comscore 2019 ‘Ilima Awards Restaurants: N-S

2019 ‘Ilima Awards Restaurants: N-S

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Nanzan Girogiro

Beauty reigns at this unique Japanese restaurant, not just in chef Yoshihiro Matsumoto’s artful seasonal menus, but also in the gorgeous dishware that includes ceramics by artist Nanzan Ito, one of the restaurant owners. Six-course omakase (chef’s choice) dinners change monthly, all of it delicate and refined, and so varied that it would be difficult even to offer examples. Suffice it to say it will be dining experience filled with artistry and culture. And you don’t have to make any decisions on your own. — 560 Pensacola St. (at Hopaka Street); 524-0141. Dinner (closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays). $$$

Nico’s Pier 38

Nico’s spacious, open-air lunch restaurant, complete with full bar, is a relaxing spot to enjoy the fresh fish dishes on the menu (direct from the nearby fish auction). A longtime favorite is the furikake pan-seared ahi with its finger-licking ginger-garlic-cilantro dip. But there are many offerings besides fish, from wine-braised short ribs to a Pier 38 cheeseburger and salad Nicoise, plus a number of other salad offerings. Nico’s is now also established in Kailua, where you can get the same quality of fresh fish, prepared various ways, in addition to other dishes. Both locations feature fish markets with a list of poke, smoked fish and more. — 1129 N. Nimitz Highway; 540-1377. 970 N. Kalaheo Ave., Kailua; 263-3787. Breakfast (Honolulu only, except Sundays), lunch, happy hour, dinner, Sunday brunch (Kailua only). $-$$

Nico’s Upstairs

While growing up in Lyon, France, Nico Chaize was rewarded for good grades with dinner trips to L’Entrecote, known for one thing, steak frites with green sauce. Reconstructed from many taste trials, that sauce has become the signature of his newest restaurant. It helps to make steak the star of Nico’s Upstairs, offering a handful of bistro dishes from the chef’s native France, customer favorites from predecessor Harbor Restaurant, plus Nico’s signature poke, which can also be prepared tableside to taste, for two. — Pier 38, 1129 N. Nimitz Highway; 550-3750. Lunch, dinner, happy hour, Sunday brunch. $$$

Nobu Honolulu

Nobu is now a global franchise. Japan-born, Peru-honed chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s business partnership with actor Robert DeNiro has expanded to 40-plus restaurants worldwide, including Ward Villages and Lanai locations. The Honolulu restaurant opened in 2016; it’s a stylish location, with abundant table seating, a sushi bar and teppanyaki table, in addition to an outdoor bar and events room distinguished by its ceiling of glowing, wave-shaped wood. Choose Nobu for the restaurant’s eye-opening preparation of raw fish; plates such as whitefish with a grapefruit mezcal ponzu, or a dish made with raw, local botan shrimp and uni, “new style,” are fabulous. Meanwhile, Nobu’s signature dish, black miso cod, is famous for a reason — it’s sensational. In addition to showy entrees such as king crab legs, small bites are available here to reflect the restaurant’s attention to detail and Peruvian/fusion- inflected approach. — Waiea Tower, 1118 Ala Moana Blvd.; 237-6999. Lunch, dinner, late night. $$$$

Nook Neighborhood Bistro, the

A quaint, bustling restaurant at Puck’s Alley delivers seriously delicious, well-executed breakfast and brunch dishes — plus cocktails. Think succulent pork belly eggs Benedict, served with choice of starch and perfectly dressed local greens; a tasty, perfectly textured kale okonomiyaki topped with a crisp sunny side up egg; and the ever-popular, aromatic orange blossom pancakes, delicately sweetened with a pineapple-orange marmalade. A great side is the ulu custard parfait, a healthful, refreshing ensemble of pureed creamy breadfruit topped with fruit and a sprinkling of crunchy cacao beans. Other favorites: mochiko chicken and waffles, scones and gravy, polenta fries with Sriracha aioli. — 1035 University Ave., 942-2222. Breakfast, brunch. $-$$


A new, bigger space gives Hyun Chong Kim the opportunity to show more of her elevated contemporary Korean- fusion cuisine in a sit-down format. Her popular confit pork belly brulee, and spicy chicken and gnocchi are still here, inspired by her experience working in French, Italian and Japanese kitchens. Newer offerings include seaweed salmon and truffle mandoo. Monthly specials are always a draw. — 1164 Smith St.; 537-3787. Lunch, dinner. $$

