* Sushi Izakaya Gaku (Oahu): The city is dotted with izakayas, Japanese pubs serving small plates made for sharing, and this gem 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): 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 (passion fruit). The best of both worlds: a pho French dip banh mi, with slices of tender brisket and a cup of pho broth for dipping.
* Ka’ana Kitchen(Maui):Treat chef Isaac Bancaco’s grid menu like a gourmet bingo card; every combination is a winner. Start off with a hand-mixed cocktail and the ahi tataki: ruby-red tuna, heirloom tomato, and fresh burrata sprinkled 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 can imagine.
* Mama’s Fish House (Maui): 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.
* Tin Roof (Maui): Celebrity chef Sheldon Simeon won the hearts of Top Chef fans not once, but twice. He and his wife, Janice, opened their own humble to-go spot in an industrial Kahului strip mall. Simeon’s Filipino-inspired menu is so much fun: buy a 50-cent “dime bag” of house-made furikake to sprinkle on your mochiko chicken. Add a 6-minute egg to your pork belly bowl. You’ll want to Instagram yourself eating the chocolate birthday cake bibingka, covered in sprinkles.
* Merriman’s (Waimea, Big Island): Chef Peter Merriman, one of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, oversees a locally inspired culinary empire that also includes Monkeypod Kitchen and Moku Kitchen outlets on Maui and Oahu, as well as the Beach House on Kauai, famed for sunset photo ops. His original Waimea restaurant, opened in 1988, still merits the drive upcountry from the coast.* Umekes (Kailua-Kona and Waimea, Big Island): The island specialty of diced raw, marinated seafood poke—pronounced po-kay—comes in many varieties at this hole-in-the-wall takeout counter, with just as delicious, farm-fresh sides. Chef Nakoa Pabre also runs a handsome sit-down version with full bar, Umekes Fishmarket Bar and Grill (808/238-0571), and opened Umekes Waimea in late 2017 (808/315-8739).
* Pueo’s Osteria (Waikoloa, Big Island): Former Four Seasons Hualalai chef James Babian takes his inspiration from Tuscany and, as much as he can, uses ingredients from local farmers and fishermen, creating exceptionally fresh, well-priced cuisine paired with an intriguing wine list. Another reason to drive 15 minutes up the mountain: The thoughtfully crafted bar menu is served nightly.
* Bar Acuda (Hanalei, Kauai): When the sun goes down, the surfing set freshens up for a night on the town at this stylish tapas bar. Created by Jim Moffat, a former star of San Francisco’s culinary scene, Bar Acuda’s fare is centered around fresh seafood and seasonal pairings inspired by Mediterranean cuisine.
* Red Salt (Poipu, Kauai): Hidden inside the jewel box of boutique hotel Koa Kea is this equally brilliant dining room, where local seafood and produce shine under executive chef Noelani Planas. The evening sushi bar and tropical breakfasts are also not to be missed.
* Eating House 1849 (Poipu, Kauai): Hawaii Regional Cuisine co-founder Roy Yamaguchi closed the long-lived Garden Island outpost of his signature Roy’s brand to open this more casual, plantation-themed restaurant in the open-air Shops at Kukuiula. Returning to his island roots with hearty small plates and family-style dishes made it an instant success, now replicated at two Oahu locations.
* Nobu Lanai (Lanai): 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.