lunch, dinner. $$
MITCH’S FISH MARKET & SUSHI BAR
Earlier this year, Mitch’s completed an expansion that increased seating to nearly 100 from 15. That means more opportunities to experience the restaurant’s fine selection of seafood. The biggest hit is Mitch’s Special Course (lobster sashimi, abalone sashimi, assorted sashimi, a grilled dish, sushi and miso soup), and the slightly more conservative Chef’s Special, which lacks only the abalone sashimi. Both have a two-order minimum. Sushi and chirashi sets are also available. If ordering sushi a la carte, toro and salmon skin are popular options, and the New Zealand oysters on the half shell make a solid starter.
524 Ohohia St., 837-7774
Lunch, dinner. $$$-$$$$
MOLLY’S BBQ & SEAFOOD
The giant smoker parked in front of Molly’s — formerly called Molly’s Smokehouse — attests to the homemade, down-home quality of the ribs, brisket and meaty bone-in chicken served at this barbecue-lovers way station in Wahiawa. Moist, tender, smoky, succulent — it’s all oh so satisfying. Other Southern specialties such as fried chicken and pork chops are also popular choices. Plates come with two sides (beans, collards, coleslaw or fried okra). Almost everything is made from scratch, from the gumbo to the lemonade.
23 S. Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa, 621-4858
Lunch, dinner. $$
MONKEYPOD KITCHEN BY MERRIMAN
Peter Merriman’s Ko Olina restaurant is a godsend for resort visitors seeking an escape within walking distance of their hotels. But locals relish Merriman’s menu as well, especially those who appreciate the venerable chef’s commitment to island-grown ingredients. Grass-fed local beef is among Merriman’s favorites. Find it in a loco moco at brunch, a burger at lunch or a peppercorn-rubbed filet at dinner. Perpetual top choices are the Pumpkin Patch Ravioli (stuffed with roasted squash), tacos made with fish or bulgogi pork, wood-fired pizzas and saimin loaded with toppings. Happy-hour discounts are favorites with the locals, but another great choice is weekend brunch. The gigantic cinnamon buns — the cinnamon comes from Kona — are divine, but first have something substantial, like one of the Benedicts with their wonderfully tangy hollandaise (seared ahi is among the Benedict choices).
Ko Olina Station
92-1048 Olani St., 380-4086
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
MOON AND TURTLE
MORIO’S SUSHI BISTRO
This is the place to go for some of the best sushi on Oahu, but the restaurant seats fewer than 20 people and there are only two seatings – at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. This is not a spur-of-the-moment choice. Reservations are often made months in advance. But once you get in, you’ll understand what the fuss is all about. Order the omakase and expect some really fresh lobster sashimi, chopped up right in front of you and likely still moving when placed on your plate. The head and claws are served in a miso soup. A top appetizer is the soft-shell crab. Once again, don’t forget to plan in advance.
1160 S. King St., 596-2288
Dinner (closed Sundays). $$-$$$$
MORNING GLASS COFFEE + CAFE
For that pick-me-up at the start of the day, look no farther than Morning Glass. Each cup is brewed to order and the beans for the Hawaiian coffee of the day are roasted in house. Among the more popular coffees is the cortado (mix of espresso and steamed milk). Feeling perky now? Bite into an Egg-a-Muffin (English muffin, applewood smoked bacon, tomato jam, over-easy egg, Gruyere cheese and baby arugula). Weekend brunch is a lot more extensive, with macaroni and cheese pancakes (filled with elbow macaroni and aged Vermont cheddar) being the top choice. The burger, made with Kulana beef, is a popular lunch item, but is served only on Fridays and Saturdays.
2955 E. Manoa Road, 673-0065
Breakfast, lunch; full breakfast menu Saturday, Sunday. $
MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE
This Chicago-born global chain starts with USDA prime cuts – only the top 2 percent of beef is rated “prime.” Basically you can pick a steak, any steak, and you’ll be getting a tasty, juicy one. Popular selections are the double-cut filet mignon, signature-cut prime New York strip, porterhouse, center-cut prime rib-eye and Chicago-style prime bone-in rib-eye. Top seafood choices are the Alaska king crab legs, oysters on the half shell and Chilean sea bass. For dessert, go for Morton’s legendary Hot Chocolate Cake or sundae.
Ala Moana Center, 949-1300
MURPHY’S BAR & GRILL
Murphy’s has long been a popular hub for University of Hawaii sports fans, and owner Don Murphy has returned the favor by hosting fundraisers for UH athletic programs. Even if the teams on the big-screen TVs aren’t doing well, at least you’ll get quality food and drink from this Irish-style pub. Go with the corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie (lamb and vegetables), jalapeno poppers, Gaelic steak and spicy fried chicken wings. Or go simpler with a salad or burger. And there’s no lack of drinks to wash it all down, given the wide selection of domestic and imported beers, liquor, wines and specialty cocktails.
2 Merchant St., 531-0422
Lunch (weekdays), dinner. $$
Dining is an aesthetic experience worth savoring at this contemporary kaiseki restaurant, which at first glance looks like an art gallery for all the ceramic pieces on display. These are the works of Nanzan Ito, namesake of the venue, who crafts the earthenware used at the restaurant. Ito is notable for employing ancient Chinese pottery techniques to create contemporary pieces. All the emphasis on Ito’s artistry indicates that the restaurant, which also has locations in Japan and Paris, delivers more than just good food. In fact, the dishes themselves are subtle works of art, wherein texture, flavor and presentation come together for an exquisite meal. Chef Yoshihiro Matsumoto utilizes fresh local ingredients and Japanese staples to deliver a singular six- to eight-course menu that changes monthly. Diners only need decide whether they’d like a drink to accompany the meal. The rest of the time, they can watch the chef and his staff at work in the open kitchen, and even share small conversations with them. Dinner runs about $58, an amazing value for a meal that stirs all the senses.
560 Pensacola St. (at Hopaka Street) 524-0141
Dinner. Closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays. $$$
NICO’S AT PIER 38
Nico’s has evolved over the years and now serves its fare in a spacious, airy, contemporary space. But no matter how some things change, the restaurant owned and operated by chef Nicolas “Nico” Chaize has kept its integrity as THE place to go for fresh fish (it’s still just steps away from the fish auction). The venue opens at 6:30 a.m. with local breakfast favorites such as loco moco, fried rice, sweet bread French toast — and a plate of fish and eggs. The place is bustling at lunch, when fish options abound: There’s a catch of the day, the ever-popular furikake seared ahi, fish and chips, fried ahi belly, and poke bowls from the fish market on the premises. Other items: daily salads, Nico’s beloved cheeseburgers, sandwiches and mainstay plate lunches such as beef stew and chicken katsu. The space boasts a full bar and wines on tap. There are happy hour offerings, and during dinner, the menu gets a bit more upscale, with dishes such as steak frites (rib-eye steak with garlic butter), red wine-braised short ribs and Cajun rub free-range chicken breast. Another huge highlight here is dessert, served all day: Think tiramisu torta, apple pie, chocolate peanut-butter pie, salted caramel cake and carrot cake, just for starters. Nico’s fish market also sells fresh seafood, in-house smoked fish, snacks and drinks.