Olena by Chef Ron Simon

A hungry lunch crowd finds an oasis at Ron and Rose Simon’s small takeout operation featuring luxe-casual plates and bowls with protein choices ranging from poke to pulled pork, red wine beef stew or Oink and Moo, a combination of mini beef patties and braised pork belly adobo. Daily specials such as beer-battered fish and chips keep the menu interesting. Also known for banana poi bread. — 1933 Republican St.; 745-7777. Lunch. $

Olive Tree Cafe

This casual Mediterranean restaurant has been a long time go-to for East Oahuans for many reasons. The souvlaki (grilled kebabs of fresh fish, chicken or New Zealand lamb) and falafel (spicy veggie balls), served with warm pita and salad, are always consistent, affordable and satisfying. The avgolemono (egg lemon) soup shines, and the restaurant is BYOB to boot. Cash only. — 4614 Kilauea Ave., Kahala; 737-0303. Dinner. $-$$

Ono Seafood

If you haven’t been to Onos, one of the most visited poke spots on the island, what’s stopping you? Have you been hurt? Deprived? Choose from among eight types of poke, beginning with local standards of shoyu ahi, spicy ahi and shoyu tako. Haw’n Style Ahi is like shoyu ahi without the shoyu, or there’s wasabi ahi, coated in wasabi oil. Ask for samples and choose your favorite. Or make it a combo with two styles. Are you hungry? Get the regular-sized bowl. Starving? Go for the large portion. All poke bowls come with white or brown rice and a canned drink or bottled water. Parking at the Kapahulu Ave. location may be tough to find, but if you’re up for a drive, visit their new second location in Hawaii Kai. — Multiple locations, 732-4806. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $

Opal Thai

It moved from Haleiwa to Chinatown. It serves water in silver cups. It’s probably the most interesting Thai restaurant in Hawaii. It’s Opal Thai and chef Opal Diri­chandhra is a superhero. Let him handle everything. He’ll come to your table and ask what Thai foods you like, if you have any allergies, your favorite flavors. With such an open personality, he will make you feel safe and well taken care of by the end of the conversation. The dishes will be served based on your answers. He calls it like it is — real Thai food. If you’re a repeat customer, he’ll serve you dishes you loved, dishes you haven’t tried yet, and nothing that you wouldn’t want again. As long as you’re open and willing to try different things, you’ll walk out satisfied, and with a new appreciation for Thai food. It’s Opal’s superpower — that and the sauteed eggplant and string beans with garlic basil sauce. Some of us get that every time. But if you want to know what’s really good, ask the chef. — 1030 Smith St., 381-8091. Dinner. $$


The Halekulani’s oceanside restaurant offers elegant dining from morning to night. The popular Sunday brunch offers endless choices; bring your appetite for American-, Hawaiian- and Asian- inspired breakfast items, personalized omelets, carving table selections, and breads and pastries baked in-house. The dinner menu reflects chef Christian Testa’s Italian heritage while incorporating local ingredients: seafood lasagnette is made with Kahuku shrimp, scallops and avocado; tagliatelle features Kona lobster, tomato and curry, and the Hawaiian sea bass (hapuupuu) is served with asparagus flan and a lemon- caper sauce. A meal at Orchids isn’t quite complete without a slice of its signature coconut cake. — Halekulani hotel, 2199 Kalia Road, Waikiki; 923-2311. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, Sunday brunch. $$$$

Pa‘ina Cafe

Build your own poke bowl by first choosing the type of raw fish (spicy tuna, shoyu ahi, shoyu ginger salmon or limu ahi, just to name a few), then toppings such as tempura flakes, natto, taegu, kim chee and furikake. Not in the mood for seafood? Acai bowls, sandwiches, smoothies and an assortment of salted caramel coffee and ube tarts and other confections await. This place has been so popular, it has expanded to Las Vegas Korea Town Plaza. — Ward Centre, Koko Marina Shopping Center; 356-2829. Lunch, dinner. $

Pah Ke’s Chinese Restaurant

Pah Ke’s offers variety with a menu that exceeds 175 items, from beloved everyday local classics such as kau yuk and crispy gau gee to special-occasion dishes such as Peking duck and fresh whole steamed fish. But expect the unexpected as well: a salad of Hamakua tomatoes with macadamia nut pesto and Waianae goat cheese, or braised beef short ribs with Kona coffee spices and curry rub. No MSG is used and the cooks pride themselves on customizing menus for special occasions. — 46-018 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe; 235-4505. Lunch, dinner. $-$$

