comscore 2019 ‘Ilima Awards Restaurants: I-M

2019 ‘Ilima Awards Restaurants: I-M

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I-naba is best known for its soba, both cold and hot versions, with a range of accompaniments, including light and crunchy shrimp tempura, spicy pollack roe and even natto. The cold soba makes a perfect every day meal when temperatures hit the 90s. Made of buckwheat, soba is the perfect solution for those seeking gluten-free noodles. The menu also offers a variety of affordable and flavorful teishoku, donburi and sushi, as well as high-end unagi imported from Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, in Japan. — 1610 S. King St.; 953-2070. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$

Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar

Il Lupino chef Marino Rosato prefers a light, rustic approach to preparations, allowing fine ingredients to speak for themselves, such as meatballs made with a combination of prime veal, pork and beef. Lunch and dinner pastas include angel hair pasta with tiger shrimp in a tomato bisque sauce, and pescatore of linguine with Manila clams, mussels, fish, calamari and jumbo shrimp. His expansive Italian menu of specialty items includes steaks from the meat locker of sister restaurant Wolfgang’s Steakhouse. Diners have a choice of atmospheres: Old-World formal with white tablecloths, casual bar seating or open-air seating on the lanai. Breakfasts and weekend brunch deliver an array of pancakes, classic omelets and Benedicts. — Royal Hawaiian Center, 2250 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki; 922-3400. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch. $$-$$$

Imanas Tei

Nightly crowds are drawn to traditional izakaya dishes at this understated restaurant — sushi, sashimi, fresh oysters and various shabu shabu are exceptionally well prepared, generously portioned and reasonably priced. Seafood dynamite is a customer favorite, along with grilled specialties of yellowtail and salmon kama, and chanko nabe for a minimum of two. The restaurant has a cozy, comfortable ambiance, thanks to warm lighting, wooden furniture and accents. Service is excellent as well. In 2016, it was No. 5 on’s list of best Japanese restaurants in the nation. — 2626 S. King St. (next to Puck’s Alley); 941-2626. Dinner. $$$

Itchy Butt

The comical name captures the attention of the curious, but once customers try the assortment of chicken and Korean dishes, they itch to come back. Most popular is the fried chicken, with an extra crunchy batter and spicy mayo drizzle, served over a bowl of rice, though other favorites include the Korean and garlic chickens, and the bulgogi beef. Several varieties of chicken can be ordered by the half bird or whole. Fried mozzarella sticks are available in addition to the Korean standby of fried mandoo, along with smoothies and some breakfast items. — 1229 Keeaumoku St.; 942-4845.$

Izakaya Gazen

Gazen is known for its signature tofu, prepared on site daily using a traditional method unchanged for more than 200 years. The tofu sampler includes yose (paired with hoji tea salt and Hawaiian sea salt), sukui (infused with the rich taste of dashi) and kurogoma (infused with black sesame). A full array of izakaya specialties awaits, from deep-fried octopus and tempura to braised pork belly, as well as sushi and teppan-grilled specialties of garlic teriyaki chicken and beef tongue, cooked on 3-centimeter-thick steel plates to maintain optimal cooking temperature. — 2840 Kapiolani Blvd.; 737-0230. Dinner, late night. $-$$$

Izakaya Nonbei

The restaurant is undergoing renovation, but is slated to reopen in fall 2019 with its same crowd-pleasing menu of chirashi, nigiri sushi and sashimi, steak and seafood options, starters and fried options of tempura, seafood and signature tori kara (fried Jidori chicken with ponzu sauce). A prix fixe menu is also available. Be sure to try the frozen sake. — 3108 Olu St., Kapahulu; 734-5573. Dinner upon reopening, tentatively fall 2019. $$$

Izakaya Torae Torae

Chef Hide Yoshimoto gets creative with his izakaya menu that starts with a full range of nigiri and roll sushi, donburi, grilled meat, ramen, tempura and other fried selections. The menu here might be described as “everything but the kitchen sink.” Items unique to Yoshimoto include onsen egg served in a martini glass with uni, ikura, nametake mushrooms and grated yamaimo. A lollipop roll of six kinds of seafood and kaiware sprouts is wrapped in a thin sheet of cucumber, sliced and skewered, then sprinkled with garlic chips and garlic aioli. And don’t miss the seafood shooter. An open kitchen allows diners to watch dishes being prepared. — 1111 McCully St. (at Young Street); 949-5959. Dinner, late night. $$

Izakaya Uosan

Chef Yoshinobu Misawa’s reputation as sushi chef at highly rated Sushi Izakaya Gaku made this izakaya a hit from Day 1. He’s drawn high demand for his omakase, as well as cooked specialties served at tables, a small counter or a private room. Beyond basic seafood, sushi connoisseurs will find nodoguro (black throat sea bream from Honshu) and such Japanese favorites as kinmedai (golden eye snapper), aji (horse mackerel) and sayori (needlefish). Cooked specialties range from grilled moi to beef tongue with onions to uni rice with egg and truffle butter. Daily specials keep meals interesting. — 1221 Kapiolani Blvd.; 200-5077. Dinner, late night. $$$

