Oahu's Melting Pot Cooks Up Delicious Cusine
Information about the multi-cultural cuisine of the island
of Oahu in Hawaii.
The cuisine on Oahu is as tantalizing and unique as the many different
races and ethnicities of people who make up the island. A person could
eat his or her way through Oahu for weeks, tasting different ethnic foods,
without sampling the same flavors twice. Oahu is the only place in the
world that has such a multitude of cuisines, each with an exotic historical
and cultural background.
When talking about food on Oahu, terms such as plate lunch, bento and
okazuya are used to describe the type of place and style of food based
on the different origin of the food.
Plate lunch is local to Hawaii and automatically assumes there are two
scoops of rice and one scoop of macaroni salad. Plate lunches, a
favorite "feel-good" fast food tradition, are served from mom and pop
lunch wagons and neighborhood lunch counters. These home-cooked meals
offer "comfort food" on the go and are the preferred lunch staple for
businessmen, laborers, students and tourists. A five minute wait and
about five dollars buys an entree (beef teriyaki, roast pork, shoyu
chicken, hamburger steak, beef curry, mahi mahi and meat loaf are the
most popular), white rice and macaroni salad, all smothered in rich
Plate lunches have been popular in Hawaii since the late ‘20s and early ‘30s,
when plantation workers would bring the lunch that their wives made to work in
tin boxes and pails with sections for the different dishes. The single men would
either have lunch prepared by the plantation wives or they would purchase it from
the plantation store nearby. This also is how lunch wagons got started by
providing simple and fast meals that people could eat on the go.
For the Japanese immigrants, the lunch box was called a bento. Today, the
mention of bento conjures up an image of a lunch that includes rice, pickles and
a few other samplings of food in a neatly sectioned container. The other word
often heard when talking about food in Hawaii is okazuya. Although the term comes
from Japan, the food is not limited to just Japanese. Okazuyas are found throughout
neighborhoods all over Oahu and is a place where customers can pick and choose
their own combination of ethnic foods in one shop.
In addition to the different ethnic style of food, the types run the gambit
to include food from the early immigrants (Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean,
Filipino, Portuguese) to other cultures that have brought their food to our
beautiful island of Oahu (Vietnamese, French, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Spanish,
Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern).
Local chefs that have taken advantage of the bounty of the sea and land of
Hawaii, have developed a type of food called Hawaiian Regional Cuisine (HRC),
which offers world-class dining. HRC uses fresh island ingredients and a
creative blend of Asian, Euro-American and Polynesian culinary techniques.
Some of the best Oahu chefs including Alan Wong, Roy Yamaguchi, Glenn Chu,
Tom Wong and Sam Choy have spearheaded the promotion of the Hawaiian Islands’
culinary revolution worldwide.
Oahu also offers fine dining restaurants which feature dishes from around
the world, and some restaurants have even combined the best of both worlds
to create new epicurean delights unique to Hawaii. For those visitors
seeking a romantic dinner overlooking breathtaking views of the ocean or
the sparkling Honolulu city lights, Oahu has all of this and more.
The diversity of food is woven together with the aloha spirit reflecting
the spirit of the people of Oahu and the food they eat. With so many options
of food to choose from on Oahu, itineraries can be developed just around
eating. The following is just a tempting sample of restaurants to explore
from budget plate lunches to fine dining on the island of Oahu:
Plate Lunch Eateries
Grace’s Inn remains traditional and hearty. Plates include basic meat or
fish, two scoops of rice and macaroni salad. The teriyaki beef is a favorite.
Address: 1296 South Beretania Street; Phone: (808) 593-2202
Helena’s Hawaiian Food is the only restaurant outside of Waikiki to win the
prestigious James Beard Award. Highlights of Helena’s menu include tripe stew,
squid luau, short ribs (pipikaula style) and fried butterfish collar.
Address: 1240 North School Street; Phone: (808) 845-8044
L & L Drive Inn has several locations on Oahu. Favorite menu items include
barbecue chicken, pork katsu, breaded pork chops, loco moco and garlic shrimp.