Panya Bistro

Panya calls itself “a bistro, bar and bakery,” and indeed, it’s a relaxing indoor-outdoor gathering place with everything from hot noodle dishes to stir-fried veggies to oxtail stew or pork chops, and more. Before the meal arrives, partake of cocktails, beer and other spirits. And, of course, the Panya experience isn’t complete without a taste of its famous baked goods — think custards, croissants, cheesecake slices, tarts, cakes and more. — Hokua, 1288 Ala Moana Blvd.; 946-6388. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $$

Paris Hawaii

Paris Hawaii has the dark, Old World ambiance of a Spanish tapas bar, setting the stage for something distinct from any other Oahu dining experience. You’ll find two bar counters, one for drinks and one a stage for the chef’s presentations in an open kitchen that gives diners full view of an elegant Hawaii-meets-Paris seasonal tasting menu prepared by chef Yuya Yamanaka. Past highlights have included Kauai shrimp dotted with a black garlic paste and local-egg aioli, and aged, smoked Big Island beef. In addition to wine and cocktail pairings, diners have the option of tea pairings. — 413 Seaside Ave., second floor; (808) 212-9282. Dinner, $$$

Pho To Chau

Pho To Chau was one of the original pho restaurants in Honolulu. Top selections for filling a bowl are the rare beef, brisket, meatball and tendon tripe. Of course, fresh herbs and vegetables accompany each order. Popular non pho items include summer, spring and vegetarian rolls, green papaya salad, grilled pork chops and barbecued chicken. Cash only. — 1007 River St.; 533-4549. Breakfast, lunch. $

Pieology Pizzeria

Whether you’re about creating your dream pizza or loading on a mountain of toppings to extend that pie for several meals, this joint offers customization: six crust options (including two that are gluten-free), oils, six sauces, six cheeses (including a vegan choice), more than two dozen toppings, and even “afterbake” sauces for drizzling over your freshly baked feast. Toppings are unlimited, and it’s all one price (except extra charges for gluten-free crusts). Enjoy salads and a sweet dessert pizza as well. — Multiple locations. Lunch, dinner. $

Pig & the Lady, The

Opened in 2014, the Pig & the Lady just keeps getting better — which is why you still need to book in advance. Chef Andrew Le (he is the pig, his noodle-soup- genius mom is the lady) spins his own cuisine, a combo of Vietnamese soul and international heart. Besides having the most resonant pho broth in town, his menu always yields enchanting surprises, like his reinvention of the Italian classic melon-and-prosciutto appetizer as strips of dried aku with ribbons of cantaloupe, brightened with cubes of pickled watermelon rind and mint; or a rice paper crust “pizza” topped with things like nem cha (fermented pork sausage) and Laughing Cow cheese, along with herbs and fried shallots. Each time you visit, you might ask, what new exciting mashup has he come up with now? Le and his family traveled to Vietnam and the trip unleashed a torrent of new ideas. Don’t miss the nicely charred half chicken served with a sort of Asian chimichurri, made with mac khen pepper from northern Vietnam. Its salty-spicy flavor is Le’s latest culinary inspiration. — 83 N. King St.; 585-8255. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Piggy Smalls

The sister restaurant to Chinatown’s Pig & The Lady, Piggy Smalls offers the same whimsy and creativity in its approach to Southeast Asian fare. The menu changes with the seasons, but expect to find such mainstays as contemporary phos, LFC (Laotian fried chicken), and a smoked brisket pho French dip sandwich. — 1200 Ala Moana Blvd.; 777-3588. Lunch, dinner. $$


Connoisseurs will appreciate the wide range of rotating libations served here and the 21 beers from all over the world on tap. The food is also outstanding. Try the house stout burger, warm bone marrow with chimichurri, or the Frick’n Pickles, fried pickles in Sriracha aioli. Add to this a fun atmosphere that caters to all levels of socializing — private tables for intimate gatherings to a beer garden for crowds, plus a TV to catch a game at the bar. — 1936 S. King St.; 744-9593. Dinner, late night. $$

