- Alan Wong's Restaurant: One of Hawaii's premier 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.
- Kaka'ako Kitchen: 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.
- La Mer: 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.
- 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.
Sushi Izakayu Gaku: Japanese food goes well beyond sushi and sashimi, as you'll discover at this superb "small bites" restaurant. Go with a group if you can, as you'll want to try as many dishes as possible (many are rarely found outside of Japan). P.S. The raw fish is superb, too.
The Pig and the Lady: 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.
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.