Address: 2320 South King Street (central location); Phone: (808) 951-8333
Masu’s Massive Plate Lunch is known for its huge plate lunch servings. The
varied daily menu features a special plate named for a local VIP or celebrity
and can be anything from lobster tail to chicken katsu.
Address: 1808 Liliha Street; Phone: (808) 524-4260
Ono Hawaiian Food is regularly voted the best restaurant serving Hawaiian
food. Portions are big and include menu items such as kalua pig, lomi lomi
salmon, chicken long rice, poi, pipi kaula (beef jerk) and haupia (coconut)
Address: 726 Kapahulu Avenue; Phone: (808) 737-2275
Rainbow Drive-In’s most popular menu item is the mixed plate featuring two
scoops of rice, macaroni salad, teriyaki meat, chicken and mahi mahi, all
smothered in brown gravy.
Address: 3308 Kanaina Avenue; Phone: (808) 737-0177
Tsukenjo Lunch House is made up of one establishment and two wagons. Popular
items are shoyu chicken, chicken long rice, lau lau, spareribs and tripe stew.
Address: 705 Cooke Street; Phone: (808) 597-8151
Ebisu Catering Service receives the most requests from customers for sushi,
shrimp tempura, sweet potato tempura, chow fun and corn beef hash.
Address: 1915 South King Street; Phone: (808) 941-6055
Fukuya often sells out its top menu items including chow fun, chow mein,
chicken, barbeque meat, fried ahi, fried mahi mahi and tempura.
Address: 2710 South King Street; Phone: (808) 946-2073
Mitsuba Delicatessan’s specialties include noodles, sushi (maki, egg, crab
and hot dog) shoyu chicken and shrimp tempura.
Address: 1218 North King Street; Phone: (808) 841-3864
New Wave Kitchen is new to the scene, but already has a faithful following.
Popular menu items include garlic chicken, chow fun, fried rice, miso soup,
tempura and poke.
Address: 568 Halekauwila Street; Phone: (808) 540-1010
Hawaii Regional Cuisine Restaurants
Alan Wong’s Restaurant is known for fun flavors to savor such as ice cream
with linguine; steamed opakapaka lau lau with ginger onion sauce or shredded
kalua pig wrapped in taro pancake on poi vinaigrette with lomi tomato relish,
to name just a few.
Address: 1857 South King Street, 5th Floor; Phone: (808) 949-2526
Indigo Eurasian Cuisine’s Glenn Chu will tempt your taste buds with crispy
goat cheese won ton with four fruit sauce, spicy lamb shumai dumplings with
ginger mint sauce and East-West chicken curry with bananas.
Address: 1121 Nuuanu Avenue, Suite 105; Phone: (808) 521-2900
Roy’s Restaurant pairs unlikely flavors with Chef Roy Yamaguchi's mesquite
smoked Peking-style duck in a ginger lilikoi sauce; seafood and chicken
tortellini or steam kettle pork with garlic spinach, whipped white beans
and kiawe smoked bacon sauce.
Address: 6600 Kalanianaole Highway; Phone: (808) 396-7697
Sam Choy’s two Oahu restaurants are Sam Choy’s Diamond Head and Sam Choy’s
Breakfast, Lunch & Crab. At Sam Choy’s Diamond Head on Kapahulu Avenue, indulge
in this Oahu-born chef’s Pokai Bay fried poke (seasoned raw fish) and seafood
lau lau; oven roasted duck with Kau orange; or sauteed pork loin with kapakahi
potatoes and country bean sauce. Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab, located
in Iwilei, features his famous Stew Omelette, Flaming Wok Stir-Fried dishes
and a variety of seasonal crab entrees including Steamed Florida Golden Crab
legs, Alaskan King Crab legs and Steamed Kona Crab.
