* Alan Wong’s Restaurant (Oahu; www.alanwongs.com; tel. 808/949-2526): Master strokes at this shrine of Hawaii Regional Cuisine include ginger-crusted fresh onaga (red snapper), a whole-tomato salad dressed with li hing ume (plum powder) vinaigrette, and opihi (limpet) shooters. Alan Wong reinvents local flavors for the fine-dining table in ways that continue to surprise and delight.
* Izakaya Gaku(Oahu; tel. 808/589-1329): The city is dotted with izakayas, Japanese pubs serving small plates made for sharing, and Izakaya Gaku is the best of them all. You’ll discover life beyond maguro and hamachi nigiri with seasonal, uncommon seafood such as sea bass sashimi and grilled ray. Thanks to the large population of Japanese nationals living in Honolulu, the Japanese food here is some of the best outside of Japan. But it’s not just straight-from-Tokyo fare at Gaku; the chefs here scour fish markets around town daily for the best local fish.
* The Pig and the Lady (Oahu; http://thepigandthelady.com; tel. 808/585-8255): This casual restaurant, with its traditional Vietnamese noodle soups and playful interpretations of Southeast Asian food, is both soulful and surprising. The soulful: the pho of the day, drawing on recipes from chef Andrew Le’s mother. The surprising: hand-cut pasta with pork and lilikoi (passionfruit). The best of both worlds: a pho French dip banh mi, with slices of tender brisket and a cup of pho broth for dipping.
* Vintage Cave (Oahu; http://vintagecave.com; tel. 808/441-1744): The interior is a bit odd: luxe-man-cave-meets-brick-lined art gallery (18 original Picasso drawings hang in the dining room), but the food is amazing. It’s Honolulu’s most stunning (and its priciest). There’s only one menu a night, and it’s constantly changing. The young chef, Chris Kajioka, sources near and far for his ingredients, from Big Island baby lettuces to amadai (tilefish) from Japan, and applies impeccable technique to it all.
* Ka’ana Kitchen(Maui; www.maui.andaz.hyatt.com; tel. 808/573-1234): Treat Chef Isaac Bancaco’s grid menu like a gourmet bingo card; every combo is a winner. Start off with a hand-mixed cocktail and the ahi tataki: ruby red tuna, heirloom tomato, and fresh burratta decorated with black salt and nasturtium petals. The $45 breakfast buffet grants you access to the kitchen’s novel chilled countertops, stocked with every delicacy and fresh juice you could imagine.
* Mama’s Fish House(Maui; www.mamasfishhouse.com; tel. 808/579-8488): Overlooking Kuau Cove on Maui’s north shore, this restaurant is a South Pacific fantasy. Every nook is decorated with some fanciful artifact of salt-kissed adventure. The menu lists the anglers who reeled in the day’s catch; you can order ono “caught by Keith Nakamura along the 40-fathom ledge near Hana” or deep-water ahi seared with coconut and lime. The Tahitian Pearl dessert is almost too stunning to eat. Though pricey, a meal at Mama’s is a complete experience.
* Merriman’s (Waimea, Big Island, tel. 808/885-6822; Kapalua, Maui, tel. 808/669-6400; and Poipu, Kauai, tel. 808/742-8385; www.merrimanshawaii.com): Chef Peter Merriman, one of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, oversees a locally inspired culinary empire that includes Merriman’s and Monkeypod Kitchen outlets on Maui, Kauai and Oahu. He completely renovated his original Waimea restaurant in 2014, adding a bar and Sunday brunch, but held onto his high standards under the direction of exciting young chef Zach Sato.
* Da Poke Shack (Kailua-Kona, Big Island; www.dapokeshack.com; tel. 808/329-7653): The islands’ diced raw, marinated seafood specialty comes in many varieties at this hole in the wall, which prepares them so expertly that patrons make repeat visits just to try them all.
* Bar Acuda (Hanalei, Kauai; www.restaurantbaracuda.com; tel. 808/826-7081): When the sun goes down, the surfing set freshens up for a night on the town at this stylish tapas bar, created by a former star of San Francisco’s culinary scene and centered around fresh seafood and seasonal pairings inspired by Mediterranean cuisine.
* The Beach House (Poipu, Kauai; www.the-beach-house.com; tel. 808/742-1424): Sunset should be listed as its own course on the menu here because everyone stops to ogle it or snap pictures from the oceanfront lawn. But the food, which is just as good at lunch, stands on its own merits, from a crackerjack kitchen that was sourcing ingredients locally long before “farm-to-table” became a buzzword.
* Nobu Lanai (Lanai; www.fourseasons.com/manelebay/dining; tel. 808/565-2290): Lanai now ranks among New York, Milan, Budapest, and Mexico City as somewhere one can dine at a Nobu restaurant—a measure of how fun a place is, in the immortal words of pop star Madonna. The best way to experience this epicurean phenomenon is to order the omakase—the chef’s tasting menu—for $120. Each dish is as delicious as it is artful.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.