Pioneer Saloon

Don’t come here with the idea of finding alcohol at this saloon; instead you’ll find lots of tasty plate-lunch fare focused on a variety of local-style, Japan-influenced specialties such as mochiko chicken, kurobuta tonkatsu, furikake ahi, salmon katsu, miso or garlic butterfish, and much more. There’s a rustic wild-west ambiance at the Diamond Head location, while the Kakaako shop is more spare, with sidewalk seating. — 3046 Monsarrat Ave., 732-4001. Salt at Our Kakaako, 685 Auahi St., 600-5612. Lunch, dinner. $$

Plantation Tavern

The plantation mixed-plate heritage of Korean, Chinese, Hawaiian, Portuguese and Filipino cuisines is the focus of the menu at this Kapolei spot. It’s “enhanced” plantation-style, though, which means dishes are prepared in an eat-local, organic spirit, designed for sharing. For example: ahi poke nachos topped with tomato and avocado over fried wontons, drizzled with Sriracha aioli and unagi sauce; heads-on Kauai shrimp with crab roe, coconut milk, shallots and garlic over rice; or bagoong fried rice with green mango, egg, chili pepper and green onions on the side. The Hui Hookup is a Thursday night set menu that feeds up to four for about $50. — Kapolei Marketplace, 590 Farrington Highway; 888-4299. Lunch, dinner, late night. $$

Reef Bar & Market Grill

This restaurant offers casual all-day dining modeled after local meat and fish markets. A breakfast buffet is full of dishes using ingredients from the land and surrounding waters. Try a Kukui Portuguese sausage loco or kale pork and greens Benedict. Lunch features an array of tacos with your choice of proteins, kebabs of the day, and beef or vegan burgers. The experience is most unique in the evening, when guests are invited to grill their own steaks, salmon, beef ribs or chicken beachside. A la carte dishes to accompany those steaks include ahi poke tostadas, sticky Thai chili-glazed chicken wings, saffron risotto and grilled corn on the cob. — Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, 2169 Kalia Road; 924-7333. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $$-$$$$

Restaurant Do-Ne

See Rave Reviews, Page 24

Restaurant Kunio

Expect a wait at this popular Japanese restaurant, but the hostesses are good about approximating the wait time, so you can entertain yourself in Waikele Center in the meantime. Start with a roll or nigiri sushi a la carte or take your pick of teishoku-style tempura, butterfish or rib-eye meals. A popular option for parties of four or more is the Funamori Party Boat: Lobster tails, tempura, teriyaki rib-eye steak, tonkatsu, sushi and sashimi come served in a boat-shaped dish along with sides of rice, miso soup, salad and tsukemono. — Waikele Center; 680-9188. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$

Ripple of Smiles

Smiles are contagious in their power to brighten the day of those on the receiving end, who are likely to pay it forward, sending a ripple effect of happiness into the world. What a great way to set the tone for a meal here, focused on Vietnamese cuisine from the Mekong Delta region. The restaurant has a short list of phos, banh mi and kho (simmered) stone pot stews with your choice of fish, pork or chicken, rich with nuoc mau, or caramelized sugar, as sweet as it is savory. A couple of dishes not to be missed are a crab vermicelli soup and crab spring rolls thick with juicy crabmeat tucked into a thin golden wrap that delivers a satisfying brittle crunch. There is also plenty for vegans/vegetarians. — 3040 Waialae Ave.; 354-2572. Lunch, dinner. $$


When Roy Yamaguchi opened the original Roy’s in Hawaii Kai 31 years ago, he created a template for a sophisticated, upscale restaurant that respected local traditions and elevated homegrown ingredients. Menus vary by location and change frequently, but count on his classics such as misoyaki butterfish, sticky baby back ribs and blackened ahi being there. — Multiple locations. Dinner (lunch at some locations). $$$- $$$$

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Signature, custom-aged steaks trigger oohs and aahs when they arrive sizzling in butter on a platter. Servers weave through a dining room where dark-paneled walls and waitstaff in white shirtsleeves and black ties create the ambiance of a ritzy, private club. The porterhouse, cowboy rib-eye and filet are popular, but the tomahawk rib-eye is most memorable, a 40-ounce slab of prime USDA beef, at $147 and 3,160 calories. With the motto, “Life is too short to eat anywhere else,” Ruth’s Hawaii restaurants have been a favorite of locals and visitors for 30 years. Steaks are broiled in 1,800-degree ovens and served sizzling on 500-degree plates, so every bite is hot and delicious. Sides are New Orleans-inspired to reflect founder Ruth Fertel’s origin, and include lobster macaroni and cheese, a sweet potato casserole with pecan crust, and classic creamed spinach. A world-class wine list rounds out the experience. — Waikiki Beach Walk, 226 Lewers St.; 440-7910. Waterfront Plaza, 500 Ala Moana Blvd.; 599-3860. Dinner. $$$$