J. Dolan’s

Order from a menu of signature pies such as scampi, deli meat or a Molto Formaggio (described as “off-the-charts cheesy” with its combo of havarti, brie, Gouda, fontina, mozzarella and Parmesan). Every pizza is handcrafted at this downtown hot spot. Build your own pizza (limited to four toppings out of 21 options); or order by the slice. Pupu of chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, fish and chips, caprese salad and more help make it a great place to grab a beer and unwind after work. — 1147 Bethel St.; 537-4992. Lunch, dinner, late night. $$


Prices may have risen since this longtime Korean plate-lunch restaurant moved from its corner on Keawe Street one block over to the trendy Salt at Our Kakaako complex. But favorites like the barbecued beef (bulgogi), chicken and spicy pork still have the spot-on Korean flavors that made J’s a hit with locals, and you can still get plate-lunch specials for $8.99 with a sampling of vegetables, rice and mac salad. — Salt at Our Kakaako, 691 Auahi St.; 537-1117. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$

Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

With more than 8,000 square feet of dining space, seven private rooms and a state-of-the-art video and sound system, Jade Dynasty is one of the few palatial Chinese restaurants still remaining in town. Owner Alan and Sylvia Ho take their role seriously with a progressive menu reflecting contemporary trends throughout China. Dim sum is the main attraction from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, with a mix of savory and sweet options and such signature items as Snow Mountain char siu buns, honey- garlic ribs, ham har chicken wings and abalone mochi rice. Popular options from the main menu include salt-pepper whole crab, lobster steamed in Chinese rice wine, and garlic-fried Kahuku prawns. — Ala Moana Center, Hookipa Terrace; 947-8818. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Japanese Barbecue Yoshi

The highest grade of Japanese beef — A5 wagyu — is found here, flown from Kagoshima, Japan. It’s available along with other premium cuts of pork belly, beef tongue, prime kalbi, and more, served yakinku style on grills utilizing eco-friendly infrared technology. Also on the menu: shabu shabu and side orders of shrimp and scallops with garlic or miso butter, wagyu fat fried rice, hot stone bibimbap and a variety of kim chee. Set menus of $200 or $250 for two are available. For more affordable a la carte food and drink, stop by during Special Yoshi Hour, 5 to 6 p.m. and 8:45 to closing. — 1316 Young St.; 784-0067. Dinner, late night Fridays and Saturdays. $$$-$$$$

Jimbo Restaurant

This longtime udon restaurant is beloved for freshly made noodles, but has come to offer so much more — and everything dazzles the taste buds. Make a meal of side orders: shiso beef, sauteed ginger kurobuta pork, the amazing black pork gyoza and oroshi mochi, one-bite pillows that are crisp on the outside, soft inside, served in a tasty sauce. These are just some of the selections. If you want to stick to udon, there’s something for everyone — the usual Hawaii offerings of char siu, curry and tempura bowls, as well as a list of cold udon dishes and traditional Japanese preparations. These include kamaage, brought to the table in hot water and served with a dipping sauce, sansai (mountain veggies) and a natto-veggie bowl. End the meal with desserts of zenzai (warm azuki beans with mochi) and green tea ice cream. — 1936 S. King St., McCully; 947-2211. Lunch, dinner. $-$$

Jinroku Pacific Teppan Grill & Bar

Okonomiyaki, the Japanese savory pancake of cabbage, meat and/or seafood, is the devotion of Jinroku. The menu delivers with its deluxe pizza version (squid, shrimp and scallop), suji kim chee (beef tendon, kim chee and potato) and Jinroku special (squid, shrimp, octopus, scallop, beef and pork), to name just a few. Jinroku’s many negiyaki dishes replace cabbage in the okonomiyaki with green onions. But there is so much more to enjoy in the form of noodle dishes, teppan-grilled pupu such as garlic chicken, pork and asparagus and beef tongue, and teppan entrees of steak and lobster. — 2427 Kuhio Ave., Waikiki; 926-8955. Lunch, dinner. $$$

Joy Cup Noodles Mean

Lulu Luo makes her food the way her mom made it, with about 21 ingredients — from garlic to sesame paste and preserved mustard greens — that go into her dan dan noodles, while about 14 go into other dishes such as beef and pork noodles, salads and appetizers representing her home town of Chongqing, China. These include a “fish-fragrant” eggplant salad that has nothing to do with fish, but merely embraces spicy, sour, salty and sweet flavors common to Sichuan fish dishes. More exotic fare comes in the form of Couples Lung, a stir-fry of beef, beef tongue and tripe. But the main attractions are bowls of Sichuan-style noodles in spice levels numbered 1 to 10. — 1608 Kalakaua Ave.; 725-2898. Lunch, dinner. $-$$

