The food in Hawaii was absolutely incredible–soo good I’d consider living there solely for that reason. Everything from the macadamia nuts (the chocolate covered coconut macadamias were my favorite and I made sure to leave half my suitcase empty on the way there in order to pack it with nuts on the way back), the fish, and fruit was so fresh and bursting with flavor. For the first few days, all I craved was poke–which lived up to all of my dreams and expectations—there was poke everywhere and it was so cheap (relative to here) and sooo good! As for restaurants, it was really hard to pick just a few places to highlight but here are my picks, most of which were recommended by friends from Hawaii with great tastes.
Roy’s was definitely the favorite here. Really all you need is one taste of that miso butterfish and you will understand why Roy’s has become the sensation that it is. The food here is described to be Hawaiian-Fusion and Yamaguchi is dedicated to using fresh local ingredients in creating the ethnic yet refined dishes that are truly unique and outstanding. We ended up eating at the Roy’s in Waikiki and not the original in East Oahu, but the place was packed and atmosphere very vibrant.
The crab cakes were full of chunky crab meat in a spicy sesame sauce and were the perfect appetizer choice.
For one of our main dishes, we decided to go with the signature Macadamia Nut Crusted local fish (I forget what it was called–but it was similar to a swordfish) with Lobster Beurre Blanc. The fish was done nicely, the macadamia nuts were a great addition, and the beurre blanc sauce added some great flavor and richness. While overall this was a great dish, it was outshined by the miso-butterfish.
Next we sampled the fish trio with the Blackened Ahi, Hibachi-style Salmon with Japanese Ponzu, and last but not least the Misoyaki Style Butterfish with sweet ginger wasabi sauce. While the picture here does not do justice to any of these dishes, each was so good I wished I had the full servings. However, it was the combination of the textures and flavors of the butterfish that were so unique that I have to call it my favorite of the night.
Being full from dinner we finished off with a scoop of coconut ice cream and one of chocolate ginger. Both were nice and light but it should be no surprise that I preferred the coconut 🙂 Next time I will have to make sure to save room for their famous chocolate souffle. What I would do to go back and dine here again!!
On the complete other end of the spectrum, I thought I would include the plate lunch which apparently is a must try in Hawaii. These plate lunches are considered ‘local food’ in the sense that it reflects the fusion of the local cultures and ethnicities. So one day for lunch we ventured to Rainbow Drive-In to sample their Loco Moco and traditional Mix plate. First, the Loco Moco consists of rice with two hamburger patties, two fried eggs and generously topped with brown gravy and served with a macaroni salad. This thing was a beast— it was tasty in that greasy sort of way and sure did feel like a brick in my stomach hours later. I’d still say this is worth a try, but exercise portion control!
The mix plate was also huge but the absence of the gravy and the eggs made it a little lighter. It consisted of BBQ meat, a mahimahi fillet, and a chicken fillet…which is an insane amount of food for the price! Next time I’d go with this dish and split it.
I also had a great experience at Side Street Inn–a total hole in the wall featuring some of the best local food. We started out with their Farmer’s salad–one of their more popular choices and it was amazing. It was simple and had local Kula greens, tiny shrimp, grape tomatoes, avocados, capers and dressed with a red wine vinaigrette.
Since we hadn’t gotten a chance to have some Korean bbq yet we went with the Kal Bi Korean style short ribs. The meat here was so tender and seasoned so well. I savored every bite while wondering why we don’t have a decent Korean bbq place in St. Louis.
There’s a huge Asian influence on the culture of Hawaii, as well as on the food and the Chinatown area is also known for great restaurants and especially Dim Sum. I’m not the biggest dim sum fanatic out there, but this was the best Dim Sum I’ve had and it was definitely worth traveling to Chinatown for. We got too many buns and dumplings to remember and keep track of, but I actually ended up liking their fried seaweed and fried eggplant the most, which was surprising since I’m not usually a fan of anything fried. The food here was great and maybe if we had a place like this I’d be more open to Dim Sum on a more frequent basis.
And of course you can’t go to Hawaii without getting some shave ice. We went to the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore which has a crazy cult following. The whole street is lined with shave ice places, but only Matsumoto was packed and had a line out the door. This is the Hawaiian version of a snow cone with very finely shaved ice and topped with sweet tropical fruit syrups–I got their Matsumoto special–which I think was coconut, pineapple and lemon. I also added ice cream as well as adzuki beans and it ended up being humongous! This is the thing to get when you’re looking to cool yourself off after a long day at the beach!