1129 N. Nimitz Highway, 540-1377
Breakfast Monday-Saturday, lunch, happy hour, dinner daily. No reservations. $-$$
OLIVE TREE CAFE
Many aficionados of things Greek consider this unpretentious little spot to be the ultimate in opa. Savas Mojarrad’s short and simple menu allows true Mediterranean flavors to cut a direct path to your stomach. He seeks out fish, lamb and chicken that are hormone- and antibiotic-free, and prides himself on authentic preparations. Build a meal around the souvlaki (kebabs), served in sandwiches, but be sure to supplement with such favorites as the baba ghanoush (roasted-eggplant dip), avgolemono (egg lemon soup), mussels ceviche or taramasalata (caviar spread). The baklava is outstanding, too.
4614 Kilauea Ave., Kahala, 737-0303
Dinner, cash or check. BYOB. $-$$
ONO HAWAIIAN FOODS
A local-style hole-in-the-wall setting — complete with laminated newspaper articles, autographed photos and awards populating the walls — adds homey charm to the experience of eating some of the best Hawaiian food on the island. This Kapahulu institution is always packed like sardines, with just 10 or so small tables to provide coveted seating for locals and tourists. So plan ahead and be ready to wait your turn for classic, soul-satisfying Hawaiian food. There’s the standard fare kicked up a notch in flavor: hearty laulau, kalua pig, squid luau, chicken long rice, pipikaula, poi and haupia. And Ono also makes dishes that aren’t easy to get anymore, such as naau puaa (pig intestines and luau leaves) and salt meat watercress. There’s also butterfish luau, sardine watercress, tripe stew and chop steak (Mondays only). One more old-school thing not to forget: It’s cash only.
726 Kapahulu Ave., 737-2275
Lunch, dinner. Closed Sundays. Cash only. $$-$$$
Halekulani’s oceanfront restaurant offers breakfast (including a Japanese option of miso soup, vegetables and pickles), lunch, afternoon tea and dinner services, all in a relaxed, elegant setting. Each features delicious and decadent menu options (Tuna and foie gras croquette, anyone? Smoked duck carpaccio?) as well as longstanding classics such as Halekulani’s popovers, Asian-style steamed onaga and the hotel’s signature coconut cake. But it is Sunday brunch for which Orchids is most famous, thanks to a buffet that includes a suckling pig, roasted rib-eye and roast turkey as standard fare. Offerings of such items as eggs Benedict and crepes change weekly, with sauces and fillings that range from crab to salmon to Florentine and more.
2199 Kalia Road, Waikiki, 923-2311
Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, Sunday brunch. Dress code. $$$-$$$$
PAH KE’S CHINESE RESTAURANT
The menu here has more than 150 traditional Chinese choices — the taro duck is done particularly well — but to truly experience Pah Ke’s, order from the house specialties. These reflect chef/co-owner Raymond Siu’s culinary background at the Halekulani, Alan Wong’s and Roy’s restaurants, and reflect a sophisticated interpretation of Asian flavors. Scallops and asparagus are served in a stir-fry with chili paste and garnished with crisp-fried spinach leaves. Braised short ribs are prepared with a Kona coffee rub. And you know how most Chinese restaurants have just one dessert choice (almond float)? At Pah Ke’s you can finish the meal with a slice of Chocolate Decadence Cake flecked with gold leaf, a banana split (with banana ice cream) or perhaps a Mochi Ball in Warm Ginger Broth.
46-018 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, 235-4505
Lunch, dinner. $$
Calling themselves the “home of the original poke bowl,” Pa‘ina Cafe more than delivers on that front. Diners can create their perfect bowl, which comes in three sizes, then make their selections of brown or white rice; hot or mild sauces; eight poke choices range from spicy tuna and limu ahi to shoyu ginger salmon and sweet chili tofu; and more than a dozen toppings, such as kimchee, seaweed salad, masago, natto and tempura flakes. Then there are salad, plate lunch and sandwich creations. Regulars, take note: The popular shichimi-crusted seared ahi bowl graduated from the specials rotation to the regular menu. Other customer favorites: spicy tuna crunch bowl, spicy tuna Asian salad and the pastrami sandwich. The Ward locations also offer fruit and acai bowls, and smoothies, while the newest location at Ward Centre boasts a huge gelato case with 10 gelato flavors and two sorbet selections. And be on the lookout for more locations; owners say their eye is on expansion.
1050 Ala Moana Blvd., 356-2829
1240 Ala Moana Blvd., 356-2829
Koko Marina Center
7192 Kalanianaole Highway, Suite E123A, Hawaii Kai
Lunch, dinner. $
PANCAKES & WAFFLES
Thank Jason and Juli Sung for delivering an indulgent mainland combo to the local masses: waffles topped with fried chicken (with brown or country gravy, if you so desire). It seems a duo tailor-made for our palates, and in fact, the Sungs have done so well they are the winners of the 2015 SBA Young Entrepreneur Award for the City and County of Honolulu. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg at their eatery: There’s all manner of pancakes (butterscotch, apple caramel, ham and cheese, and more), waffles (cinnamon and sugar, strawberries and cream, cheese, and even one with slices of bacon baked inside), eggs Benedict, loco moco, plus a healthy array of omelets, sweet crepes, and white or sweet-bread French toast. Eggs and meat round out the breakfast menu. Then there are burgers, sandwiches and plate lunches. The Dillingham location is open until 2 p.m., while the Waimalu restaurant serves the breakfast-for-dinner crowd through 9 p.m.
City Square Shopping Center
1284 Kalani St., 847-7770
Waimalu Plaza Shopping Center
98-1277 Kaahumanu St., 200-7556
Breakfast, brunch, lunch. $
Delicious comfort food in a chic setting is available from breakfast time to well into the night at Panya Bistro, housed in the sleek Hokua building in Kakaako. The cafe run by sisters Annie and Alice Yeung has been a go-to venue for nearly 20 years, boasting a menu that offers popular dishes such as laksa and oxtail stew, luscious baked goods from their renowned bakery and signature, fresh-juice cocktails from a full-service bar. Patrons can sip on martinis or slurp up Taiwanese Beef Noodles inside the modern space or head for outdoor seating to enjoy the fresh air. Among the best-loved items are Thai Steak Salad, Steamed Fish with Tofu and Indonesian Fried Rice, as well as classics that include Loco Moco with Portobello Mushroom and Panya Pan Fried Ginger Chicken. The cafe also features a specialty wine list that is updated monthly. Happy hour runs 4 to 6 p.m. daily with $5 specials for martinis, mojitos and pupu.
1288 Ala Moana Blvd., suite 116; 946-6388
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
PG & THE LADY, THE
PINEAPPLE ROOM, BY ALAN WONG
Power shopping at a place like Ala Moana Center can build an appetite. Lucky thing there’s the Pineapple Room, right inside Macy’s, beckoning with a menu worthy of a day spent on higher-end browsing. At lunch the menu focuses on burgers and other sandwiches. In fact you can get three different beef burgers, or one made with lamb, taro or shrimp mixed with pork hash. A favorite, though, is the kimchee Reuben. Dinner choices focus on the classic Pineapple Room entrees — miso-garlic butterfish, Kauai grass-fed rib-eye steak, Chinese-style steamed opakapaka and the delightful furikake-crusted salmon with ochazuke risotto. Add dessert — the Haupia Tapioca “Halo Halo” is to die for — and you’ll be well fortified for another round of shopping.