Juicy Brew

Nowadays, many an eatery includes vegan dishes on their menus. But there’s no place like Juicy Brew for originality and creativity. Sisters Jennifer and Christina Hee shine the spotlight on a rainbow of produce from local farms. On any given day, you might find such grab-and-go bentos as a Kung Pao Pack with basmati rice, house kim chee, ulu, negi, and other veggies topped with toasted almonds and black sesame seeds, or a house croquette, spiced up with a Sriracha aioli and served on a bed of shaved cabbage alongside negi and kim chee. Or garlic noodles. Or “cheezy” pasta. If you don’t, something equally fresh and ono will be in its place. There are also breakfast and lunch wraps filled with, among other things, jackfruit and kalo, sandwich melts and salads. The Hees even concoct beverages, such as a popular Antioxidant Brew made with roo­ibos chai, hibiscus, lemon and apple cider vinegar. The list goes on and on. A customer favorite is the daily mochi, off-the-charts delicious and creative. One recent offering: A lavender/blueberry/tahini mochi, topped with baked-in sesame seeds — crazy good. Weekend brunch menus changes often but are nonetheless legendary. Have a look-see on the sisters’ Instagram account (@juicybrew). — 1401 S. Beretania St., Makiki; 469-1991. 3392 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki; 797-9177. Breakfast, lunch. $

Kahuku Farm Cafe

A North Shore farm, located just steps away from this simple cafe, supplies the produce that is the menu’s foundation. Fresh options include acai bowls made with berries from trees planted years ago, that came into production in 2016. The bowls also feature the farm’s apple bananas and vanilla bean (used in a vanilla haupia), with lilikoi butter and a graham-mac-nut crumble. The menu is a quick read: grilled vegetables served in a panini, salad or soup. Or try the farm pizza (bruschetta with tomato, eggplant and macadamia nut pesto). Pair dishes with full-fruit, nondairy smoothies. Farm tours are available for a fee. — 56-800 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku; 628-0639. Lunch. $

Kahumana Organic Farm & Cafe

This restaurant is part of the Kahumana community of campuses and programs, dedicated to celebrating the bounty of Hawaii while also helping to address community needs ranging from homelessness to joblessness. So the fresh, healthy and inexpensive meals here are all for a good cause. Produce served at the cafe is grown on the farm. Popular items include artisanal pesto pasta; curries accented with lemon grass, ginger, basil and cilantro; and chicken or shrimp stir-fries. Farm-to-table tours with a three-course meal featuring farm produce are available. — 86-660 Lualualei Homestead Road, Waianae; 696-8844. Lunch, dinner (closed Sundays and Mondays). $$

Kai Market

Sourcing 85% of its ingredients locally is the aim at Kai Market, where breakfast and dinner buffets make the most of the islands’ bounty. Start with farm-fresh eggs at the omelet station, a cold table of local fruit and greens, before moving onto Portuguese bread pudding French toast, dim sum and morning standards of crispy bacon, sausage and ham. In the evening on Mondays to Thursdays, a barbecue buffet offers hot and cold items, plus a carving station with slow-cooked, alae-crusted prime rib, grilled Kauai prawns and soy-glazed salmon. A seafood buffet Fridays to Sundays also offers the prime rib, plus steamed whole fish, king crab legs with Kai Market’s signature garlic butter, and a Hawaiian-style seafood paella, as well as poke selections and sashimi fresh from Honolulu’s Pier 38. Kamaaina get a discount, except on holidays. — Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave.; 921-4600. Breakfast, dinner. $$$$

Kaimuki Superette

Chef-restaurateur Ed Kenney doesn’t pontificate on the virtues of eating fresh and local, he shows you how good that stuff is at this breakfast and lunch mainstay. Find big flavors in such tasty dishes as the Akamai Bowl, filled with Ma‘o Organic greens, roasted roots, smoked fish, avocado and two poached eggs. Or if you want to keep it light, a salad case presents an extensive array of contemporary preparations featuring the likes of roasted roots, tomatoes and grains, okra, fern shoots and all manner of greens. If you can’t decide on just one, have a sampler plate with five selections of your choice. Among breakfast items are chia seed pudding, French toast, hapa fried rice and a soft scramble Sammie, dressed with kale and tomato chutney. For lunch, try the beloved octopus roll, an ahi clubhouse with wasabi aioli, a Kuahiwi meatloaf sandwich or a spicy Korean chicken sandwich. — 3458 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki; 734-7800. Breakfast, lunch (closed Sundays). $-$$.

Kaka‘ako Kitchen

Chef Russell Siu makes elevated plate lunches and dinners with his own twist on island favorites. His furikake mahi wrap, tempura catfish, char siu chicken salad and island-style chicken linguine are examples. A house standard eggplant Parmesan is to die for. End your meal with treats made from scratch, such as coconut butter mochi, banana poi and pumpkin breads and lemon bars. Order at the counter then dine in an open-air patio. — Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 596-7488. Lunch, dinner. $$

Kalapawai Cafe

The deli at this casual eatery is great for a grab-and-go breakfast or a satisfying lunch of thin-crust pizza or a healthful salad. Dinner offerings yield a number of tempting choices, all locally sourced when possible. Start with the cheesy blue crab and artichoke dip served with crostini. For an entree, try the hearty curried “shepherd’s pie” of slow-cooked ground lamb and vegetables topped with mashed-potato gratinee, or opt for the fresh auction fish with lemon grass risotto, braised kale and local mushrooms. Options abound for beer and wine lovers alike; keep an eye out for wine-tasting events. Breakfast and lunch are served until 5 p.m. — 750 Kailua Road; 262-3354. 711 Kamokila Blvd., Kapolei; 674-1700. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$$

