To the excitement of island foodies, Hawai‘i’s cuisine scene is continuing its upward spiral, fusing down-to-earth dedication with gastronomic savoir-faire.Here, the people, the places and the dishes that have impressed our palates.
10 MOST EXCITING NEW RESTAURANTS
When Bloomingdale’s picked Jon Matsubara to helm the swanky retailer’s first chef-driven resto, they knew what they were doing. Matsubara’s pedigree includes stints in the kitchens of Alan Wong and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. His impressive menu includes an indulgent trio of poke ($19), and caviar on nori chips with wasabi lemon creme fraiche ($15).
Power Move While it’s off-menu, the ultimate loco moco with sous vide local beef, lobster and foie gras ($65) is an insider fave. 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana/Kapi‘olani, O‘ahu, 664.7511
Avenue’s Bar + Eatery
The constant standing-room-only in the bar testifies to the popularity of restaurateur Kevin Hanney’s new hot spot. Seasoned foodies may recognize the toque: Robert Paik, a veteran of ultraluxe Vintage Cave, now elevated to exec-chef status at Avenue’s.
Power Move It's all about small plates here, so choose something decadent like the rich, crispy fried oysters with harissa sauce and bacon jam ($13), pairing them with a handcrafted cocktail. 3605 Wai‘alae Ave., Kaimuki, O‘ahu, 744.7567
Hana Ranch Provisions
In Pā‘ia, chef Gary Johnson honors seasonal and responsibly grown ingredients yielded from the 3,600-acre Hana Ranch and other local farms. Dive into thin ribbons of beautifully roasted carrots, watercress, ricotta salata and pepitas coated in fennel vinaigrette ($12.50).
Power Move The cocktail menu is updated weekly, so pay attention. Look for ingenious offerings like the Hamoa sunset ($14), made with Pau organic vodka, papaya and housemade ginger beer. 71 Baldwin Ave., Pa‘ia, Maui, 868.3688
At his latest venture, Jean-Marie Josselin, one of the founders of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, offers a vibrant menu focusing on heirloom produce from four local farms. To experience Josselin's vision, order a JO2 seafood sampler ($23) and the Kauaʻi heirloom tomato sampler ($13).
Power Move Share your preferences with General Manager Steven Rodrigues. He’ll convey them to the chef, who will add a special spin to your dining experience. 4-971 Kuhio Highway, Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i, 212.1627
Mahina & Sun’s
Kaimuki toque Ed Kenney’s new resto on Lewers Street marks a homecoming: His parents, musician Ed Kenney and hula dancer Beverly Noa, were legendary entertainers in the heyday of Waikiki.
Power Move Now's the time to experience Kenney’s ardent ‘aina-to-table activism via the Kahala crudo with preserved lemon and kukui ($16) or the rigatoni with Hawaiian wild boar ragu ($17). 412 Lewers St., Waikīkī, O‘ahu, 924.5810
Mud Hen Water
At Ed Kenney’s other hot opening of the past year, the menu is a playful ode to the local cuisine he grew up savoring, from beet “poke” dressed in kukui nuts ($10) and seaweed, to the catch of the day cooked in fresh, hand-squeezed coconut milk ($26).
Power Move When feasting en masse, reserve the large outdoor tables so you can dine alfresco. 3452 Wai‘alae Ave., Kaimuki, O‘ahu, 737.6000
A veteran of Four Seasons kitchens on four continents, German-born Executive Chef Martin Knaubert is wowing foodies with his Capri-meets-O‘ahu creations.
Power Move Try the paccheri ($28), made with three cheeses and Swiss chard, seasoned with garlic oil and anchovy, then garnished with sea urchin sauce and beet puree. 92-1001 Olani St., Ko Olina, O‘ahu, 679.0079
Noi Thai Cuisine
Park your memories of Bangkok street food at the door—here, the green curry comes with extravagantly marbled wagyu beef ($54), and the piquant tom yum lemongrass soup is dressed with a lobster tail ($29).