Ala Moana Center
Macy’s, third floor; 945-6573
Breakfast on weekends, lunch daily, dinner daily, except Sundays. $$-$$$
This gastropub’s winning formula is terrific craft libations (with 21 beers on tap from a rotating lineup, some 40 bottled beers and original cocktails created by owner Dave Newman) and amazing food, made in-house. A popular sandwich continues to be the Monte Cristo, executed to perfection with traditional Black Forest Ham, Gruyere cheese and battered French toast. Other yummy items include the Scotch egg, pork belly confit, P&J Stout Burger (lager cheese, garlic aioli), Applewood Smoked Double-Cut Bacon and spiral-cut potato chips. For newbies, food items are listed on the menu with a recommended drink pairing. The gastropub’s latest crowd pleaser is an expanded brunch schedule that runs 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Mouthwatering items on that menu, by executive chef Devin Beppu, include “Scotch Egg” Benedict; the Hulk BLT with fried green tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and remoulade; Eggplant Sliders, Pint Tarts, which takes its inspiration from the childhood toaster favorite; and a Biscuits and Gravy dish that features andouille sausage. Drinks range from a host of bloody marys (including one spiced with Sriracha), a mimosa and Beermosa (fresh orange juice), lilikoi Collins, Cynar Daquiri, the Mixed Emotions featuring three fruit brandies with pineapple juice and sparkling water, and the Talventi, a cocktail on tap comprising rye whiskey, Campari and cold-brewed coffee.
1936 S. King St., 744-9593
Dinner, late night. $$
This tiny plate lunch place delivers big on classic local dishes, thanks to a Japanese sensibility in approaching every dish — that means attention to detail and an understated approach that raises the quality of standard fare such as teriyaki beef, grilled ahi and chicken katsu. Pioneer’s teri beef, for instance, is sliced thin and evenly, never in pieces too large to easily grab with a chopstick, and there’s nary a strip of gristle to wrestle with when chewing. The meat is well marinated and free of excess sauce that so often overwhelms the palate at most other places; rather, flavors are subtle but nicely rounded. The menu here is extensive, with long lists of dishes each for chicken, beef, fish and pork. A sampling: fried chicken served with choice of garlic, spicy mayo or ponzu sauce; hamburger steak; shoyu oxtail; ginger pork; pork shumai; miso or garlic butterfish; salmon katsu; oyster fry; and steak and croquette curries. A real treat here is the rice options, which go beyond the run-of-the-mill white or brown to include a mixed grains and bean rice, and a shiso wakame version. These choices add an extra 50 cents to the cost of the plate, but those interested in exploring beyond the tried-and-true won’t mind paying. The top seller here is the fresh grilled ahi, which is cooked to the desired doneness. The medium-cooked fillet is served just right, with the outside thoroughly cooked and the center still bright pink and soft; the fish is topped with crisp (but not bitter) garlic chips — sheer perfection.
3046 Monsarrat Ave., Kapahulu, 732-4001
Lunch, dinner (closed Mondays). $-$$
REAL A GASTROPUB
A real find (pardon the pun) for beer and pupu lovers, the gastropub has around 25 beers on tap and the can/bottle lineup impresses with some 250 labels. You’ll need some food to go with that: Popular items are the bacon fat fries, pretzel bites (soft pretzels with beer cheese fondue), fish and chips, Buffalo-fried deviled eggs and duck confit “Corn Dogs.” Sliders come in three types (braised pork, fish and “Portobeero” mushroom). Want more alcohol for dessert? The REAL Guinness Float (Guinness gelato floating in Guinness stout) is a solid choice.
1020 Auahi St., 596-2526
Pau hana, dinner (closed Sundays). $
Restaurants in Japan are known for small spaces with cramped seating, but delicious food. Restaurant Do-ne is reminiscent of Japan — water kettles ready for tea, handwritten menus and amazing meals. Try the seafood (chirashi) don, a pupu such as fried tofu, or one of the weekly specials, including Japanese-style steak. Try anything. You can’t go wrong.
1614 Kalakaua Ave., 626-5782
Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays). $-$$
Perhaps best described as an upscale izakaya, Restaurant Ko offers a space that’s bright and rather contemporary, a white, clean design with private nooks. Raw fish shines here, but so do cooked dishes. A “Ko-Course” six-course kaiseki ($55) features some of the restaurant’s most-loved dishes, including lotus root manju, a selection of kamameshi and foie gras sauteed with simmered daikon. Late-nighters who want to end the evening deliciously can flock here as well, through midnight.
Restaurant Ko, 3196 Waialae Ave., 888-5975
Dinner, late night. $$$$
There’s nothing flashy about Kunio. The decor is warm, classic and cozy. The menu is basic teishoku — choose from traditional Japanese specialties, singularly or in combination. Supplement with sushi or a noodle dish. Basic. So why is there always a wait for a table? Because the service is spot-on and the dishes delicious. The hostesses are pretty accurate in estimating wait time, so put in your name and go shopping. This is Waikele Center, after all. Or busy yourself with your phone. Once seated, make your picks: saba, perhaps, in combination with fried oysters; or miso butterfish with unagi. For larger parties, the Funamori Party Boat includes lobster tails, tempura, sushi and sashimi. Or go hot pot with Kunio Nabe, packed with seafood. And always order sushi. It’s super fresh, meticulously presented and crazy good.
94-799 Lumiaina St., Waipahu, 680-9188
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
RumFire at the Sheraton Waikiki is still a great hot spot for pau hana drinks and late-night partying. Renovated late last year, it now features an expanded bar area of more than 10,000 square feet, with four oceanfront cabanas. Menu selections include the RumFire Signature Fried Rice Loco Moco and the Curry Bahn Mi Sandwich. RumFire also offers paired menu items, such as mahimahi tacos and Kahuku shrimp bao, served with craft beers, wines and spirits — in fact, it boasts the largest selection of vintage rums in Hawaii. Happy hour begins at 4 p.m. with drink specials, including RumFire’s famous scorched strawberry cocktails, draft beers and appetizers such as kalua pork nachos and RumFire’s kimchee fried rice. The venue serves lunch and dinner as well, with late-night hours that run through midnight Sundays to Thursdays and 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
2255 Kalakaua Ave., 922-4422
Lunch, dinner, late night. $$-$$$
RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE
When you’re craving a mouth watering steak cooked exactly to your taste, Ruth’s Chris should be at the top of your list. The upscale international chain, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year since its inception in New Orleans, won’t disappoint for date nights and special occasions. Steak lovers can salivate over the monstrous porterhouse for two or opt for the tender petite filet. First-class options from the sea are also available including the ahi sashimi appetizer and delectable blue crabcakes with lemon butter. Don’t forget a side of the rich potatoes au gratin. For dessert? The strawberry flambe is lit at the table for a dazzling finish to a wonderful meal. Nightly happy hour specials are featured in the lounge, along with “wine Wednesdays,” offering featured bottles at 25 percent off.
500 Ala Moana Blvd., 599-3860
226 Lewers St., 440-7910
SANSEI SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & SUSHI BAR
Restaurateur and chef D.K. Kodama is a powerhouse on the local dining scene, and here’s why: His venues consistently deliver well-executed, top-notch and simply delicious fare. Sansei is a prime example. Here, it’s all about the fresh local fish, whether the dish is a popular hamachi carpaccio accented with truffle oil and ponzu, Cajun-seared walu sashimi, riceless sushi or the award-winning calamari salad and shrimp dynamite dishes. There’s every manner of traditional sushi here, served up beautifully, and much for the guest who seeks a hot entree — grilled ahi served with Sansei’s winning Asian shrimp cake, porcini-crusted beef tenderloin, roasted jerk chicken and smoked duck breast are just a few options. Kamaaina early birds can take 50 percent off food and sushi orders Sundays and Mondays from 5:30 to 6 p.m. The restaurant also caters to a late-night dinner crowd through 1 a.m., and those out on the town can enjoy free karaoke Fridays and open mic Saturdays, with drink specials and 50 percent off food and sushi. Happy hour runs 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, with $2 off any cocktail and $5 appetizers.