Kamana Indian Kitchen

Tirtha “Raj” Luitel took note of the lack of Indian cuisine in the islands when he moved here eight years ago, and took a chance on finding many closeted food lovers hungry for a taste of India. By day you’ll find a streamlined menu of lunch plates. A selection of eight vegetarian dishes and meat/seafood curries are offered as a complete meal with basmati rice, yellow dal, vegetable curry of the day, achar (spiced pickles), naan and a small salad. In the evening you can mix and match to your heart’s content from an extensive menu of breads, tandoor, kebabs and curry dishes. There’s also a palate-pleasing short menu of vegan dishes. — 1104 Bishop St.; 537-5309. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Katsumidori Sushi Tokyo

The lure here is affordable but quality nigiri sushi with slabs of fish, about three times the typical size. Whether you’re ordering sets or a la carte, prices run about $2 or $3 a piece, a steal for ahi, hamachi and other sushi bar favorites. The well-rounded menu also includes sides from chilled tofu and delicate chawanmushi to hot choices of tempura, grilled fish and hot pots. Eye-catching dragon rolls and the seafood carnival roll will give your Instagram feed a boost. — Prince Waikiki Hotel, 100 Holomoana St., Waikiki; 946-7603. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Kin Wah Chop Suey

At this popular Windward-side eatery, managers and staff stuff 40 pounds of pork into more than 700 wrappers every morning to make crispy gau gee, which sells out daily. That may sound like a lot, but it’s the Chinese chicken salad that is the biggest seller, as a weekday lunch special (Singapore noodles and beef stew with noodles are other options). The menu has more than 237 items, featuring basics of Cantonese-style soup, pork, beef, seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes, plus specialties of pressed and stuffed duck. — 45-488 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe; 247-4812. $

Koko Head Cafe

This breakfast and brunch restaurant has been a hot spot ever since celebrity chef Lee Anne Wong set down roots in Hawaii in 2013. Folks return for such dishes as kim chee bacon-cheddar scones, cornflake French toast, dumplings “All Day Wong” and a Reuben frittata. Wong, a second- generation Chinese-American born and raised in New York, honed her skills at such renowned restaurants as Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit and Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Restaurant 99. All of that pedigree influences her menu. — 1145C 12th Ave.; 732-8920. Breakfast, brunch. $$

Kona Brewing Co.

Kona Brewing delivers on both crucial fronts — beer and its accompanying pupu. Consider Pawai pepperoni rolls or Pele’s fire wings, plus hand-tossed pizzas, a selection of brewhouse burgers and hearty entrees that include the Mana Grill (shoyu ginger chicken, kalua pork with cabbage and chef’s choice of sausage) or sesame-crusted ahi. Top beers are Big Wave Golden Ale, Fire Rock Pale Ale and Longboard Island Lager. — Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Highway, Hawaii Kai; 396-5662. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Kua Aina

Kua Aina’s generous portions aren’t limited to the burgers (choose from quarter-, third- or half-pound patties), but also the garnishes. The avocado burger is a favorite because the avocado slice rivals the size of the burger. Ditto on the fruit in the pineapple burger. Selections are many since Kua Aina not only makes it easy to customize burgers, it has an extensive sandwich menu and array of sides (soups, salads and popcorn shrimp in addition to fries and onion rings). If you’re not craving beef, try a turkey, tuna or pastrami sandwich, or go green with a sandwich of grilled eggplant and peppers. — 66-160 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa; 637-6067. Lunch, dinner. $

La Cucina Ristorante Italiano

Chef-owner Don Truong spent the summers of his youth in Sicily, and that influences the cuisine at La Cucina. Dishes include gnocci fresca with choice of gorgonzola, browned butter and sage; Italian sausage with vodka sauce; squid-ink ravioli neri filled with lobster in a basil and saffron cream sauce; and risotto funghi with porcini mushrooms, truffle oil and Parmesan. Dishes not to be missed include cioppino di pesce, a fish and seafood stew; baked lamb shank braised with fresh herbs in tomato sauce; and the chef’s signature osso buco (an advance order). It’s a small room, so reservations are a must. — 725 Kapiolani Blvd.; 593-2626. Dinner. $$$

La Hiki

Chef Simeon Hall Jr. brings artisanal techniques of curing, smoking, aging, preserving, pickling and slow-cooking to the dinner menu at La Hiki, along with a commitment to sourcing more than 65% of his ingredients from local farms and fishermen. Steaks form the centerpiece of the evening menu. Choose from A-5 Japanese wagyu rib-eye, local grass-fed Kunoa Cattle beef or USDA Prime cuts. Appetizers include lechon kewali, a Filipino pork-and-tomato salad made with bacon, or garlic shrimp with wok-fried hearts of palm and lilikoi. Breakfast and a lavish weekend “Brunch for all Seasons” buffet that includes meat-carving stations, dim sum, a loco-moco corner, poke bar, make-your-own pasta station and more are other ways to enjoy the Four Seasons experience. — Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, 92-1001 Olani St.; 679-0079. Breakfast, dinner, weekend brunch. $$$$