Power Move The best table in the house is in the Golden Pavilion, a private room with hundreds of dangling gold Bodhi leaves and an $800 minimum for your party of 10. 2301 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, O‘ahu, 664.4039
Chef Roger Stettler returns to his Italian roots with this gorgeous open-air trattoria in Kapalua. Enjoy classic dishes like the pan-roasted branzino with lemon brown butter and broccoli raab ($29), and exuberant pairings by managing partner and wine specialist Greg Shepherd.
Power Move Experience the talents of garden-to-glass alchemists Ross Steidel and Tara Fontaine serving up artisanal elixirs. Fontaine makes her own hazelnut orgeat syrup for the resto’s signature mai tai ($15). 2000 Village Road, Kapalua, Maui, 667.2426
Teppanyaki Ginza Onodera
Most swoon over the Miyazaki, Omi and other wagyu varieties on offer at this elegant Tokyo transplant, sister to high-end Sushi Ginza Onodera in Kapahulu. But only the most discerning know Onodera is one of a mere three places in the United States that serves authentic, certified Kobe beef. The intimate space seats 13 at the main teppan grill counter and seven in a private room, heightening a delicious exclusivity.
Power Move Prix fixe menus (from $160) include different cuts and breeds of insanely marbled wagyu, locally grown veggies and extravagant takes on Hokkaido king crab. 1726 S. King St., McCully/Mo‘ili‘ili, O‘ahu, 784.0567
5 NEIGHBOR ISLAND CHEFS TO KNOW NOW
Bonita Lao’s culinary star is rising at warp speed with the opening of her first restaurant this spring in Kailua-Kona. After preparing finely crafted haute cuisine for sophisticated homeowners at luxury residential resorts along the tony Kona-Kohala Coast for more than eight years, Lao is now offering it with a decidedly healthy, organic twist at her Laulima Food Patch. 75-1027 Henry St., Ste. 102B, Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island, 329.8378
Noelani Lei Planas
This Garden Island talent is on her way up. The Kaua‘i born and raised talent honed her craft in Las Vegas (notably at Joël Robuchon) before she came home for an enviable stint at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Kauai Grill at The St. Regis Princeville Resort. As of this summer, Noelani Lei Planas has traded Hanalei Bay for Po‘ipū, where she has taken her place as executive chef of Ko‘a Ke‘a Hotel & Resort. Kaua‘i foodies will want to see her touch on the property’s acclaimed restaurant Red Salt. 2251 Po‘ipu Road, Po‘ipu, Kaua‘i, 828.8888
A maverick at heart, chef Jeff Scheer struck out on his own only a few months deep in Maui Culinary Academy and began catering. Later on, the ambitious toque set out for his next venture, an intimate monthly chef’s table series, featuring a farm-driven, snout-to-tail cooking style. This year, Scheer’s wildly creative cuisine has found a home at the newly renovated The Mill House Restaurant within the picturesque Maui Tropical Plantation. Not to be missed: pillowy gnocchi ($16) with sage curd and gremolata on sticky beef ragu braised in cured fish, a little dashi, loads of tomatoes and a touch of harissa, a process that takes three days. 1670 Honoapi‘ilani Highway, Waikapu, Maui, 270.0333
There’s a reason why last-minute dinner reservations for Japengo at the Hyatt Regency Maui are rare. Maui-born Chef de Cuisine Gevin Utrillo’s riff on Pan-Asian classics is hard to beat. Working alongside sushi chef Jin Hosono, Utrillo launched The Tastemakers Series to partner with local farmers, fisherman, food producers and beverage-makers. The August event features Kona Brewing Co. and Simpli-fresh Farms. 200 Nohea Kai Drive, Ka‘anapali, Maui, 667.4909
The Chicago-born talent braves new techniques and diverse cuisines with focus and flair. His work with seafood at The Plantation House is especially stellar—monchong becomes sinigang, a Filipino dish with coriander and tamarind broth; uni arroz caldo or congee is done with ikura shoyu zuke, shiso and yuzu caviar, plus a quail egg; and kampachi sashimi is sublime with preserved kumquats, ogo and basil gel. 2000 Plantation Club Drive, Kapalua, Maui, 669.6299
5 HONOLULU CHEFS TO WATCH
Since going solo after a marquee post as exec chef at Moana Surfrider, Will Chen has done anything but disappear. The grad of Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu launched fresh BOX ($90), a weekly service that delivers farm-fresh produce and proteins with simple, haute recipes to busy O‘ahu denizens. Chen’s booming personality also won him a cooking segment at the local CBS affiliate, but he’s had to sign off so fresh BOX can sate busy appetites on the Neighbor Isles.