Address: 449 Kapahulu Avenue, #201; Phone: (808) 732-8645
Address: 580 North Nimitz Highway; Phone: (808) 545-7979
3660 On the Rise is a small restaurant in the Kaimuki neighborhood. Chef and
owner Russell Siu delights diners with dishes like ahi katsu and jasmine
tea-steamed fillet of opakapaka with coriander butter sauce, while his wife
and co-owner creates delectable desserts such as the highly recommended and
requested mile-high pie.
Address: 3660 Waialae Avenue; Phone: (808) 737-1177
After three years on Maui, George Marvrothalassitis returned to Oahu and
opened Chef Mavro Restaurant. The menu features Hawaii Regional Cuisine
influenced by his native province. Guests can choose from three pri-fixe or
a la carte menus. And for those who are not wine connoisseurs, Chef Mavro
has selected wines that best complement each dish. Chef Mavro received the 2003
James Beard Award.
Address: 1969 S. King Street; Phone: (808) 944-4714
Award-winner Chef Padovani opened Padovani’s Bistro & Wine Bar in November 1998.
Guests will be delighted with his French-Mediterranean and Hawaii Regional
Cuisine influences and an ambience that captures the romance of an earlier
era in Hawaii. The upstairs wine bar provides an intimate after-dinner
Address: 1956 Ala Moana Boulevard; Phone: (808) 543-3519
Specializing in award-winning cuisine, L’Uraku, features a medley of fresh,
locally grown products, Japanese spices and European influences in a festive
atmosphere. Select from an array of appetizers, salads, pastas, seafood, meat,
poultry, vegetarian dishes and desserts.
Address: 1341 Kapiolani Boulevard; Phone: (808) 955-0552
Hoku’s, the award-winning signature restaurant in the Kahala Mandarin Oriental,
offers Oahu’s most innovative dining with panoramic views of the Pacific.
An open kitchen serving ethnically diverse cuisine features fiery hot woks,
a kiawe wood grill, tandoori oven and wood-burning pizza oven. Chef Wayne
Hirabayashi was born and raised in Hawaii, and is a graduate of the
prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Experience
his personal culinary spin on ethnic cuisines refined with fresh island ingredients.
Address: 5000 Kahala Avenue; Phone: (808) 739-8888
Ciao Mein in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa offers the best of two
worlds with award-winning Chinese and Italian cuisine under one roof.
Popular amongst locals and world travelers alike, menu items include the
szechuan eggplant and a vast array of desserts.
Address: 2424 Kalakaua Avenue; Phone: (808) 923-1234
One of the most unique private dining venues you will find in Honolulu is
at the Diamond Head Grill located in the W Honolulu hotel set across from
Kapiolani Park with Diamond Head Crater as the backdrop. While lounging on
contemporary and stylish furniture, the evening eases into a leisurely meal
with excellent service, quality music and the creations of Executive Chef,
Address: 2885 Kalakaua Avenue, 2nd Floor; Phone: (808) 922-3734
Experience contemporary island cuisine with a Thai accent at Chai’s Island
Bistro at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Owner-chef Chai Chaowasaree is well-known
for his incredible Thai dishes with a Hawaii regional twist. The grilled Mahi
Mahi with Thai Red Curry Sauce is just one of the dishes at Chai’s that bring
together the flavors of two regions on one plate. Chai’s also has gained a
reputation for showcasing some of the island’s best musicians nightly.
Address: 1 Aloha Tower Drive; Phone: (808) 585-0011
Local style restaurants
Don Ho’s Island Grill located harbor side on the ground floor of Aloha Tower
Marketplace is an island-style eatery, with a decor of tiki torches, grass
skirts and mini surfboards. Open for lunch and dinner, Don Ho’s serves inexpensive
family dishes, including roast pork, spit-roasted chicken and surfboard pizzas.
Address: 1 Aloha Tower Drive; Phone: (808) 528-0807
Kakaako Kitchen serves quality gourmet plate lunches that feature fresh,
locally grown produce. All baked-goods and delicious desserts are made in-house
daily. Owner, Chef Russell Siu (also owns 3660 On the Rise), decided to open
Kakaako Kitchen so that visitors and locals alike could experience the best of
what locals call the "plate lunch."