This restaurant’s unremarkable exterior gives no clue as to the oasis of Vietnamese cuisine within. The menu is straightforward, but dishes are beautifully presented, starting with lush, veggie-filled platters of spring rolls or shrimp paste wraps on sugarcane. Following these appetizers, diners can choose from a range of banh mi, rice or vermicelli plates, yellow curries or pho. — 3624 Waialae Ave.; 735-4242. Lunch, dinner. $$

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar

Sansei redefines sushi with signature dishes like a sushi hand roll filled with ripe mango, blue crab, fresh greens and crunchy peanuts. Imaginative favorites also include the DK Crab Ramen with Asian-style truffle broth. Sansei has won numerous awards for its fusion cuisine, including accolades from Wine Spectator and Bon Appetit. Early birds can take 50% off food and sushi from 5:15 to 6 p.m. Sundays and Mondays, and 25% off from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on remaining days. The restaurant also caters to a late-night dinner crowd until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, plus drink specials and half off food and sushi after 10 p.m. for 21 and older only. — Waikiki Beach Marriott, 2552 Kalakaua Ave.; 931-6286. Dinner, late night. $$$

Seoul Tofu House

Seoul Tofu House invites us to enjoy the Korean bansang tradition of a complete meal. The centerpiece is soondubu (meaning “pure tofu”) a tofu stew that is one of the comfort foods of South Korea. Chef Min Kim adapted her mom’s seawater recipe for the pro kitchen, maintaining such traditions as cooking in individual stone pots over a flame. She starts with a beef bone stock simmered for 24 hours to extract flavor and collagen that gives the resulting soup its body and rich, buttery mouthfeel. Soup choices run from beef to seafood to tomato with mozzarella. Other entrees include spicy chicken and cheese, grilled short ribs, spicy pork or tteokgalbi, burger patties made with hand-minced beef. — The Laylow, 2299 Kuhio Ave.; 376-0018. Lunch, dinner. $$

Serg’s Mexican Kitchen

Given Serg’s proximity to the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus, you can bet the crowds appear on Taco Tuesdays, when $2 tacos are available from 4 p.m. to closing. But Mexican food enthusiasts show up at all times for breakfasts of chilaquiles con huevos or machaca, scrambled eggs with shredded beef, beans, chipotle salsa and more. The menu by chef Sergio Arellano is filled with a variety of traditional options, including affordable foot-long flautas, burritos and delectable churros. — 2740 E. Manoa Road; 988-8118. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $


Choose from a handful of sandwich varieties: falafel; chicken shawarma or schnitzel; sabich (fried eggplant and hard-boiled egg), or hummus stuffed in fresh-baked fluffy pitas. All are layered with vegetables and zippy sauces and are much more than a handful so you won’t leave hungry. Plates that come with rice, salad, hummus and pita, are also available. Don’t forget the homemade hot sauce. — 3133 Waialae Ave.; 744-4222. Lunch, dinner. $$

Shiro’s Saimin Haven

The flamboyant Franz Shiro Matsuo gave flash to saimin when he opened Shiro’s 50 years ago. The simple bowl of noodles became available in 60-plus combinations at his hands. The late Matsuo lives on in his menu descriptions. You can get your saimin, for example in sizes of “big brah,” “beeg” or “supa.” The top seller is the Dodonpa, loaded with fried shrimp, roast beef, char siu, wonton, roast pork, luncheon meat, imitation crab, mushrooms, eggroll and vegetables. Matsuo was also known for his poetry, little odes to the good things in life that always began “Dear Hearts …” — Multiple locations. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $


Shor is a breakfast buffet loaded with locally sourced ingredients in a huge spread of fresh dishes. Choose from baked goods, egg dishes, fresh local fruits and vegetables and cheeses. A selection of fresh juices is designed by the restaurant’s own in-house juicer. There are also made-to-order omelets, eggs Benedict and pancakes. Kamaaina discount available. — Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, 2424 Kalakaua Ave.; 923 1234. Breakfast. $$$