Even jaded foodies sat up when this noted Japanese toque took over posh The Kahala Hotel & Resort’s flagship resto, Hoku’s. His debut menu included a whimsical Hawaiian Tree of baby spring vegetables skewered colorfully on its branches. Meatier types relish the sous vide capon and Hiroshi Inoue’s elevated nod to local cuisine, a foie gras laulau with raisins braised in port. His continuing explorations keep fans enthralled. 5000 Kāhala Ave., Kāhala, O‘ahu, 739.8760
The feminine side of the husband-wife team behind MW Restaurant snagged her second straight James Beard nomination this year, the only Hawai‘i pastry chef to get a nod. Michelle Karr-Ueoka’s flavor punches are often studies of a single ingredient like passion fruit or Hawai‘i-grown cacao. Fans include her old boss, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, and President Barack Obama, both of whom stopped in recently for dinner and dessert. 1538 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Ala Moana/Kapi‘olani, O‘ahu, 955.6505
Who’s on the short list of Honolulu’s luxe boutiques when it’s time to impress elite clientele? Look no further than this Culinary Institute of America grad who honed his skills at Michelin-rated restos in New York and Hong Kong. After impressing diners at Kailua hot spot Prima, he’s continued to wow as a private chef. But don’t think this toque is stopping there with chic soirees. Kevin Lee has his eyes set on his solo restaurant, called PAI. 253.1363
It’s hard to top yourself when your name is synonymous with Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine. Nearly 30 years after Roy Yamaguchi opened his first place in Hawai‘i Kai, the co-creator of the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival is following up his own class act with three new spots on O‘ahu: Eating House 1849, a heritage-themed eatery with outposts at Kapolei Commons and Waikīkī’s International Market Place; and Roy’s Beach House on the North Shore. Our only question: What’s he got planned for the next 30 years?
5 VISUAL FEASTS
‘ULU Ocean Grill + Sushi Lounge
The signature oceanfront restaurant at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Hualālai wows guests with its lavish haute cuisine, focusing on sustainably grown local ingredients prepared to perfection. But before fork reaches mouth, it’s the sexy, magical ambience that overwhelms the senses. The last of the day’s shimmering sunlight filters throughout the open-air restaurant and bounces off ocean swells just yards away. 100 Ka‘upulehu Drive, Kona-Kohala Coast, Hawai‘i Island, 325.8000
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto compulsion for artistry and reinvention extends to the design of his Valley Isle outpost, which is rooted in Japanese minimalism and thoroughly timeless. Natural materials grace the furniture and interior, which seamlessly flow into the lānai. Satiate your eyes with appetizing details like the swirling, Mobius strip-inspired beech pendant lights and wooden sculptures. Andaz Maui at Wailea, 3550 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, 243.4766
Beachhouse at the Moana
This year, the Moana Surfrider, which was the first hotel in Waikīkī, turns 115 years old. The iconic hotel is an Italian Renaissance structure with Victorian charm to spare. Best spot to enjoy the oceanfront? The Veranda for breakfast, lunch or tea, but for dinner, it’s the Beachhouse at the Moana, with picture-perfect views of the sunset and a private label cabernet sauvignon. Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, 2365 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, O‘ahu, 922.3111
