1857 S. King St., Honolulu
For an upscale take on traditional Hawaiian cuisine, make a reservation at Alan Wong’s. The famous Hawaiian chef now has a restaurant in Shanghai, too, where he serves his sophisticated takes on local specialties, like coconut lamb chops with Macadamia nuts, salmon and rice Ochazuke, and some excellent sashimi and poké options. Part of their claim to fame: This is one of President Obama’s favorite places to eat in his hometown.
1538 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Honolulu
MW is run by a husband-wife team with a serious pedigree: between the two of them, they’ve built up a roster of experience at Alan Wong’s, Per Se, and the French Laundry (though husband Wade credits Zippy’s, where he got his first job as a fry cook, for much of his inspiration). The dishes here are inventive, contemporary interpretations of traditional Hawaiian specialties, like Ahi nachos, Kona lobster carbonara, and a mochi-crusted opakapaka-short-tail pink snapper. Don’t miss the cocktails, either.
The Pig & the Lady
83 N. King St., Honolulu
This cool Vietnamese spot is in the heart of Chinatown, which is a big upgrade from where Chef Andrew Le first got started: in his parents' garage. Today, the Pig & the Lady is on the forefront of Hawaii’s culinary scene, showcasing Pacific influences from Asia and the United States. The fusion results in dishes like the pho French dip with Manila clams, a spicy, Asian-inflected take on cacio e pepe, and an appetizer that blends burrata cheese with a kimchi puttanesca. The Pig & the Lady is still a family affair; Le’s brother Alex is the General Manager, and his mother (who inspired the entire operation) works with him in the kitchen; meanwhile, his other siblings can be seen in and out of the restaurant at all hours. Their amazing takeout can be a god-send after long days on the beach, but we like to visit in person, taking the time to explore Chinatown’s quirky shops and lei stores along the way.
762 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
Hawaii is one of few places outside Japan where you can find good quality sushi that’s still reasonably priced. Yanagi isn’t exactly white tablecloth (the walls are crammed with hundreds of photos of regulars and celebrities that have come in over the years), but the sushi is excellent. All the credit goes to chef Haruo Nakamaya, who trained in Tokyo and founded Yanagi back in the ‘70s.
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