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
2552 Kalakaua Ave., third floor, 931-6286
Dinner, late night (Friday-Saturday). $$$
SCRATCH KITCHEN & BAKE SHOP
SEOUL GARDEN YAKINIKU
You’ll find the standards of a Korean barbecue restaurant here, along with a varied and tasty selection of complimentary banchan (side dishes), served in a no-nonsense style. A priced-right lunch menu and all-you-can-eat sets are also popular, drawing a crowd of regulars unperturbed by Seoul Garden’s proximity to a Kapiolani strip club.
1679 Kapiolani Blvd., 944-4803
Lunch, dinner. $$
Shaloha is a small place with a big operation. Located in Kaimuki across from Chaminade University, it attracts some heavy foot traffic from students looking for a Mediterranean lunch at a pretty good price. Try the falafel sandwich — fried garbanzo bean balls in a pita layered with vegetables and light dressing and sauces. Check out the lamb sandwich special on Fridays, but beware of long lines.
3133 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 744-4222
Lunch, dinner. $
SHOR AMERICAN SEAFOOD GRILL
With free validated parking and shaded outdoor seating across Kalakaua Avenue from the world-famous Waikiki Beach, SHOR American Seafood Grill is a great way to start the day for both visitors and local residents. SHOR focuses on fresh ingredients, with many items sourced from Hawaii farmers. Papaya comes from Keeau Farms on Hawaii island, while pineapple comes from Dole on Oahu and Naked Cow Dairy supplies locally made cheese. They even use Hula Meli honey, harvested from beehives maintained on hotel grounds. The easy choice here is the SHOR Buffet with a wide selection of pastries, fresh fruit, hot breakfast items, Southeast Asian specialties and an omelet station. But be sure to peruse the menu, where signature items such as a bento-style breakfast with broiled salmon and chilled tofu, buttermilk pancakes with roasted banana and toasted pecans, or the SHOR Traditional Benedict are worthy picks themselves.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
2424 Kalakaua Ave., 237-6145
SIDE STREET INN/SIDE STREET INN ON DA STRIP
Colin Nishida opened his legendary restaurant more than 20 years ago, and while some things have changed — a second Side Street in Kapahulu is now several years old — other things stay the same. Side Street continues to draw in customers (these include top isle and national chefs) with a menu that’s chock full of exceptional local comfort food signature dishes include sizzling boneless kalbi; lilikoi barbecue, and hoisin barbecue baby back ribs; pan-fried pork chops; blackened ahi; nori furikake crusted ahi; spicy chicken; and an award-winning fried rice, complete with lup cheong, Portuguese sausage and bacon. No wonder it’s a hit. Menus also include a nice selection of wines and beers. While the original Hopaka Street eatery has more of a homey bar feel, the bright Kapahulu locale delivers an experience that’s a bit more upscale, with private rooms available for parties as well. The Hopaka locale offers cash-only takeout 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and until 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. In Kapahulu, the restaurant serves lunch on weekends at 1 p.m.
1225 Hopaka St., 591-0253
614 Kapahulu Ave., 739-3939
Lunch (weekdays at Hopaka Street); early dinner, late night. $$
SIGNATURE PRIME STEAK & SEAFOOD
At Signature Prime Steak & Seafood, it’s all about living large. Restaurateur Peter Kim took quite the calculated risk with the spacious 8,000-plus-square-foot fine-dining space, which he has successfully filled with hungry guests bringing big appetites. Meat lovers will find a haven here, thanks to a wet-aged 24-ounce prime porterhouse and a 22-ounce prime bone-in rib-eye, matched in decadence with sides such as fresh sweet creamed corn, luscious lobster mac and cheese and the Signature Seafood Tower that stacks lobster tail and claws, oysters on the half shell, jumbo shrimp and scallops. Newer menu items include an avocado, strawberry and onion salad; buffalo jumbo shrimp; filet mignon sliders; and sizzling prime steak on hot stones. Kamaaina have added incentive to pay a visit with a three-course meal for $56.95 served daily that features a salad, entree of either miso butterfish or 16-ounce prime rib-eye, truffle mashed potatoes, creamed corn and sorbet for dessert. Folks celebrating an event can consider one of three private dining rooms that accommodate anywhere from six to 45 guests. And pau hana groups can chill out after a hard day from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with 50 percent off on select items and discounts on more than a dozen cocktails and premium wines.
Ala Moana Hotel, 36th floor
410 Atkinson Drive, 949-3636
Nightly dinner and happy hour. $$$$
Sorabol is a circus of Korean food — a sprawling, something-for-everyone location often full of families celebrating special occasions, couples and solo diners who just got hungry, with efficient (if sometimes brusque) service. Be sure to request a yakiniku table if you plan to grill your own. Choose less-expensive options such as a set with bulgogi and copious vegetables. (Don’t over-order: Servings are big here.) The menu’s huge, from stone-pot bibimbap to sushi, so there’s sure to be something that appeals.
805 Keeaumoku St., 947-3113
Open 24 hours. $$-$$$
SPALDING HOUSE CAFE
Take a breather from hectic city life and drive up Makiki Heights to the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House, a beautiful campus with a gem of a cafe. The food there is perfect lunch fare, simple yet well executed, with a menu of starters and soups, salads, sandwiches, panini and pasta options. Recommended: a starter of deviled eggs with red pepper puree and pickled onion; turkey Reuben panini with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and caraway-Russian dressing; Mediterranean wrap filled with quinoa, cucumber, eggplant, roasted peppers, greens, herbed yogurt spread and feta; and the gateau for dessert, a flourless chocolate caked topped with fresh whipped cream. Also worth inquiring about is the ginger beer, which is sometimes available. One of the highlights of the cafe is its Lauhala and Lunch picnic service, a packed picnic basket complete with a mat for sitting on the picturesque grounds. Inside is a choice of sandwich or salad for each person, cookies and a choice of beverage. A basket for two is $35. It’s best to call ahead for this one.
Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House
2411 Makiki Heights Drive, 237-5225
Lunch (closed Mondays). $$
SPICY AHI & BBQ
It’s always a pleasure to visit this longtime Japanese seafood eatery, where a continual stream of guests file in for the fresh, sashimi-grade spicy ahi — and so much more. The casual setting of the restaurant, set in a Pearlridge strip mall, belies the quality of the dishes. Find a variety of fresh sashimi in a chirashi sushi bowl, udon and noodle bowls and some 20 teishoku options. The yosenabe, one of two nabemono, or hot pot, selections features a delightful array of items, starting with shirataki (yam) noodles crowded in a large bowl with salmon, clam, shrimp and scallops in a shoyu bonito soup. But as to the namesake of the venue, the spicy ahi here is seasoned just right: hot enough to gratify those who crave spiciness but still edible for those who can’t handle too much heat. It’s served over white, brown or sushi rice, or over a bed of veggies. Add-ons to the bowls include natto, salmon, ikura and tobiko, plus more. (Note: Lunch orders must be placed by 1:40 p.m.; the restaurant reopens for dinner at 5 p.m.)
