75 N. King St., Chinatown; 200-5412. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$$
Reader-survey results rarely align with editors’ picks when publications compile best-restaurant listings. That’s no surprise — not everyone can try every new place that opens, which explains why people’s choice votes often remain the same year after year. Go with what you know, right?
So it’s a pleasant surprise to see that after just two years, you — Honolulu diners — know and appreciate Senia. The Chinatown haven is also a favorite of the writers of this guide.
The Senia partnership — of chefs Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush and general manager Katherine Nomura (Rush’s wife) — has roots in Thomas Keller’s lauded New York restaurant Per Se, where the three met. But their goal was to create a neighborhood restaurant where people can eat regularly. And they did it.
Yes, you can rack up a big bill if you get cocktails and wine and go crazy ordering everything on the a la carte menu (and you will want to), or if you take a seat at the chef’s counter for the $195 tasting menu. But you can also order linguine with clams and a vegetable side and leave just $32 lighter, while thinking about how you could eat both again the next night because they were that good.
Building upon a French foundation, the chefs layer Japanese, British, Italian and any number of other influences to make food in line with that of all the other celeb chefs around the world they are friends with. Next door to The Pig & the Lady in Chinatown, it forms the most delicious block in the city. You voted well.
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Ala Moana Center; 638-4886. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$.
A shabu-shabu experience from a California-based chain. Place a broth order, then choose your own vegetables and seafood at the cold bar. Meat is delivered to the table, and it’s all you can eat, so come hungry.
BEST FINE DINING
Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road, Waikiki; 923-2311. Dinner. $$$$
This classic French restaurant is a place for ultimate celebrations. The service is impeccable, the wines sublime, the menu a reflection of classic elegance.
BEST CASUAL RESTAURANT
Multiple locations. Breakfast, lunch, dinner (Kapahulu, Kailua only). $
Slow-roasted kalua pork is the star of the menu here, packaged in tortillas, sandwiches and plates, in combination with ham, bacon, eggs, potatoes, cheese and more. Thick milkshakes wash it all down.
Multiple locations. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$
Zippy’s is an all-occasion stop. From a breakfast of Spam and eggs, to a Zip Pac for the beach, to saimin for after the game, to a sit-down meal of sweet-sour spareribs, Zippy’s has got you covered.
Pancakes & Waffles
City Square Shopping Center, 1199 Dillingham Blvd., Kalihi; 847-7770. Waimalu Plaza Shopping Center, 98-1277 Kaahumanu St., Aiea; 200-7556. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $
Get your pancakes in apple-caramel, mac nut- chocolate, ham-cheese; your waffles in churro, chocolate chip or cheesy varieties. If you prefer less sweetness, check out the menu of crepes, omelets and Benedicts. It’s a breakfast paradise.
Multiple locations. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $
When it comes to local sweets, the Coco Puff is iconic, the chantilly cake symbolic. Liliha Bakery gave us both. After decades with a single shop in Liliha, the bakery now has a busy Nimitz Highway location and one at Ala Moana Center, making its baked happiness accessible to the masses.