Blurring the lines between the interior and the outside world, Nobu Lanaʻi features simple, Japanese-inspired architecture. Its design, which centers around teak timbers and wood detailing, was conceived by Malibu design firm Studio PCH and Santa Monica-based Montalba Architects. The space allows diners to gaze out onto the waters of Hulopoʻe Bay, even from inside. Towering ceilings and glass panel-covered awnings add to the sense of openness. Order the multicourse omakase ($125 or $195) to complete the Nobu vision. Four Seasons Resort Lana‘i, 1 Manele Bay Road, Lana‘i City, Lana‘i, 565.2832
If the location weren’t enough—just footsteps from Shipwreck Beach, where Harrison Ford filmed Six Days Seven Nights—the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa’s restaurant sweeps diners off their feet with its unique ambience. In fact, this eatery consists of a series of thatched-roof bungalows built above a lagoon inhabited by koi fish. The final touch is a waterfall cascading in the background. It’s the perfect mental cleanse before trying Maui-born Chef de Cuisine Eric Bartolome’s tempting menu. 1571 Po‘ipu Road, Poi‘pu, Kaua‘i, 240.6456
5 MOST ANTICIPATED OPENINGS
Celebrated chef Peter Merriman is set to open his first Honolulu resto right in Kaka‘ako. Named after the Hawaiian word for island, moku, the eatery will highlight the islands’ farming and ranching heritage. 660 Ala Moana Blvd., Ste. 145, Kaka‘ako, O‘ahu, 263.0849
Kaka‘ako’s culinary cred went up several points when it was recently announced that Nobu was moving to the tony Waiea tower, the first of the chic Ward Village development. The new spot will encompass 8,000 square feet, with 2,000 square feet outdoors. Waiea Tower, 1118 Ala Moana Blvd., Ste. 100, Kaka‘ako, O‘ahu
Foodies are abuzz about this long-awaited opening, slated for a midsummer opening. Why? The eatery stars former Vintage Cave toque Chris Kajioka with his old Per Se kitchen mate, Anthony Rush, who left a marquee job at London’s Claridge’s Hotel. What’s on the menu? An elevated take on regional American cuisine, they promise. Prime seats will be right at the chef’s counter. 75 N. King St., Chinatown, O‘ahu
Steak lovers are celebrating the arrival in August of Michelin-starred toque Michael Mina’s first Hawai‘i restaurant at the redeveloped International Market Place. And it’s not just the A5 wagyu caps that are getting attention. If Mina’s Las Vegas and Miami Beach steak houses are an indication, look forward to pork belly bacon and gouda-drizzled potatoes au gratin. 2330 Kalākaua Ave., Waikīkī, O‘ahu
For this late-summer opening at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, acclaimed sushi master Keiji Nakazawa is importing his formidable skills from his near-legendary spot in Tokyo: precise aging of each piece of seafood, especially fatty, luscious otoro tuna belly; different rice treatments for different fish; and a penchant for alternating servings of nigiri sushi with immaculately crafted bites from the kitchen. Judging by the $200 price tag for a meal at his Tokyo eatery, a seat at Nakazawa’s sushi counter will be a hedonistic treat. 2112 Kalākaua Ave., Waikīkī, O‘ahu
5 MOVERS & SHAKERS
Merging her passion for food and art, Feast Hawai‘i founder Amanda Robson curates whimsical and intimate gatherings. A wholesome spread is paired with an immersive art element as diners create vision boards or learn the tango.
Grand Wailea’s Hawaiian cultural ambassador, Kainoa Horcajo, has an intent to honor the indigenous tradition of aligning food harvests with the lunar calendar. It sparked the Ka Malama dinner series, and SEARCH Hawai‘i, now an Emmy-nominated TV series.
