Chef Alan Wong, a one-time André Soltner protégé, is the master of Hawaii Regional Cuisine (a culinary movement that Wong and 11 other chefs started in 1991 to blend the area’s ethnic flavors with local ingredients). His 14-year-old restaurant in a nondescript office building is still one of Honolulu’s best. Wong is known for championing local farms and for his expert touch with Hawaiian fish like onaga and opakapaka.
We loved: Pancetta-wrapped opah (moonfish) with roasted breadfruit in a port-and-red-wine sauce.
Since opening Chef Mavro in 1998, Marseille native George Mavrothalassitis has been considered Honolulu’s biggest innovator for his marriage of haute French skills and local ingredients, such as hapu’upu’u (Hawaiian grouper). His approach to wine is just as untraditional. There’s no wine list; instead, he pairs each dish with a different glass of wine selected in a blind tasting by his cooks and waitstaff and the local press.
We loved: Roasted squab, root vegetables and little cylinders of pan-crisped mochi (sticky rice taffy) in a mushroom broth.
European transplants Donato Loperfido and Philippe Padovani shuttered their eponymous local restaurants before teaming up in 2008 to open ‘Elua, whose name means “two” in Hawaiian. The concept: two distinct, seasonal French and Italian menus for mixing and matching.
We loved: Terrine of foie gras and duck confit on a bed of aromatic lentil ragù.
Henry Adaniya might be the city’s most improbable new restaurateur. He closed his acclaimed Chicago restaurant Trio—where chefs Rick Tramonto and Grant Achatz made their names—to bring the upscale hot dog craze to Honolulu in 2007. Now there are lines out the door of his corrugated-steel storefront for Chicago-style dogs and fancy sausages, like the seared lobster topped with garlic aioli and takuan (pickled Japanese radish). Adaniya opened a Waikiki branch in 2008.
We loved: Duck–and–foie gras sausage with fruit compote and a side of duck-fat fries.
Born in Japan and raised in Hawaii, chef-owner Hiroshi Fukui blends the cooking traditions and ingredients of both places. Master sommelier Chuck Furuya, who splits his time between the restaurant and its adjacent wine bar, Vino, has created a terrific list with an excellent selection of Rieslings that pair well with the seafood-heavy menu.
We loved: Marinated and grilled Japanese mongo squid tossed with long beans, chanterelles and burdock.
Insider tip: The four-course Locally Grown menus on Sunday and Monday evenings feature regional specialties like white crab and are a superb value at $35.
Nobu may have 22 restaurants around the globe, but this outpost is a standout. Homegrown chef Lindsey Ozawa’s stellar sushi bar offerings, such as sashimi of botan ebi (sweet shrimp), are a hit among local celebrity chefs like Roy Yamaguchi.
We loved: Sous-vide kurobuta pork belly atop brussels sprouts in a spicy miso glaze.
The Sheraton Waikiki’s two new cocktail venues have two of Honolulu’s best views: RumFire’s is beachfront, Twist’s is from the 30th floor (the highest on Waikiki Beach). They also have excellent drinks. RumFire stocks more than 100 rums for classic creations like the mai tai, while Twist’s innovations include white-ginger martinis. RumFire’s Pacific small-plates and Twist’s prix-fixe menu—inspired by the world’s islands from Oahu to Santorini—are skippable.
We loved: Ginger caipirinha at RumFire; fresh blood orange and Champagne cocktail at Twist.
This cozy, wood–paneled restaurant may look like scores of other places in Honolulu, but chef-owner Manabu Kikuchi’s izakaya (Japanese tapas-style cooking) and impeccably fresh sushi are unrivaled.
We loved: Spicy hamachi tartare.
Insider tip: The restaurant doesn’t take reservations after 7 p.m., so get there by 5 to get a place at the head of the line.
Honolulu has so few good, casual, midpriced restaurants that it’s no wonder Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero’s four-year-old spot is still going strong. Honolulu hipsters come here for the pastas (the best in town) and cocktails made with local fruit and honey.
We loved: House-cured salami made from wild boar hunted by the chefs’ friends on neighboring islands.