In the face of the ever-evolving digital world, shopping malls have had to reassess their roles in the community. Luckily for them, something that never changes in Hawaii is that local people not only love to eat, they love to gather and eat, and malls here have capitalized on that fact. Ala Moana Center developed Shirokiya Japan Village Walk and The Lanai, both centralized eating spaces, while keeping its Makai Market Food Court intact. Out west, Kapolei strip malls and the new Ka Makana Ali’i mall continually draw new eateries.
So when Pearlridge Center recently completed an 18-month multimillion-dollar renovation, it was no surprise that its food offerings had expanded, with 11 new venues. Guided by the philosophy that Pearlridge patrons like good eating places that aren’t overly fussy, the expansion takes the complex in diverse culinary directions.
“They solidify Pearlridge Center as a community gathering place in Central and West Oahu,” said general manager David Cianelli of the additions, which began with Pieology in November 2017 and concluded in April with Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors and Gen Korean BBQ House.
“People who grew up in the area and have moved to other parts of the island … are starting to come back.”
The mix of national restaurants such as Pieology, Gen and Dunkin’, and local favorites Tamura’s, H&T Burgers and Rainbow Drive-In, presents a wide range of options for area residents “who have in some ways been a bit underserved,” said Cianelli.
But the center isn’t necessarily sitting pat, he said. It would work to bring in other promising eateries, even starting them off as pop-ups or temporary venues.
“Our food and restaurant sales are very, very strong,” Cianelli said. “We haven’t gotten to the saturation point yet.”
Open 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays
This bustling restaurant allows diners to customize their pizzas, from the crust (six types, including two gluten-free options), sauce, cheese and toppings to “afterbake” sauces (price starts at $10.95).
But one menu offering is designed just for the Hawaii eater, the popular Island Style Pizza, topped with olive oil, mozzarella, red onion, pineapple, Canadian bacon, Portuguese sausage and kalua pork ($10.95). Call 200-5085.
BEER LAB HI
Open during mall hours; 744-2007
Serving locally crafted small-batch beer brewed in Waipio, the location offers a rotating selection of six beers in a quaint space near Center Court. The bar menu often includes wine, kombucha and jun (like kombucha, but made with fermented raw honey and green tea), and a short list of pupu.
FIVE GUYS BURGERS AND FRIES
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; 488-4442
This location is by far the busiest on the island (others are in Mililani and Kapolei), with lulls in foot traffic that run mere minutes, said district manager Germaine Akahoshi.
Top sellers are the bacon cheeseburger (starts at $11.99) and the Oreo cookie milkshake ($5.89). Five Guys is famous for its free French-roasted peanuts, served to keep diners happy while they wait for their food, which is always cooked fresh.
POKE + BENTO-YA
Open during mall hours; 888-8866
Suji and Jay Cho’s new eatery is the food court’s sleeper.
Their secret: “I go to the fish auction daily,” said Jay.
The fresh product shines particularly bright in a generous ahi salad plate ($13), the fish served over crisp greens. “It’s some of the best fish I’ve ever had,” a new customer raved.
The menu offers more than 40 selections of donburi, salads and bento, and there’s plenty for folks who don’t want raw fish: teriyaki beef donburi ($12), curry bowl ($9) and chicken katsu donburi ($11), to name a few. Popular selections: the 3 Sashimi Combo Salad (ahi, salmon, hamachi, $17), ahi poke donburi ($11) and bento of poke, spicy ahi and teriyaki chicken ($13).
Open during mall hours; 488-3788
Folks residing in Aiea and points farther west may find it difficult to frequent this iconic plate-lunch place all the way out in Kapahulu. But now, new audiences get a chance to experience the onoliciousness of the popular boneless chicken plate ($9.25) — complete with Rainbow’s legendary mac salad and broke-da-mouth gravy.
Other winners on the menu: Pork cutlet plate ($9.25), mahi sandwich ($5.95), loco moco bowl ($5.25) and chili dog plate ($8.75). Wash it all down with a slush (starts at $2.25) or slush float (starts at $3.75).
