Alan Wong's Restaurant
One of Hawaii's premiere chefs, Alan Wong specializes in absolutely the best Pacific Rim cuisine. His restaurant is always packed, although the ambience is limited and it's located in a shopping mall in the suburbs -- but for serious foodies this is heaven. Masterpieces at this shrine of Hawaii regional cuisine include warm California rolls made with salmon roe, wasabi, and Kona lobster instead of rice; luau lumpia (spring rolls) with butterfish and kalua (pit-roasted) pig; and ginger-crusted fresh onaga (snapper). Opihi (limpet) shooters and day-boat scallops in season are a must, while nori-wrapped tempura ahi is a perennial favorite. The menu changes daily, but the flavors never lose their sizzle.
Chef Mavro Restaurant
Honolulu is abuzz over the wine pairings and elegant cuisine of George Mavrothalassitis, the culinary wizard from Provence who turned La Mer (at the Halekulani) and Seasons (at the Four Seasons Resort Wailea) into temples of fine dining. He brought his award-winning signature dishes with him and continues to prove his ingenuity with dazzling a la carte and prix-fixe menus.
If you're in the market for a quick and healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at budget prices, here's the place. It's not fancy; in fact, the trademark Styrofoam plates, warehouse ambience, and home-style cooking are the hallmarks of this local favorite in the Ward Centre. The menu, which changes every 3 to 4 months, includes seared ahi sandwiches with tobiko (flying-fish roe) aioli for lunch; and a signature charbroiled ahi steak, beef stew, five-spice shoyu chicken (similar to chicken teriyaki), the very popular meatloaf, and other multi-ethnic entrees for dinner.
This is Hawaii's premier splurge restaurant, an oceanfront bastion of haute cuisine, a romantic, elegant, and expensive place where people dress up -- not to be seen, but to match the ambience and food. It's an open-sided room with views of Diamond Head and the sound of trade winds rustling the nearby coconut fronds. Award-winning chef Yves Garnier melds classical French influences with island-fresh ingredients.
Masaharu Morimoto, star of the TV show Iron Chef, stars nightly at his signature restaurant for the newly opened Waikiki Edition hotel . The big 200-seat elegant dining room features the chef's signature cuisine, which blends traditional Japanese dishes with fresh Western ingredients -- to wildly received applause. Dinner is the main attraction, where unforgettable dishes like hamachi tartare (raw hamachi fish) is served with an assortment of condiments like Morimoto's guacamole, a nori puree, rice crackers, sour cream, wasabi, and yamamomo (a Japanese peach). For the ultimate foodie experience, order the Omakase menu (which translates to "in the chef's hands"): The chef will send out a multicourse tasting menu you'll remember as the highlight of your trip. Book in advance.
Ola at the Turtle Bay Resort:
Even if you're staying in Waikiki, plan a day at the beach on the North Shore and eat here for dinner. You won't regret it. First, the location -- literally on the sandy beach next door to the Turtle Bay Resort. Second, the restaurant -- an open-air beach pavilion. But the best part is . . . the food! The menu is filled with creative selections (like the ahi and lobster poke served with a wonton spoon) and some of the best food you'll have in Hawaii.
Olive Tree Café
This temple of Greek and Mediterranean delights is the quintessential neighborhood magnet -- casual, bustling, and consistently great. Owner Savas Mojarrad has a following of foodies, hipsters, artists, and all manner of loyalists who appreciate his integrity and generosity. Standards are always high, prices reasonable, the dishes fresh and homemade. Bring your own wine and sit down to fresh fish souvlaki, excellent marinated mussels, and sheep's cheese spanakopita. Mojarrad even makes the yogurt for his famous yogurt-mint-cucumber sauce, the souvlaki's ticket to immortality. Don't miss the chicken saffron, a Tuesday special.
The Pineapple Room
Yes, it's in a department store, but it's Alan Wong, a culinary icon. The room features an open kitchen with a lava-rock wall and abundant natural light, but these are details -- in this room, food is king. The dishes are terrific, particularly anything with ahi (for example, the ahi meatloaf). The menu changes regularly, but keep an eye out for the ginger scallion shrimp scampi, nori-wrapped tempura salmon, and superb gazpacho made of yellow and red Waimea tomatoes.
Good food still reigns at this busy, noisy flagship Hawaii Kai dining room with the trademark open kitchen. Roy Yamaguchi's deft way with local ingredients, nostalgic ethnic preparations, and fresh fish makes his menu, which changes daily, a novel experience every time. Yamaguchi's special dinners with vintners are a Honolulu staple.
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