Times Square Shopping Center
98-1254 Kaahumanu St., Waimalu, 488-4851
Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays and Mondays). $$
STARBUCKS COFFEE CO.
SUGOI BENTO & CATERING
“Sugoi” is a Japanese exclamation that translates to “awesome” or “wow,” and there are many reasons this eatery of local faves is most aptly named. First on the list, of course, is the food. The classic dish here is the garlic chicken, notable for both its crunch and its tenderness, and there’s a spicy version with “a Bruce Lee kick to it,” said owner Zachary Lee. Other top sellers: homemade hamburger steak, a good size at 5 ounces a patty; yakisoba noodles that also come with the option of added spiciness; and chicken katsu with a homemade katsu sauce that’s beloved by regulars. Quickly on its way to becoming another classic is the Korean chicken, perfect for folks who prefer sweetness over the kick of garlic. A big bonus here: Sugoi runs special values on the most popular entrees daily; Lee calls it “our version of McDonald’s Value Meal.” There’s hamburger steak on Mondays, a large bento Tuesdays, katsu Wednesdays, Korean chicken Thursdays, yakisoba with any plate on Fridays, the Sugoi wrap (a breakfast plate) Saturdays and the yakisoba deal repeating Sundays. Another bonus: online ordering. Is there any other word for this place than sugoi?
City Square Shopping Center
1286 Kalani St., 841-7984
Breakfast, lunch. $
With a proven track record of success as a catering operation, it was only a matter of time before Sumo Drive-Inn opened to the masses. Located at the corner of Coolidge and South King streets across from Moiliili Neighborhood Park, the new brick-and-mortar restaurant serves up five different types of bento for $5 each, with such plate lunch staples as mochiko chicken, roast pork with gravy, shoyu chicken and pork adobo. Got an appetite? Go for one of Sumo’s Yokozuna (three-choice) or Ozeki (two-choice) combo plates, or add a bowl of This Lil’ Piggy Slow-Smoked Grinds’ Portuguese bean soup or some smoked meat from K&K Hawaiian Smoked Meats to your order.
946 Coolidge St., 545-7449
Lunch, dinner. $
In the world of conveyor-belt sushi, Sushi Bay is hands-down the best. No wonder so many people are crowded outside, waiting for seats, even on a weekday. The attraction? Good-quality nigiri with slices of fish so long (5 to 6 inches, seriously, you can measure them) that they touch the edges of the plate. Mammoth poke bowls for just $4.95 for a “mini,” which is not so mini. And tasty specialties such as Spicy Tuna Wonton, kabocha tempura and a lightly fried mochi. Prices start at $1.50 a plate. Makes you wonder how they make any money. But don’t argue. Just get in line.
Kapolei Shopping Center
590 Farrington Highway, 693-9922. $
SUSHI GINZA ONODERA
One of Oahu’s better-kept secrets is Sushi Ginza Onodera, the Hawaii outpost of a world-class omakase operation with sister restaurants in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong. With just seven seats at the bar and a couple of private rooms, diners are ensured an intimate, luxurious experience featuring top-notch ingredients and attentive service. Ordering is simple; pick one of three featured omakase menus — $160, $200 or $250 — and you’re good to go. Stick with the sushi-only menu and nosh on fresh nigiri, almost all of it made with fish flown here from Japan. Be sure to save room for dessert!
808 Kapahulu Ave., 735-2375
Dinner (closed Mondays). $$$$
This tiny gem of an izakaya hidden away in the Samsung Plaza is nonetheless packed with fans and newbies who’ve heard the tales of chef Garrett Wong’s artistry. Wong presents a variety of imported and local fresh fish offerings that change seasonally, including a few that aren’t the usual fare for sushi and sashimi. For maximum enjoyment, ask for descriptions of the less-familiar fish such as hamo and akamutsu; those with a sense of adventure will be rewarded for trying them. Some of the most popular fish dishes here aren’t raw — the fried moi is legendary for its crunchy exterior and tender, moist flesh, while those who love collars will find the hamachi kama to be pure bliss. But there’s more to Sushi ii than fish. Regulars rave over the oyster platter, wagyu tartare, karaage chicken and lamb served lollipop style. Newer items, likely on the way to becoming classics: applewood-smoked bacon with ume glaze, edamame sprout tempura, warabi tempura and foie gras torchon, served on crostini with various jams including an apple miso. Plan well ahead: Reservations are a must here, and the wait can be weeks.
655 Keeaumoku St., 942-5350
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
SUSHI IZAKAYA GAKU
Chef-owner Manabu Kikuchi and his expansive menu of traditional and specialty items continue to draw customers seeking top-notch fare, making Gaku among the hottest venues among foodies enamored with Japanese cuisine. Fresh seafood is exceptional here, whether it’s traditional sushi fare, unique local fish selections such as moi and ulua that’s grilled or sliced up sashimi style, or a hamachi tartare made of flesh scraped off the bones and topped with tobiko, green onions and a raw quail egg, then served with nori sheets that guests wrap themselves. Standards are done well; one repeat customer recommends the grilled miso butterfish and steamed crab legs. Also among the long list of popular dishes are house-made tofu topped with dashi jelly and uni shooters. It’s a place where Kikuchi’s omakase has sushi and seafood fans coming away from the meal wowed. The one tough spot: getting a seat, so make reservations.
1329 S. King St., 589-1329
Dinner (closed Sundays). $$$
SWEET E’S CAFE
SWEET HOME CAFE
Hot-potters love Sweet Home Cafe, and herein lies the problem. With no reservations taken, there’s usually a wait to get in. But once in, you’re golden. Sweet Home is like coming home to your Taiwanese mother. Warm hospitality, family-style eating, awesome Taiwanese hot pot and FREE Taiwanese shave ice as dessert. Order from among 14 soup bases (spicy, curry, house special and healthy herb are most popular) and a variety of meats. Then browse the fridges for more goodies — 108 kinds in all — including veggies, bean curds, mushrooms, dumplings and seafood, on little color-coded plates. Try the Tran family’s specialties, such as quail egg-stuffed fishcake, pork meatball, mochi pork dumpling, bamboo fishcake (shrimp, scallop or octopus), seafood wonton and cheese wonton with rib-eye. Finally, check out the condiment bar and its 11 homemade sauces, including garlic butter, ginger onion and the chef’s special chili. Save room for that shave ice! It’s heaped with homemade fruit gelatins, puddings and tapioca. Totally sweet.
2334 S. King St., 947-3707
Dinner. BYOB. No reservations. $-$$
TAI PAN DIM SUM
Service at this Chinatown hot spot can be spotty, but the dim sum is exceptional and in-plaza parking is nice. Picture menus ease selecting from myriad steamed, fried, baked, savory and sweet morsels. Go early for best selection and to avoid the lunch rush. Crowd favorites include the shrimp dumplings, deep-fried seaweed rolls, pork hash, siu mai, char siu bao, mochi rice, look funn and Crispy Carrot (fried orange mochi with custard filling).