DOWN TO EARTH
Open 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; 488-1375
This spacious, pretty vegetarian grocery store offers all manner of prepared food so you can save your grocery purchases to cook another day. Select freshly baked pizza, or order a stir-fry or vegetarian burger from the grill. There’s also a hot bar stocked with casseroles, curries, stews, noodles and soups, plus delicious roasted, baked, stir-fried and steamed veggies.
If raw vegetables are more your thing, a colorful salad bar goes far beyond lettuces and kale to offer diverse options such as pasta salad, baked tofu, tofu poke, sweet potatoes, grated root veggies, beans, peas, corn, sprouts, seeds, cheese and more for assembling a perfect, personalized salad.
TAMURA’S FINE WINE & LIQUORS
Open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (8 p.m. Sundays); 488-7444
Besides its amazing selection of liquid refreshment, Tamura’s draws customers with its legendary poke bowls featuring, with few exceptions, fresh fish (frozen is only used in a pinch).
Some of the most popular poke in rotation include traditional offerings such as ahi limu and inamona, plus spicy ahi and the Tamura’s Special, fish mixed with a secret sauce that lends a sweet flavor.
Another popular special is the P.A.C. Attack, seasoned with a Korean sauce. Store manager Pamela Fonoti said it’s not often in rotation and advises that if you happen upon it, to take the opportunity to try it.
A couple more recommendations: tofu poke and pipikaula (with jalapeno if you like spicy).
7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, until 6 p.m. Sundays
Open Who doesn’t love doughnuts? For the tiny minority who don’t, and for the rest of us who realize we can’t indulge all the time, Dunkin’ now offers a lengthy menu of breakfast sandwiches ($4.29) filled with eggs and an array of breakfast meats. There are also hearty muffins ($2.59), and doughnut and pastry selections (starting at $1.39) are as robust as ever.
An extensive beverage menu addresses every preference: hot and cold espresso (under $5); hot coffee, tea, chai and chocolate ($1.99 to $3.39); iced coffees ($2.19 to $4.39); and frozen coffee and fruit drinks ($3.29 to $4.79).
GEN KOREAN BBQ HOUSE
Open 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 10 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 487-9135
A dream locale for meat-centric, all-you-can-eat fans, this yakiniku outfit gives customers two hours to partake of any and all of 35 dinner items ($26.99), 27 selections for lunch ($16.99). Think premium steak, pork belly, brisket, short rib and much more. You’ll find chicken dishes done spicy, garlicky, sweet and fried, plus seafood and a selection of Korean items. Banchan (sides), rice and a salad come complimentary.
Contemporary furnishings and cobalt blue lighting in a darkened dining room lend ambiance, taking Gen one notch above super casual.
Open during mall hours; 744-0952
It’s easy to miss this humble joint in the former Burger King location. H&T fits the bill for a busy shopper at lunchtime or a hungry family at the end of the day: It’s fast, budget friendly — and ono.
The eatery has built a following on its teri burgers, the teri sauce embodying a familiar sweetness (but not too sweet) with a slight tang that’s perfectly balanced by the fat of a slather of mayonnaise. Said sauce is also magical on french fries.
H&T offers a deal in its Two Burgers Special, two teri burgers, teri chicken sandwiches or cheeseburgers, for $8.50. There are also a variety of teri meat plates and a chili and frank plate ($8.50 to $11.70).
UNCLE’S FISH MARKET & GRILL
Open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Even if you didn’t know this place before walking in, there’s no question about what awaits your appetite — the ocean-blue walls are decorated with nostalgic black-and white pictures of fishermen out in the open water, and serve as a backdrop to huge taxidermied fish hung from the rafters.
On the menu: Fish, fresh of course, raw, steamed, seared, fried and grilled for serving in the likes of seared sashimi salad ($22); Uncle’s Original Poke Tower of ahi poke, guacamole and ahi tartare ($19.50); fish tacos ($19); garlic ahi, Parmesan-crusted mahimahi and steamed monchong (all market price); plus much more. Call 275-0063.