Address: Ward Center, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd.; Phone: (808) 596-7488
No visit to Waikiki is complete without experiencing Duke’s Canoe Club, located
in the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach. A spectacular beachfront location,
lively atmosphere, and the freshest fish and steaks have made Duke’s the most
popular gathering place on Waikiki Beach. Here, on the site of the original
Outrigger Canoe Club, we honor Hawaii’s great ocean sportsman, Duke Kahanamoku.
The aloha spirit lives on at Duke’s.
Address: 2335 Kalakaua Avenue; Phone: (808) 922-2268
Oahu is also home to a host of new eateries that have sprung up in the past
few years. Here’s a sampling:
Buca di Beppo is a neighborhood Italian restaurant featuring large portions
of immigrant Southern Italian food in portions meant for sharing. Join in
on the fun and enjoy all the flavors of Italy right down to the elaborate
décor. Located street level at the Ward Entertainment Center.
Address: Ward Entertainment Center; Phone: (808) 591-0800
Paying tribute to the original pioneers of Argentina, the Gauchos, is the
theme surrounding Gaucho Grill located on the first floor of the Ward
Entertainment Center. This eatery specializes in beautiful Argentine steaks,
as well as an eclectic mix of grilled Argentinean specialties including
sausages, mollejas, chorizos, empanadas and vegetables accompanied by hearty
homemade Argentinean wines and mouth-watering desserts.
Address: Ward Entertainment Center; Phone: (808) 593-9906
Quick service gourmet soups, signature sandwiches, salads, pastas, rotisserie
chicken and Wolfgang Puck’s famous wood-fire pizzas can all be found at
Wolfgang Puck Express in the Ward Entertainment Center. The exhibition kitchen
is open to guests to provide an exciting dining experience.
Address: Ward Entertainment Center; Phone: (808) 593-8528
Tiki’s Grill & Bar, located in the newly renovated Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel,
has already become a popular dining hotspot in Waikiki. The restaurant opened
its doors in October 2002 and features a blend of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine
with American casual fare created by Chef Fred D’Angelo. Its signature bar
features a 30-foot manmade volcano.
Address: Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel; Phone: (808) 923-8454
Meritage’s Chef and partner, Mariano Lalica decided not to go with the Pacific
Regional Cuisine trend when he opened Meritage in October 2002. Although there’s
a little hint of island flare to his dishes, the restaurant mainly serves a
blend of French and Italian cuisine. The generous portions and affordable prices
continue to welcome return customers and delight new ones.
Address: Restaurant Row; Phone: (808) 529-8686
Cabanas Seaside Grill in the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii opened in May 2003
featuring an innovative beachfront cabana setting. A poolside café by day and
intimate dining under the stars at night, the restaurant is perfect for any occasion.
Address: 5000 Kahala Avenue; Phone: (808) 739-8888
Ocean House Restaurant, located in the Outrigger Reef Hotel, offers oceanfront
dining in a casually elegant, open-air atmosphere. The décor is plantation
style and the restaurant features Pacific Rim Cuisine, including a selection
of fresh island seafood, juicy prime rib and homemade pasta.
Address: 2169 Kalia Road; Phone: (808) 923-2277
Marbella, with a sophisticated brightly colored interior, treats diners to an
array of flavors, serving Mediterranean food with a contemporary and Egyptian
flair. Located across from the Hawaii Convention Center just minutes from Waikiki.
Address: 1680 Kapiolani Blvd.; Phone: (808) 943-4353
Arancino di Mare, scheduled to open in 2003 at the Waikiki Beach Marriott
Resort, will offer authentic Italian pasta dishes and warm homemade pizzas,
providing guests with a little slice of Italy in Waikiki. Enjoy an intimate
meal indoors, or a world-class outdoor café dining experience, while watching
the sun set over world-famous Waikiki Beach.
2552 Kalakaua Avenue; Phone: (808) 922-6611
Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau
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