Chinatown Cultural Plaza
100 N. Beretania St., 599-8899
Breakfast, lunch. $
TANGO CONTEMPORARY CAFE
Chef Göran Streng brings serious Hawaii Regional Cuisine cred to Tango, which he applies to a menu that merges the Scandinavian dishes of his native Finland with the Pacific Rim flavors of his adopted home. Tango has you covered from breakfast (crab hash Benedict), through lunch (a grilled vegetable sandwich is light yet deeply satisfying), all the way to dinner (Hamakua mushrooms in risotto with garlic shrimp is a top pick). Plus there’s brunch on weekends where the traditional Swedish casserole, Jansson’s Temptation, is hard to resist. It’s a hearty mix of potato, anchovy and ham topped with a sunny-side egg. Streng’s Swedish gravlax (cured salmon) makes an appearance at all times of day, with eggs in the a.m., in a sandwich at lunch and with crispy skin as a dinner starter. Don’t miss it.
1288 Ala Moana Blvd., 593-7288
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch. $$-$$$
TANIOKA’S SEAFOOD & CATERING
Drop the name “Tanioka’s” and many a kamaaina mouth will begin to water. Think limu poke, garlic chicken, ahi fish patties and cone sushi. This flourishing mom-and-pop business in Waipahu has become synonymous with ono local eats, taken out from the store or catered at weddings, funerals, baby luau and graduation parties. From its dozens of fresh, locally sourced pokes to its plate lunches and okazu based on family recipes, Tanioka’s is the stuff of legend. Other best-sellers: spicy ahi on sushi rice, fried chicken, mochiko chicken, Spam musubi, maki sushi and prime rib. And don’t let the sight of long lines deter you; it’s the norm, and Tanioka’s has got it under control with quick, efficient and courteous service.
94-903 Farrington Highway, Waipahu, 671-3779
Breakfast, lunch (takeout only). $
TAORMINA SICILIAN CUISINE
Fresh island cuisine gets an Italian translation at this concept restaurant helmed by chef Hiroyuki Mimura. Named after a tiny seaside village on Sicily, Taormina celebrates traditional Sicilian fare with contemporary flair. Think fresh pasta and seafood, delicate sauces, grilled meat and vegetables, olive oil and herbs. Renowned are its squid ink linguine (sauteed with shrimp, clams, garlic and tomatoes) and fresh sea urchin spaghetti. Other standout dishes: the Sarde e Finochetti (spaghettini with sauteed sardine fillet, fennel, anchovy, olives, capers, tomato paste and bread crumbs) and the seasonal Tartuffo Fresco (fresh fettuccine carbonara tossed with Hamakua mushrooms and pancetta, topped with a poached egg and freshly shaved truffle).
227 Lewers St., Waikiki, 926-5050
Lunch, dinner. $$$-$$$$
TAQUERIA EL RANCHO
This import from San Francisco’s Mission District does street tacos right. And, the price is right for open-face tacos that start at $2 for one choice of meat with cilantro and onions. A $4 grande version is enhanced with beans, cheese and sour cream. Meat options include carnitas (fried pork), grilled chicken, carne asada (grilled steak), al pastor (marinated grilled pork), house-made chorizo and lengua (beef tongue), all cooked before your eyes at a display window. There’s also a seafood taco, and any of these ingredients can be rolled into burritos, plated as an entree or layered over nachos. Help yourself to the salsa bar featuring pico de gallo with the brightness of lime, and two salsas with varying degrees of heat. Tasting these fresh salsas with a perfect balance of tomato, cilantro, onion and spice, one diner remarked, “I don’t feel like I’m in Hawaii anymore.”
Wahiawa Shopping Center
823 California Ave. Suite A5, 621-9000
Lunch and dinner, breakfast Saturday and Sunday. $
TEPPANAKI GINZA ONODERA
This Kapolei mainstay opened an outpost in Pearl City this year, the better to spread around a westside addiction to the bright, fresh Thai and Laotian dishes that comprise the Thai Lao repertoire. The menus at the two restaurants are the same, offering many unique options, even for those well versed in Southeast Asian cuisine. Try smoky roasted eggplant salad, Pad-Ki Mao (wide chow fun with loads of garlic and spice), pineapple curry, and Pia Rad Prik (whole fish crisp-fried and bathed in a tangy sauce). The menu offers some familiar dishes, such as green papaya salad, in two styles — Thai and Laotian — offering an education in these similar yet distinctive cuisines.
563 Farrington Highway, Kapolei, 674-2262
803 Kamehameha Highway, Pearl City, 456-8088
Lunch, dinner. $$
THAI VALLEY CUISINE
Those unfamiliar with this part of the island will find it a bit of a quest to seek out Thai Valley Cuisine, which requires some meandering through Hawaii Kai. Their efforts will be rewarded by owner Carole Thirakoun and the bold, fresh choices on her menu. She signals as especially popular her Chang Mai Salad Laab, with choice of protein; BBQ Beef Salad, made with rib-eye and tons of herbs; Pad Ki Mao, a rice-noodle alternative to the ubiquitous pad thai; and yellow curry, made with fresh turmeric. Feeling adventurous? Order off-menu and ask for Yum Khao Naem, a crispy rice salad — jasmine rice mixed with coconut and spices, rolled into a ball and deep-fried, then broken up into a salad mixed with bits of chewy pork skin and fresh raw pork. Bet you didn’t know you could eat raw pork. Thirakoun says when it’s extremely fresh — “kill today, tomorrow eat” — it’s extremely safe.
Kalama Village Shopping Center
501 Kealahou St., Hawaii Kai, 395-9746
Lunch, dinner. $$
This mom-and-pop dining room in Waipahu is famous for its authentic homestyle Filipino food, especially its lechon kawali — crispy-skin pork chunks with chopped tomatoes and onions and a shoyu sauce. So ono. And it’s even served at breakfast! The menu is separated into mix plates, soups, fried items, entrees, noodles, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Crowd favorites include the pork adobo fried rice, kare kare, pancit bihon, sari sari, dinuguan, bangus sinigang, mongo beans, shrimp sarciado … the list goes on. An all-you-can-eat buffet at lunch and dinner, about $13, satisfies those who want variety. Breakfast — including traditional items such as tapa, longanisa and eggplant omelet — is served all day, with the exception of pancakes. Cap it off with a refreshing dish of halo halo and you’ll be ready for a nap!
Westgate Shopping Center
94-366 Pupupani St., Waipahu, 677-0443
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $
TIKI’S GRILL & BAR
Unabashedly touristy, this bustling Waikiki perch has found its niche as a fun and scenic eatery in vacation central. Diners enjoy beachfront sunsets, live music, al fresco dining, tropical drinks and a solid Pacific-Rim/American menu by chef Ronnie Nasuti, a graduate of the Roy Yamaguchi school of culinary precision. Nasuti is passionate about the farm-to-table movement, evident in dishes such as the Hawaiian Snapper En Papillote (local fish and vegetables and in a steaming parchment bag with dashi), the Island Ahi Tartare Tiki Stack, the Windward Side Smoke Meat (local pork glazed with guava jelly and poha berries) and the juicy Half “Poi Pounder” Burger made from island grass-fed beef. Also a hit with visitors: Tiki’s coconut shrimp, prime-rib poke, calamari katsu and kalbi gyoza.
Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel
2570 Kalakaua Ave., 923-8454
Lunch, dinner. $$$
Steaming bowls of beef broth and rice noodles draw pho lovers rain or shine to this Chinatown stalwart, coming up on its 20th year in business. Down by the canal on a block lined with pho shops, homely To Chau may not stand out as the prettiest, but for what it lacks in frills, it makes up for in food. Its one-page menu offers pho in three sizes, with standard choices of well-cooked flank and brisket, tendon, beef balls, tripe and rare steak. Meat is plentiful and so are accompanying fresh herbs and veggies. Spring rolls — filled with pork, crab, shrimp and mushrooms — are also outstanding. To wash it all down, try the refreshing salty lemonade with soda water or a French filtered coffee with condensed milk.