La Tour Cafe

Many come for the macarons, but end up staying for La Tour Cafe’s sandwiches, burgers and panini. Consider the pastrami dip served with a side of au jus or La Tour Burger featuring local grass-fed Kunoa Cattle beef on brioche. Vegetarians will enjoy the falafel banh mi with harissa hummus, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber and cilantro. Wash it all down with a sweet, but strong, iced coffee. And don’t ignore the rotating specials, including specialty flavor macarons and kouign amanns. One recent offering was an appetizing riff on Mexican corn on the cob: Elote Fries, crisp fries topped with cotija-sour cream sauce, charred corn, jalapenos, cotija cheese, red onions, cilantro and crisp garlic. — Multiple locations. Lunch, dinner. $$

Le Crepe Cafe

At this Manoa cafe, diners can watch crepes being created as a thin layer of batter is spread over the round griddle. With a few turns of the wrist, they’re ready for ingredients that range from the egg, cheese, bacon, mushrooms and garlic that go into the Breakfast of Champions crepe; to the sliced turkey, turkey bacon, grilled chicken, cheese and veggies that fill The Warrior. Veggie, Italian and sweet dessert options are also available. Greens are sourced from local farms in keeping with a mindset that favors natural, organic ingredients. Owner Soufiane Bouharkat came from Paris on vacation, fell in love with Hawaii and decided to stay here, making a living by bringing the popular street fare of the City of Lights to the islands. Along with a small cafe at Manoa Marketplace, Le Crepe operates two concessions at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. — 2752 Woodlawn Drive; 988-6688. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $

Legend Seafood Restaurant

Legend has been a daytime go-to haunt for dim sum lovers since it opened in 1990. It’s a favorite weekend spot for families enjoying yum cha, with a lengthy roster of pork and seafood dumplings, baked pork manapua, taro puffs and mochi rice in lotus leaf, to name just a few items. An a la carte menu day and night offers Hong Kong Cantonese-style dishes, specializing in seafood such as stir-fried prawns in a taro basket and baked crab with spicy salt. Other specialties include smoked tea leaf chicken and deep-fried spareribs with garlic and supreme sauce. — Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St.; 532-1868. Lunch, dinner. $$

Limon Rotisserie

The specialty of the house at Limon is El Pollo a la Braza — fire-roasted marinated chicken, available by quarter, half or whole, with the house aji amarillo huacatay sauce (chili pepper and black mint). It’s so succulent and flavorful you should always order more than you can eat, so you can take a few pieces home. Bright, fresh ceviche is another top draw — fish, shrimp, octopus and calamari. But do venture to other parts of the menu to explore Peruvian takes on roast pork chops, braised short rib, crisp tilapia over braised seafood and a paella of seafood cooked with saffron rice. Portions are generous and flavors huge. — Ka Makana Alii mall, Kapolei; 670-2646. Lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, happy hour. $$$

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

If your party of diners has diverse palates, this is an ideal spot to enjoy the warming goodness of a hot-pot meal. Choose from three bone broths — tomato, original “milky” marrow or spicy — or have both in a half-and-half pot. Go all-you-can-eat for dinner at $25.99, or an economical $12.95 for lunch. If you go a la carte, you’ll have some decisions to make, with endless lists of food for the pot in multiple categories. For instance, pick meats, meatballs, seafood, noodles, vegetables and more; there are even categories for dumplings, tofu and mushrooms. Consider skewers on the side. There’s even a sauce bar for customizing a dipping sauce. More decisions: lists of beer, sake, spirits, soft drinks and flavored iced teas. — Ward Centre; 593-0055. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Little Village Noodle House

An anchor in Chinatown, this restaurant can be relied upon for quick service and a varied menu. While chicken, lamb and pork dishes are available in vast permutations, Little Village is also a good choice for vegetarians; try the moo shu roll or pecan spinach salad. A vast number of noodle dishes also await, from dried beef chow funn to a Shanghai mochi stir-fry with pork, choy sum and shiitake. — 1113 Smith St.; 545-3008. Lunch, dinner. $$

Love & Limes

The menu of Kevin and Kim Taira’s restaurant starts with the fresh and healthy, inspired by the cuisine of Kim’s native Vietnam. Few dishes are inherently Vietnamese, though many have the added brightness of a touch of lime juice common to the cuisine. The handful of Vietnamese dishes are lighter in sugar, salt and fishy pungency than what you would find at more traditional restaurants. These include a pleasant crab ball noodle soup and Vietnamese beef stew. Signature plates are gluten-free because they start with your choice of a summer salad of greens, quinoa, rice or rice vermicelli. To this, add your choice of 10 to 12 proteins such as fried tofu, blackened shrimp or ahi, rib-eye steak or chicken of the day. Rice bowls are also available. One must-try is the honey garlic ahi poke, the result of a happy accident. — Dole Cannery, 735 Iwilei Road; 536-8119. Lunch weekdays. $