He’s grown Maui Brewing Co. into the largest craft brewer in the state, with beer served at discerning spots like the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui. The company is brewing up a new pub in Waikīkī, slated to open this fall.
Jesse Cruz and Dusty Grable
They've given us a new-age Chinatown ramen shop, Lucky Belly; then Livestock Tavern, an upscale modern American eatery with a happening cocktail bar. Now Jesse Cruz and Dusty Grable have followed up with The Tchin Tchin! Bar, a rooftop wine bar.
Qiana Di Bari
Before she delved into the world of restaurants, Qiana Di Bari managed the hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. She followed her bliss to Maui with her husband, chef Michele Di Bari, and the couple opened Sale Pepe Pizzeria e Cucina in 2014. But this restaurateur has more up her sleeves: She is studying to be a master sommelier while the team opens an extension for lunch takeout. 878 Front St., Units 7 & 8, Lahaina, Maui, 667.7667
5 ISLAND-STYLE INSPIRATIONS
Brown’s Beach House
At this Kohala Coast destination, Hawaiʻi Island-grown ingredients take the lead in inventive spins on traditional Hawaiian and classic local dishes. Try the char siu octopus ($17), a seafood adaptation of Cantonese barbecued pork, or the crab-crusted Kona kampachi ($46) which is served with ʻulu (breadfruit) and a sauce made from rare poha berries. Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, 1 N. Kaniku Drive, Kohala Coast, Hawai‘i Island, 887.7368
Executive Chef Tylun Pang gives the islands’ diverse cuisines (think Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese) a delectably contemporary spin. For a real wow, be sure to head here on Sundays when Kō serves a mod take of the classic Hawaiian laulau ($48)—in this case freshly caught Maui fish, shrimp, scallops, spinach, mushrooms and baby bok choy wrapped in the traditional ti leaf. Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, 4100 Wailea Alanui, Maui, 875.2210
Mission Social Hall & Cafe
Known for his dedication to Hawai‘i’s sustainable food movement, chef Mark Noguchi loves to feature ingredients such as ‘uala (sweet potato), roasted roots and Ni‘ihau lamb at his haven in the Mission Houses Museum. When not at Mission, Noguchi is also a popular presence at local culinary events. His squid luʻau (squid with young taro leaves) was just featured at the kickoff for the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival. 553 S. King St., Downtown Honolulu, O‘ahu, 447.3913
The Pig and the Lady
At his Chinatown flagship, chef Andrew Le takes Vietnamese cuisine and roots it firmly in local island culture, using ingredients such as limu seaweed, fiddlehead ferns, Kaua‘i shrimp and taro stems. You can also sample his cuisine at some of the weekly Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation farmers markets. Next on the menu: breakfast dishes at Piggy Smalls, opening this fall at Ward Village. 83 N. King St., Chinatown, O‘ahu, 585.8255
Tin Roof Maui
When family-run Ko Ko Ichiban Ya closed, the torch was passed to frequent customer and Top Chef alum/island celebri-chef Sheldon Simeon. With his wife, Janice, he transformed the space into Tin Roof Maui, the name reminiscent of his old Hilo days of hanging and cooking under a tin-roof garage with family. With Migrant’s recent hiatus, fans line up daily for Simeon’s elevated rice bowls ($9 to $13) of pork belly, mochiko chicken, garlic “scrimps” or poke, loaded with velvety halves of six-minute eggs, and banchan (Korean side dishes). 360 Papa Place, Kahului, Maui, 868.0753
4 POSH PAU HANA SPOTS
At Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, lounge on stylish sofas and chairs for languid conversations over drinks and succulent pūpū. Pau hana (after-work) specialty cocktails ($16) include Tom’s Pink Shirt (guava liqueur, fresh Waimea strawberries, housemade sweet and sour). Must-try tantalizing pūpū are ocean-fresh ceviche, Beach Tree caprese and baba ganoush. 100 Ka‘upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island, 325.8000