1007 River St., 533-4549
Breakfast, lunch. $
Japanese-food lovers flock to this popular izakaya, known for its quality sushi and many other dishes — from traditional yakitori, tempura and chawanmushi to contemporary hits such as the sticky rice Stuffed Portabello and the Nori-chos (deep-fried nori topped with diced tomato, avocado, masago, green onion, melted cheese and teri sauce). Other unique specialties: the Spider Poke with soft-shell crab, crispy salmon skin tofu salad, ahi tartare and baked Alaskan salmon handroll. If you go with a group — the spacious and efficient Tokkuri Tei is great for groups — order a variety of dishes and share family style. Or opt for omakase dining at the sushi bar and have the chef surprise you, bite by bite. An extensive sake and shochu menu satisfies the late-night crowd and includes refreshing watermelon shochu and the much-buzzed-about Okinawan preserved-snake sake, habushu.
449 Kapahulu Ave., 732-6480
Lunch (weekdays), dinner, late night (except Sundays). $$-$$$
TONKATSU GINZA BAIRIN
Pork and katsu connoisseurs can rejoice that Hawaii has the only U.S. outpost of the Tokyo restaurant that has been specializing in the Japanese breaded pork cutlet since 1927. This is not your average plate-lunch katsu, as the prices and quality reflect. Ginza Bairin uses only the choicest loin cuts to transform into crisp pieces of tender, juicy tonkatsu that seem light despite being deep-fried. Specialties include the Kurobuta (Berkshire) pork loin katsu and pork tenderloin katsu. The katsu loco moco, a local hybrid with gravy and fried egg, is also popular, along with the fried calamari, shrimp katsu and mixed seafood katsu. Lunch specials offer a bargain at about $13-$15, as do Izakaya Nights (8:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays), which feature sushi, sashimi, skewered katsu and other tantalizing pupu.
Outrigger Regency on Beachwalk
255 Beach Walk, Waikiki, 926-8082
Lunch, dinner, late night (Fridays and Saturdays). $$-$$$
Ed Kenney and crew celebrate 10 years of farm-to-table excellence this year, proving that sustainable practices can be profitable — and delicious. Though Town’s menu has changed daily, depending on local ingredients available, its modern bistro appeal and fine execution hasn’t. We’ve enjoyed classics such as ahi tartare on risotto cakes, juicy Hawaii island beef burgers and strip loins, perfectly roasted chicken with grapes, tatsoi and torn bread, and that luscious buttermilk panna cotta with Manoa honey. Here, a whole Shinsato Farm pig from Kaneohe produces pork chops and charcuterie; local fishermen show up daily to supply their fresh catch, and pillowy gnocchi is just as popular as fresh pa’i’ai. Refreshing salads make use of MA’O Organic Farms produce, further reflecting Town’s motto of “Local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.” We can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s creations will be.
3435 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki, 735-5900
Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays). $$$
TUCKER & BEVVY
Tucker & Bevvy is Aussie slang for “food and drink” and this breakfast nook offers up brekkie Oz-style, with more greens than you’ll find on a typical morning menu and hearty offerings as well, sometimes on the same plate, as with warm lentils and sausages, or burgers with “the lot,” that is, a beef-and-pork patty with bacon, egg, grilled onions, beets, sweet chili mayo and a side salad. Other popular dishes are a kale, quinoa and kabocha salad, and chunky roast beef “hash” with cubes of beef and halved fingerling potatoes. Fresh juices and smoothies give you a morning dose of vitamins. A Tucker & Bevvy Picnic Food outpost in Waikiki offers to-go salad and sandwich options.
Hee Hing Plaza
449 Kapahulu Ave., Suite 203, 732-0050
Tucker & Bevvy Picnic Food
Park Shore Hotel
2586 Kalakaua Ave., 922-0099
Breakfast, lunch. $$
UAHI ISLAND GRILL
Gourmet plate lunches with a dash of health-mindedness have been the lifeblood of this Kailua eatery since its start in 2007. It has since grown to include dinner, moved to a bigger space on Hekili Street, added two lunch trucks and caught the eye of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” which featured chef/owner Nick “Bear” Yamada showing how he makes two of his classics: grilled fish with Thai red curry and green papaya salad, and orange-glazed duck confit. While Yamada never intended Uahi to be a health-food spot, veggies and local ingredients abound. Choose from salads, sandwiches, entrees, appetizers and desserts. Favorites include the smoky kalua pork with kale, Korean steak salad and beef tomato stir-fry (both using Hawaii island grass-fed beef), jerk-spiced Irie Chicken, furikake calamari, kalua pig french fries and garlic ahi. On Sundays, Uahi offers a hearty brunch featuring omelets (Korean steak, bacon cheeseburger, chowder), loco mocos, waffles, and biscuits and gravy.
131 Hekili St., Kailua, 266-4646
Lunch, dinner, weekday happy hour (except Wednesday)
Sunday brunch. $-$$
UNCLE BOBO’S SMOKED BBQ
When on the scenic Windward Coast, you’d be remiss not to stop at this little gem of a smokehouse, offering outstanding barbecue as well as local grass-fed beef burgers, hot dogs, chili, homemade bread, malasadas, shave ice, smoothies, espresso and more.
The stars here are the ribs, beef brisket and pork shoulder — all tender, juicy and deeply smoky, with the latter two popularly served on a French cottage roll with zingy house barbecue sauce. The meats are dry-rubbed with a special seasoning and smoked low and slow for hours, using hickory and tropical woods. The bread is moist and soft, baked fresh each day. Other favorites: the garlic fried potatoes, Redneck Rice and Beans and the refreshing Ginger Lemon Splash and lattes.
51-480 Kamehameha Highway, Kaaawa, 237-1000
Lunch, early dinner. Closed Mondays. $-$$
UNCLE BO’S RESTAURANT
Plain on the outside, Uncle Bo’s beams with lively music, TV screens and an impressive bar. Regulars here don’t need menus and simply opt for must-have pupu including Thai-style steamer clams, Uncle Bo’s spicy dynamite shrimp with a Parmesan panko crust and Boca-Rota, garlic cheesy bread with prime rib slices and sauteed mushrooms. Or, go big with the Ali’i Feast comprising a full slab of garlic rib-eye steak, prime rib slices, four pieces of shrimp scampi, kalua pig and cabbage, plus fresh ahi poke! For those on the North Shore, a new outpost at Haleiwa Store Lots offers a handful of dishes not available at the original.
559 Kapahulu Ave., 735-8311
Haleiwa Store Lots, 66-111 Kamehameha Highway, 797-9649
Dinner, late night. $-$$
Getting dessert in Kaimuki has become a thing since Punahou grad Melissa Bow opened her brick-and-mortar shop last year. Before that, her Via Gelato truck and farmers market booth were also drawing crowds. Bow offers artisanal gelatos as locally sourced as possible, using Hawaii milk and eggs and flavors of the islands, including lilikoi from her garden, macadamia nuts from the Big Island and mint from Nalo Farms. She has fun playing around with flavors, which change daily and seasonally. Throw an idea on the suggestion board and you just might see it on one of her handmade cones. Some of the best-sellers, usually in stock: black sesame, Frosted Flake, Fierce Chocolate, Earl Grey, green tea, lilikoi sorbet and guava sorbet. Go early in the day for the best selection as the evening crowd queues up out the door and many flavors run out.