Lucky Belly

The Belly Bowl is a top choice at this Chinatown spot, loaded with pork belly, bacon and sausage. Lucky Belly was conceived with a few signature bowls of ramen as the stars of the menu, but it’s not all about noodles. You’ll find ramen-friendly sides of pork belly bao and shrimp gyoza. There are also plates featuring, by day, tempura shrimp tacos and a karaage chicken sandwich; or uni gnocchi, kochujang brisket bibimbap and miso-braised pork belly by night. If you’re craving ramen at night, the Beast Bowl features brisket, short ribs and oxtail wontons. Dinner is served until midnight and “The Window” is open for post-bar, to-go munchies from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursdays to Saturdays. — 50 N. Hotel St.; 531-1888. Lunch, dinner, late night. $-$$

M.A.C. 24/7 Restaurant + Bar

This all-hours diner specializes in modern American cuisine, in generous quantities with options ranging from sweetbread French toast to a fully loaded bacon cheeseburger to Hawaiian moonfish tacos. But Mac 24/7’s claim to fame is its 14-inch pancakes. The daring take the M.A.C. Daddy Pancake Challenge. Polish off three with various toppings in 90 minutes, and the pancakes are free. Mochi pancakes are another eye-opening find. — Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel, 2500 Kuhio Ave.; 921-5564. 24 hours. $$$


In the heart of Kaimuki, this humble restaurant can be counted on for a menu of high-quality classic sushi, teishoku, chirashi and more. Ahi is the star ingredient and it comes in all forms, from raw to seared to fried. Even the bones are served deep-fried. Noodle dishes always hit the spot, as does tempura that arrives hot and crispy. Sushi can be ordered a la carte, or try the sushi, tempura and noodle set (choice of hot or cold udon or soba). Daily specials keep the menu interesting. Chef Goro Obara goes to the fish market every morning to ensure he’s serving the freshest available. — 3565 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki; 732-3775. Lunch, dinner. $$

Mahaloha Burger

Juicy, generously portioned patties (choose between a third-pound “single” or a half-pound “double”) pack a flavorful punch, and fries arrive crisp and well-seasoned at Mahaloha. Owner Jesse Aguinaldo uses grass-fed Big Island beef and fresh veggies to elevate his burgers above typical fast food. In addition to classic burgers and fries, Mahaloha’s menu includes a veggie burger, and chicken, mahimahi and turkey sandwiches, plus bacon cheese fries and Parmesan fries. There’s also an array of gourmet hot dogs. Mahaloha Burgers has three locations — there’s seating and beer on tap in Kailua; while in Waikiki and at Ala Moana’s Lanai food court you can take your burger to go and head for the beach. — Multiple locations. Lunch, dinner. $

Mahina & Sun’s

Located in the hip boutique Surfjack ­Hotel in Waikiki, chef Ed Kenney’s restaurant offers an array of dishes he calls “elevated home cooking.” Mainly sourced from local farms and vendors, the menu features interesting options such as “snacks” of panko-crusted avocado tacos with shishito peppers, pickled red onion and smoked yogurt and crisp he‘e (octopus) beignets with lemon aioli. For dinner, the fresh fish entrees are the winners, such as the satisfying ahi with a 12-grain rice salad and limu salsa verde or the pan-seared monchong with breadfruit and green beans. Mochi fans can end their meals with a dark chocolate butter version served with a scoop of black sesame gelato and local jam. — Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, 412 Lewers St.; 924-5810. Brunch, dinner. $$-$$$$

Maile’s Thai Bistro

Owner Maile Sengoura spent her early career working in Italian restaurants, while drawn to the aromatic flavors of Thai and Laotian cuisine. At Maile’s Thai Bistro, she’s created a menu based on her passion for those flavors and offers a full range of satays, curries and noodles in stylish, yet relaxed rooms in two locations. There’s also a menu of gluten-free options, including gluten-free pad Thai. — Hawaii Kai Towne Center, 333 Keahole St.; 394-2488. Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd.; 591-2488. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$


Neiman Marcus’s signature restaurant is the place where Oahu’s best dressed go to see and be seen. During peak fashion seasons, models often stroll the floor in the latest ready-to-wear styles. High ceilings in this casual-luxe room are lined with big, palm ceiling fans evocative of a bygone era. At lunchtime, diners can choose from a variety of salads, sandwiches and entrees. A lobster club sandwich and laksa seafood curry are among favorites. For dinner, consider executive chef Lawrence Nakamoto’s prix-fixe tasting menu or go a la carte with main courses of duck confit, grilled Pono Pork porterhouse, kalbi-braised short ribs, and more. This summer saw the launch of a daily happy hour and afternoon tea (the latter with advance reservations) — Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center, third floor; 951-3420. Lunch, dinner. $$$-$$$$

Maru Sushi

Enjoy an intimate audience with chef Takeshi Kawasaki at the counter here that seats just nine. Two seatings are offered for omakase only dinners that encompass about six appetizers and 14 pieces of nigiri sushi. Expect delicacies from the waters of Hokkaido, including sweet sea urchin and amaebi. Kawasaki retired to Hawaii after a storied career in Japan that included earning a Michelin star, but decided he missed work and opened this little hideaway. — 1731 Kalakaua Ave.; 951-4445. Dinner. $$$$

Maui Mike’s

Sure, rotisserie chicken abounds, from grocery delis to big-box stores and more. But this humble eatery takes its chicken up a big notch: It starts with fresh chicken raised uncaged, seasons it liberally with a secret mix, and delivers it to customers fresh off the rotisserie. The menu ranges from shredded chicken sandwiches to whole chickens sold as meals with sides including baked beans, coleslaw, fries and more. — Multiple locations. Lunch, dinner. $-$$