The Andaz Maui at Wailea upped the ante on pau hana at this bar. Grown-up temptations abound at this infinity poolside hang where cascading falls lead to sun-kissed Mōkapu Beach. Treat yourself to exceptional bites like ulu arancini with preserved lemon and harissa midnight moon cheese. Cocktails are carefully crafted, of course—Holiday in Jalisco ($16) is a refreshing potion of blanco tequila, fresh lime, and pineapple and housemade jalapeno syrup. 3550 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, 573.1234
In the soothing, open-air setting, sip on tantalizing libations created by Aaron Alcala-Mosley, the lead mixologist. Try The Training Room ($18), a mix of bourbon, yellow Chartreuse and bitters. Beer lovers will appreciate the craft beer from Maui Brewing Co. every first Friday. And as no pau hana can be taken seriously without food, there are the island-style tapas that surely satisfy—like the local smoked Portuguese sausage ($14). Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, 4100 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, 875.4100
The St. Regis Bar
The St. Regis Princeville Resort’s signature watering hole boasts unhindered views of Hanalei Bay. For this summer’s menu, Executive Chef Frederic Hoffmann has drawn inspiration from the bar’s Maxfield Parrish-inspired painting of the ancient firebrand ceremony. Think succulent and piquant piri piri octopus ($19). Pair it with the Ahi Le Le (Dancing Fire) ($16), a fiery mix of vodka infused with locally grown chile peppers, elderflower cordial, fresh lime juice and mint. 5520 Ka Haku Road, Princeville, Kaua‘i, 826.9644
6 TOP BARTENDERS & MIXOLOGISTS
Craft-cocktail mixologist Jennifer Ackrill has it all: a pedigree from San Francisco’s iconic bar Rye; Hawai‘i’s bounty of tropical ingredients; and SKY Waikiki’s stunning 19th-floor view of the Pacific. Her menu is peppered with island-inspired drinks like the pineapple-spiked Kailua Cobbler ($13). 2270 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, O‘ahu, 979.7590
Veteran mixologist Billy Gienger has joined Kailua-Kona's iconic Huggo's. See him in action at the resto's newly launched hBar. Moreover, Gienger grows and produces many of the organic ingredients himself, including orgeat for The Classic Mai Tai ($12.50). 75-5828 Kahakai Road, Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i Island, 329.1493
Raymond Kanehailua Jr.
As the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel's iconic Copper Bar underwent a complete refresh, Director of Restaurants and Special Events Raymond Kanehailua Jr., seized the opportunity to play with the drink menu, creating a new signature, the Mauna Kea Mule ($16), made with housemade ginger beer. 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Kohala Coast, Hawai‘i Island, 882.5707
This veteran of Halekulani—who first joined the property in 1983—now reigns at the chic bar at L’Apéritif at La Mer, where he shares novelworthy anecdotes. Cocktailwise, Kawaiaea knows his stuff as well. He trains under Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris' Colin Field, who creates the signature libations. 2199 Kalia Road, Waikiki, O‘ahu, 923.2311
At Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu’s new hot spot for uberluxe cocktails, goatee-sporting mixologist Justin Park commands a loyal following. (He notably has a slew of competitive national and international cocktail wins under his, er, apron.) Expect to pay up to $20 for creations like his award-winning mai tais, and be prepared for a wait: Online reservations for the six-seat bar are booked weeks in advance. 745 Fort Street Mall, Topa Financial Tower, Downtown Honolulu, O‘ahu, 524.0808
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Honolulu bar menu Alicia Yamachika hasn’t had a hand in. (Think Nobu Waikiki or Livestock Tavern, among other spots.) Taste her latest masterpiece in Mr. Pink ($12), a sour-style cocktail named after Steve Buscemi’s character in Reservoir Dogs, at the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club’s Mahina & Sun’s. 412 Lewers St., Waikīkī, O‘ahu, 924.5810