Some of Hawaii's top restaurants can be found in the city's historic Chinatown

Senia restaurant
Credit: © Olivier Koning

Always more diverse than its name let on—even back in the 1800s, Honolulu's Chinatown was a jumble of cultures and languages—in recent times, the neighborhood had become even more multicultural; if there's a language spoken in Asia, you could probably expect to hear it down here, somewhere, in this tight little grid of streets just next to the downtown business district.

After some years of rather considerable neglect, there's a new kind of crowd making its presence felt in the neighborhood—it's Honolulu's cool crowd, attracted to an ever-growing number of restaurants, nightspots, art galleries and locally-owned boutiques. These days, if you find yourself on O'ahu and don't stop by, you're missing out on some of the best dining and nightlife that Hawaii has to offer. Here are just a few spots that locals are talking about right now.

Senia Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush—both Per Se alums—opened one of the most impressive restaurants Hawaii has seen in years, late last year, and people are still recovering; some of the most adventurous cooking you could ever expect to find in the islands is being done here (the offerings change frequently, but tend to incorporate Hawaiian and New American concepts and flavors into a more broad, even global menu), but Senia is also almost as passionate about not being overly formal, retaining the air of a packed and happy neighborhood hangout.

Brick Fire Tavern Inthira Marks and Matthew Resich are said to have spent an entire year training in Naples before opening this Neopolitan-style pizza joint; take proper technique, a 900-degree, custom-made oven that gets the job done in just 90 seconds, and twin it up with a whole mess of great Hawaiian produce, and you've got a recipe for a pizza that's more than just one of Hawaii's best—it's terrific, period.

The Tchin Tchin! Bar One of the first of the new Chinatown hangouts was recently transformed into this smart wine bar with small plate nibbles, tucked into a loft space up above one of the busiest corners of the neighborhood. (Don't miss the rooftop terrace.) This is the third effort from Dusty Grable and Jesse Cruz, previously responsible for two of Chinatown's most popular restaurants, Lucky Belly (Ramen) and Livestock Tavern, a smart, New American spot with great cocktails.

Grondin Jenny Grondin and David Segarra spent years in New York's restaurant world before decamping for Hawaii—their lively bistro located inside a century-old building is French-Latin inspired; duck confit salad and a bone marrow starter share a menu with prawn ceviche and empanadas.