Mei Sum Dim Sum

Mei Sum serves the standards of dim sum masterfully — shrimp pork siu mai, shrimp dumplings, steamed char siu bun, mochi rice in lotus leaf, black bean spareribs. But a few dishes will make this your favorite dim sum spot — fried eggplant stuffed with fishcake, with crispy garlic pieces; or fried soft-shell crab topped with those same glorious garlic crystals. If you’re not convinced, remember that, unlike most places, dim sum is served here all day, everyday. How can you go wrong with that? — 1170 Nuuanu Ave., 531-3268. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $

Menya Le Nood

The menu at this ramen stop is streamlined and simple, five kinds of tsukemen or five kinds of ramen. Choose a soup base (tonkotsu, shoyu or goma) and one of four spice levels, none to hot. Rich and creamy tonkotsu broth is a favorite. Don’t forget to order a few sides, such as gyoza, garlic shrimp, ika geso or bao stuffed with fried garlic shrimp or pork kakuni. It’s a place that screams “repeat visits.” — 560 Pensacola St.; 589-0634. Lunch, dinner. $-$$

Mi Almita Cantina

Hugo Ortega joined forces with Michael Mina to open this Mexican outpost at the International Market Place in June 2018. Both chefs are James Beard Foundation Award-winners, raising expectations for the “coastal Mexican” fare served. But with its placement adjacent to The Street, Mina’s casual food hall, the menu has evolved to favor tacos, tostadas and enchiladas, mid-priced fare that appeals to walk-up customers. The ingredients are top-notch, nonetheless: Take note of the chicken, embellished with mole de tamarindo and roasted garlic, or the pork, slow-cooked in banana leaf, before you wolf those tacos down. Order discerningly and you’ll marvel at the flavors: Charred longbeans are enhanced with a deep red, rich chili-based sauce; Papas Bravas, roasted potatoes served sizzling and with three creamy dips, are irresistible. For true coastal Mexican tastes, try Ortega’s Arroz a la Tumbada, a luscious, rice-based dish with plump, garlicky shrimp, chicken and line-caught marlin; it’s spiced up with pork chorizo made with Oaxacan flair. — The Street Food Hall, International Market Place, 2311 Kuhio Blvd.; 377-6915. $$-$$$


Michel’s has been a place of romance in Waikiki since 1962. For a classic beachside experience, old-school fine dining, sunset view and royal treatment, this is your spot. Go traditional with Steak Diane or chateaubriand for two, or for seafood lovers there’s cioppino or Michel’s Ocean Bounty, featuring diver scallops, Kauai prawns; blackened ahi with mango aioli and tropical fruit relish, grilled fish, baked Tristan lobster tail and Big Island abalone on spaghetti squash with lemon and roasted macadamia nut butter. You also can’t go wrong with chef Eberhard “Hardy” Kintscher’s six-course, $100 tasting menu ($140 with wine pairings). More recently, the restaurant introduced a monthly first Sunday four-course brunch. — Colony Surf, 2895 Kalakaua Ave; 923-6552. Dinner. $$$$

Million Restaurant

This longtime family-run restaurant is a go-to for everything from Korean yakiniku to stone-pot dishes and satisfying umami-rich Korean stews. Meals always come with assorted delicious banchan that round out beloved dishes such as meat jun, kalbi tang soup and the chicken soup, with half a chicken and rice noodles. — 626 Sheridan St.; 596-0799. Lunch, dinner, late night. $$-$$$

Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar

The typical Japanese sushi bar — small, exclusive, hard to get in — Mitch’s is none of that. The family-owned spot near the airport is a large, friendly place where you can get in without planning days ahead. You should still expect prices reflecting prime, fresh fish, meaning a night out will cost you, but it’s BYOB, so you can save a bit by bringing in your own beer or sake. It’s also open for lunch, unlike most of the great sushi havens. Proximity to the airport means the freshest items from Japan are plane-to-table, delivered daily. — 524 Ohohia St.; 837-7774. Lunch, dinner. $$$-$$$$

Moke’s Bread & Breakfast

Chef Moké Warren honed his skills at the Halekulani Hotel before opening a restaurant nook in Kailua, serving humble home-cooked meals. The restaurant is known for its divinely sauced lilikoi pancakes, corned beef hash made fresh from whole brisket with potato and green onion, and the Kualoa Loco Moke, featuring rib-eye instead of a hamburger patty. Other draws: Auntie Harriett’s French toast, home-style breakfast meat-and-egg combos, farm-fresh omelets and “eggless” omelets of hash browns, cheese and your choice of omelet ingredients. — 27 Hoolai St. Kailua; 261-5565. 1127 11th Ave., Kaimuki; 367-0571. Breakfast, lunch. $-$$