1142 12th Ave., 732-2800
Closed Mondays. $
Wada never advertises, but word has gotten out about this tapas-style Japanese-fusion restaurant. From early happy hour to late happy hour, the place is bustling with visitors and, now, locals hungry for chef/owner Takanori Wada’s exquisite creations. The menu mixes traditional — misoyaki butterfish, shabu shabu, yosenabe, nigiri (seasoned with a homemade red vinegar), etc. — with the not-so-traditional — Kahuku corn tofu, grilled eggplant with tomato meat sauce — with aplomb. But the main stars are decadent inventions such as the tuna and foie gras sushi and the Washugyu tataki and sea urchin piled on nori. Other favorites: beef tongue and skirt meat ishiyaki, stone-grilled tableside and fried squid cartilage.
611 Kapahulu Ave., 737-0125
Dinner and book-end happy hours (4-6 p.m. and 9-11 p.m.)
Closed Mondays. $$-$$$
WAIAHOLE POI FACTORY
Fresh poi can be hard to find, but not so on the windward side at this roadside eatery where kalo is milled and hand-pounded on-site every other day. The super ono laulau and kalua pig combo plate — which comes with rice or poi — lomi salmon and haupia, is very popular, as is the hoio (fern shoots) salad and perfectly creamy squid luau, which sells out fast. The poi factory has recently added dessert — haupia ice cream and homemade kulolo — as well as ulu (breadfruit) poi, to the delight of passersby.
48-140 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, 239-2222
Lunch, early dinner. $
New York steak magnate Wolfgang Zwiener brought his acclaimed chain to Waikiki, installing its own dry-aging room, the first of its kind on Oahu, to turn out prime beef with perfect flavor and tenderness. It’s a mostly a la carte menu, so bring a hungry companion or two to enjoy the likes of the giant porterhouse T-bone, cooked in a 1,600-degree broiler and served sizzling to share. Round it out with the tasty mashed potatoes or German potatoes and creamed spinach. Also recommended: the sizzling Canadian bacon, crabcakes, oysters, New York cheesecake. At lunch, you can’t go wrong with the classic sirloin burger.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2301 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, third floor, 922-3600
Lunch, dinner, weekend brunch. $$$-$$$$
YAKI YAKI MIWA
The griddle takes center stage at this cozy Japanese restaurant, open in Honolulu since 2012, with sister locations in Osaka and Tokyo. If you can, get a seat at the wraparound counter to see the chefs work their magic on the teppan. “Yaki” means grilled or cooked, and specialties here include okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake/omelet made of flour, grated yam, cabbage, egg and various fillings. Popular choices are the Super Pork Tama and the gooey Mochi Cheese Tama. There’s also teppanyaki Washugyu steak and seafood, and okonomiyaki variants such as negiyaki (green onion and fishcake) and “modan”-yaki (modern style with noodles). Other favorites: the cheesy and rich Miwa Original Dynamite, steamed clams, octopus butter saute, pork kimchee, kimchee hot pot, garlic fried rice and honey toast.
1423 S. King St., 983-3838
Dinner, closed Tuesdays. $$-$$$
The draw at Don-Day is outdoor seating, making it a good destination after a show or on a beautiful Honolulu evening. The meat offerings and banchan are on par with other yakiniku restaurants in this “Koreatown” district, and the restaurant offers Korean beer and a full bar. Many praise Don-Day’s kimchee pancakes, too. Don-Day is open until 2 a.m. to satisfy late-night cravings.
905A Keeaumoku St., 951-1004
Dinner, late night. $$-$$$
“Futago” is the Japanese word for “twins,” in reference to the chain’s youthful founders, Sunchol and Sunbong Lee, who launched their first Osaka-style yakiniku restaurant in Japan a mere four years ago. Today their empire numbers 30 restaurants in Japan and China, with fans lining up for their style of “eatertainment,” based on the idea that hands-on “concierge” service, music and the enthusiasm of waiters enhances the flavor of the food. Your guides will help you explore various cuts of meat to demonstrate flavor differences. It’s rare to experience a vertical beef tasting, but that is what you get with this house specialty, with limited availability. An assortment of kimchee, namul, salads and seafood options round out the menu.
949 Kapahulu Ave., 734-3956
This is a spacious, bright and clean haven for yakiniku, rising above the fray for its cheerful service and varied menu. Servings are generous and the quality of the meat earns praise from many repeat customers, including families who make Yakiniku Seoul a regular destination. If diners have a serious need to grind, Seoul also offers all-you-can-eat sets.
1521 S. King St., 944-0110
Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$
This venerable sushi restaurant is known for its quality sushi and late-night happy hour, offering sushi, pupu, meals, and beer and sake from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly except for Sundays. You can get salmon sashimi with Maui onion, salmon skin salad, spicy tuna bowls, katsuo tataki, maguro with natto, fried baby octopus, salmon skin rolls, nigiri, udon, teriyaki and more for easy-on-the-wallet prices. Similarly, the regular menu offers a wide selection of traditional and local Japanese dishes, including tempura, katsu, broiled meats and fish, nabe and donburi. Of course, ultra-fresh fish is the star, and the place is plastered with more than 400 photos of celebrity diners, who, inevitably, have taken pleasure in chef/owner Haruo Nakayama’s high standards for ingredients. Think buttery tuna and hamachi, tender oysters and abalone, sweet amaebi and uni. Take a seat at the well-staffed sushi bar and you will not be disappointed.
762 Kapiolani Blvd., 597-1525
Lunch, dinner, late night. $-$$$
Everything about Your Kitchen in Palolo is unassuming. It’s a tiny storefront that’s easily missed if you’re focused on getting into the valley, serving simple dishes such as pork and beef bowls, loco moco and Japanese-style oyakodon (grilled chicken over rice with a runny egg on top). But once the first bite is in your mouth, you won’t forget the pork bowl, a sinfully rich combination of pork belly, special sauce and soft-boiled egg that’s battered like a piece of katsu. It’s a bare-bones version of kakuni served without the traditional accoutrement of daikon and scallions, but you won’t miss that stuff one bit. Don’t forget to order an extra egg — and extra sauce if you’re really in it to win it — and set aside enough time for a nap once you’re done eating.
1423 10th Ave., 203-7685
Lunch (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). $
With origins in an art colony in Laguna Beach, Calif., zpizza prides itself on creative pies. The menu starts with healthful ingredients such as non-GMO flour, organic tomato sauce, additive-free sausages and fresh produce, with options for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diners. In addition to the pizza — everything from classic pepperoni to Greek and Mexican versions to a Tuscan Mushroom that boasts truffle oil, feta and a roasted garlic sauce — the eatery offers pasta dishes, flatbreads, calzones, sandwiches and an array of salads. A pear and Gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts is among the menu’s best-sellers. “Shareable” items include hormone-free chicken wings and a Mediterranean plate. There’s even a take-and-bake option for folks who want to enjoy a zpizza direct from the oven. Check zpizza’s website for a full menu and order online to avoid a long wait.
Ward Centre, Auahi Street Shops, 596-0066
151 Hekili St., Kailua, 230-8400
Lunch, dinner. $$