Side Street Inn on Da Strip

The menu here pays tribute to founder Colin Nishida with a set menu called Colin’s Classics, featuring the dishes his customers loved most — pork chops, fried rice, spicy garlic chicken and boneless kalbi. At $105 it serves four to five people. Nishida died in 2018, but he left behind a loyal staff dedicated to maintaining his menu and the hearty party atmosphere of the eateries. The pork chops remain a top seller, thin-sliced, seasoned simply and fried perfectly. On the side: ketchup. Also popular: lilikoi baby back ribs, blackened ahi, furikake ahi, oxtail soup … The original Side Street, on Hopaka Street in Kakaako, is closed for renovation and may open by the holidays. — 614 Kapahulu Ave.; 739-3939. Dinner, weekend lunch. $$

Signature Prime Steak & Seafood

Take an exclusive elevator to the 36th floor, where Signature occupies the penthouse of the Ala Moana Hotel. For an appetizer with a little bit of everything, the seafood tower has a whole Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp cocktail, ahi sashimi and oysters on the half shell. The prime rib-eye (16 ounces) and tomahawk bone-in rib-eye (28 ounces) are the most popular entrees. Daily happy hour, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., includes a 50% discount on select bar menu items. — Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive; 949-3636. Dinner. $$$$

Skewer House

Around the world, people of different cultures have reveled for centuries in the simple joy of feasting on meat on a stick. Honolulu Skewer House introduces something new to the scene with its Chinese-style feast of skewered foods, lu chuan. The restaurant has roots in Beijing, where skewered grilled meat is a favorite street fare, with sauces more aggressive than the more familiar Japanese yakitori. Newbies may want to take a seat at the bar their first time, to watch the grill master at work. Skewer items cover all bases: beef and lamb, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables, meatballs, sausages and more. Don’t miss the Hanging Pork, thin slices of roast pork layered with thin sheets of cucumber on a rack, served with a dark pool of soy, garlic, scallion sauce. — 1427 Makaloa St.; 888-8680. Dinner, late night, weekend lunch. $-$$


Sorabol serves everything from meat jun and kalbi to at least half a dozen varieties of bibimbap. Those interested in delving deeper into Korean cuisine will find lots to try, from the nakji somyun (spicy stir-fry with baby octopus, vegetables and noodles) to junbok jook (abalone porridge). Popular dishes include the many spicy stews, Korean pancakes as well as cook-your-own yakiniku. There are also prix fixe menus for two. — 805 Keeaumoku St.; 947-3113. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, 24/7 Friday and Saturday. $$-$$$

South Shore Grill

You’re in Waikiki, you finished hiking Diamond Head and you want fish tacos. South Shore Grill is right for you. The small California-style plate-lunch spot serves up great grilled fish with a side of amazing coleslaw — refreshing, crisp and tart, this is a coleslaw you’ll consider the best on the island. Get the grilled Cajun tacos, a burrito or the Mauka Makai plate of kalbi or BBQ chicken with fish or garlic shrimp. Choose hapa rice, mac salad and slaw, or fries and slaw. Burgers, another solid option, are topped with pastrami, fried onions, onion rings or many different cheeses. If you’re down for something heavier, get the Suicide Fries — covered in cheese, gravy and more cheese. Think of it as an incentive to hike another mountain. — 3114 Monsarrat Ave.; 734-0229. Lunch, dinner. $$

Square Barrels

In the heart of downtown, Square Barrels is the place to pair craft burgers with craft beer for lunch or dinner. Luxe-casual creations range from a wagyu or venison-bacon burger, to a spicy chipotle-chorizo burger. But the piece de resistance is the chivito. The monster burger, the national sandwich of Uruguay, stands about 6 inches tall, a Kaiser roll stacked with steak, ham, bacon, boiled egg slices, deep-fried mozzarella, spicy goat cheese, roasted red peppers and mushroom duxelles, with horseradish mayo and olive tapenade. The combination is delicious from top to bottom. — 1001 Bishop St.; 524-2747. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$


Housed in the Honolulu Design Center, the restaurant has always been a space for fantasy and inspiration, and a redesign has the room filled with wire acrobat chandeliers, fluffy pink clouds and cozy tables for two wrapped in romantic florals. The menu reflects the essence of local cuisine, with a dash of theater, of course. It starts with light bites such as Kauai shrimp tempura, with truffle oil added to a tsuyu sauce of dashi and shoyu; Graham cracker calamari; or Kona lobster bisque. Entree options include twice-cooked pork belly with pickled onions and dots of ume puree to cut some of the fatty factor, and duck a la lilikoi. — Honolulu Design Center, 1250 Kapiolani Blvd; 237-5429. Dinner, happy hour (closed Sundays). $$$-$$$$