Moku Kitchen

Peter Merriman brings his farm-and-ranch sensibilities to the city in a big room with an industrial vibe, a hotspot for casual lunch or a dinner meet-up with friends. Foods like pizza, garlic truffle fries, Kauai shrimp deviled eggs and oven-roasted wings are made for sharing. Heavier fare ranges from rotisserie prime rib to ginger- glazed roast duck. Moku’s reputation as the gathering space in Kakaako is cemented by a long list of beers, wines and cocktails. — SALT at Our Kakaako, 660 Ala Moana Blvd.; 591-6658. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Momosan Ramen Waikiki

The second of “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto’s food concepts in the Alohilani Resort is a casual ramen and sake bar. Ramen bowls range from flavorful chilled sesame tan tan to butabara fried pork belly in a Tokyo-style chicken broth. At the top of the line is the gyukotsu ramen with a centerpiece of seven-hour braised beef, of which only 25 orders are available per day. Another highlight is the kushiyaki, assorted skewered and grilled meat, seafood and veggies. — 2490 Kalakaua Ave.; 922-0011. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman

This restaurant is chef Peter Merriman’s casual approach to farm-to-table dining. Although it’s part of the Ko Olina Resort complex, the space and dishes are approachable for locals with great brunch and happy hour specials. By day, enjoy such casual fare as wood-fired pizzas, a Maui Cattle cheeseburger, fish sandwiches, pulled pork sandwich or bulgogi pork tacos. Evening additions include heavier fare such as kiawe- grilled ahi, or fish and half Kona lobster pasta. — 92-1048 Olani St.; 380-4086. Lunch, dinner, late night.

Morimoto Asia

Masaharu Morimoto brings his “Iron Chef” starpower to Waikiki in this ocean-view space. As the name suggests, the menu sweeps across Asia, with an emphasis on the chef’s favorites from China, Korea, Japan and Thailand, with a wide assortment of dim sum, sushi, and stir-fries for those times you and your besties can’t decide on one cuisine. The star of the menu is Peking Duck presented in Morimoto style, carved thin and served with steamed flour pancakes, apricot sweet chili and hoisin miso. — Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach, 2490 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki; 922-0022. Dinner $$-$$$$.

Morio’s Sushi Bistro

All of the sushi basics are covered with aplomb here: maki, nigiri and hand rolls, plus donbori and sashimi, with generous cuts of the most familiar maguro and hamachi, to market special seafood. Beyond fish is chicken karaage, garlic chicken and shrimp and vegetable tempura. Chef Morio Arime’s personable banter and the fact that the place probably holds no more than 20 people gives this dining experience a familial vibe. Two seatings nightly, Monday to Saturday. — 1150 Young St. Suite 103; 596-2288. Dinner. $$-$$$

Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe

Five or six coffees are offered daily, expertly brewed-to-order at this little Manoa coffee shop, including Hawaii coffee roasted in-house. Not a coffee drinker? There’s also an array of teas and agua fresca. Fantastic grinds are another claim to fame: The menu pioneers tasty mashups such as Macaroni+Cheese (aged Vermont cheddar) Pancakes and Egg-A-Muffin (bacon, tomato jam, over-easy egg, Gruyere and baby arugula). A number of lunch sandwiches also await, with local, grass-fed beef Good Burgers available Fridays and Saturdays only. Omelets star on the Saturday brunch menu. A second location has opened at The Key Project multipurpose community center, 47-200 Waihee Road in Kaneohe, offering drinks and grab-and-go items, while providing barista training. — 2955 E. Manoa Road; 673-0065. Breakfast, lunch, Saturday brunch. $-$$.

Murphy’s Bar & Grill

Old-fashioned comfort food with a nod to Ireland, and a curated selection of wines and beers are served by a friendly staff, but the warmth of a pub is completed by the stained glass windows, quaint red brick walls and white shutters of a bygone era. You’ll find corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, and a shepherd’s pie of lamb and vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes. Also with a touch of the Irish are nachos laced with corned beef and cabbage, a burger topped with Irish Cashel Blue cheese, and a sirloin sandwich that comes with an au jus dip nipped with Guinness. Owner Don Murphy hosts an annual St. Patrick’s Day block party and other fundraising events throughout the year. — 2 Merchant St.; 531-0422. Lunch (weekdays), dinner, late night. $$

Musubi Cafe Iyasume

If you’re someone who’s succumbed to the charms of the musubi, the rice ball that’s an original grab-and-go food, this is the place for you. There are traditional Japanese offerings, such as rice balls filled with umeboshi (salt plum), konbu or ikura, or contemporary favorites of mayo tuna or fried chicken. If you love riffs on Spam musubi, check out versions with added toppings of eel, bacon and egg, shrimp and avocado, shiso, takuan and more. Also, find bento, donburi and more. — Multiple locations. Lunch, dinner. $

MW Restaurant

Chef Wade Ueoka and his pastry- chef wife, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, have hit upon a perfect formula for their ever-popular restaurant: great cooking and baking, a menu that appeals to all generations, solid service and a space that’s elegant enough for special occasions but still comfortable enough to relax in. Dishes feature familiar local flavors elevated by creativity and nuance. Favorites: mochi-crusted local fish, adobo-braised pork belly served with bao, onaga and butterfish arancini, any and all of the ever-delightful desserts by Karr-Ueoka. — 1538 Kapiolani Blvd.; 955-6505. Lunch weekdays, dinner. $$$

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