Stripsteak Waikiki

Steakhouses are all about spending like a high roller — and San Francisco celeb chef Michael Mina capitalizes on the concept with his version of a meat emporium, which also includes a pretty good sushi bar. From the $15 ice balls (they take up most of a cocktail glass) to the wagyu beef sold by the ounce ($32 per ounce with a 3-ounce minimum), everything is designed to siphon your money. But it’s worth it — the army of solicitous servers, top ingredients, contemporary preparations. Even the “cheap” steak — a $47 flatiron, perfectly medium- rare — is better than the best steak at lesser restaurants. Along with extravagant “Must Trys” like the $95 lobster potpie, there are refreshing salads (matchstick zucchini with green apple and pistachios), tasty starters (squid in black bean scallion sauce) and tempting sides (rich mashed potatoes). Oh, and you get free duck fat fries. Deal hunters come for the happy hour Stripsteak Sunset Menu — $40 for a tuna hand roll, 12-ounce New York strip steak, duck fat fries and garlic spinach. — International Market Place; 800-3094. Lunch, dinner. $$$$

Sushi Ginza Onodera

No need to make choices here — just an excellent $250 omakase featuring world-class seasonal seafood carefully selected and prepared by the chef, who explains his dishes in detail before the meal. The dining experience here is among the most luxurious in town. Seating is limited to half a dozen at the sushi bar, plus a couple of private dining rooms. — 808 Kapahulu Ave.; 735-2375. Dinner. $$$$

Sushi Ii

This bustling restaurant offers a great balance of raw and cooked foods — it’s not just sushi. The omakase is a popular way to go if you want to experience the chef’s best offerings of the day. If you prefer control of your menu, pick from an extensive list of sashimi and sushi rolls. And kitchen options at this izakaya should not be overlooked. Consider small bites of lamb lollipops, chicken karaage or oysters baked in garlic butter, larger orders of king salmon kama or crispy fried moi, or such tempting specials of bone marrow with roasted garlic and eggplant or candied smoked bacon. Secure a seat at the packed sushi bar by making a reservation. — Samsung Plaza, 655 Keeaumoku St.; 942-5350. Lunch, dinner. $$$

Sushi Izakaya Gaku

Those unfamiliar with chef Manabu Kikuchi’s food might be tempted to write off this restaurant with its unassuming facade, but seafood aficionados flock here for beautifully marbled otoro that melts in the mouth, or local seafood like moi (Pacific threadfin) with its lovely buttery flavor. Cooked specialties range from an ebi fry to uni shooters to grilled beef tongue. The warm, hearty zenzai (sweet red bean soup) with mochi balls is a great ending, especially when the weather turns cooler. — 1329 S. King St.; 589-1329. Dinner. $$$$

Sushi Murayama

Let the chef choose and you’re guaranteed the freshest selections at the prime of seasonality and quality. Izakaya lovers will find hot and cold appetizers such as oyster or uni shooters, or mirugai sauteed in butter. Many diners speak of discovering unusual types of fish, all skillfully handled by chef Ryuji Murayama. At lunchtime, donburi and teishoku specialties get diners in and out quickly. — 808 Center, 808 Sheridan St.; 784-2100. Lunch, dinner. $$$

Sushi Sasabune

Heed the sign above the counter: “Trust me.” Then order the omakase, a selection of dishes chosen by the chef. At this eatery, this consists of more than a dozen carefully curated small plates that may include assorted sushi, Kona abalone, uni and baked lobster tail. Relax and let go of the reins and you’re guaranteed a successful meal Control freaks can opt to order what they want, but that would be missing the point of being here. — 1417 S. King St.; 947-3800. Dinner. $$$$

Sweet E’s Cafe

This modest breakfast cafe provides a touch of home, provided there’s a prolific and generous cook in your home kitchen, for comparison’s sake. Substantial plates are filled with gourmet spinach feta or chicken pesto omelets, or eggs Benedicts of many varieties. Pancakes and French toast are topped or stuffed with fresh fruit and sometimes cream cheese. For lunch, choose from flatbread pizzas, entree-style salads or sandwiches that will suit vegetarians to meat eaters. — 1006 Kapahulu Ave.; 737-7771. Breakfast, lunch $-$$

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