Published June 16, 2022, in my The Bold Italic column:
On the culinary front, Hawaii is first and always about Hawaiian food, a unique mashup of cultures — namely Japanese, Chinese, Korean,Filipino, Puerto Rican and Portuguese. Like Cajun or Creole cuisines in New Orleans, Hawaiian food is one of the U.S.’ greatest culinary gifts: a one-of-a-kind cuisine that exceeds the sum of its parts with “aloha spirit.”
These days, Honolulu’s food scene is broader than ever. Whether straightforward but quality tacos and cocktails at hip, relaxed Encore Saloon, or old school, 40 year+ sushi, teppanyaki and washoku at Restaurant Suntory in Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center(yes, of that Suntory, complete with Toki highball machine and Yamazaki whisky highballs), Honolulu offers varied dining experiences. It’s easily Hawaii’s food epicenter, as the islands’ biggest and most diverse city (just under one million population).
The largest percentage of Honolulu’s population is Asian and a huge chunk of that is Japanese. At times, Honolulu can feel like being whisked away to Japan… but with Hawaii’s incomparable island spirit and laid back ease. My deep love of Japan was one aspect that made me feel at home in Honolulu from my first visit over a decade ago. But it’s Hawaii’s unique culture, history, cuisine and perspective from a melange of cultures that stole my heart.
Visiting and writing about Hawaii the past 13 years, I have dozens of recommends here. But it’s time for an update. In part one, I shared some of Honolulu’s best coffee, bites, bakeries and bars serving great food (more on Honolulu’s top cocktail bars here). Here in part two, 10 top restaurants and one hotel recommendation.
Peter Merriman’s Moku Kitchen was the one “ok” stop this return, but otherwise, I ate better than I ever have in Honolulu this spring. May Hawaii’s traditional foods — like gas station musubi, saimin shops, plate lunches and vibrant produce — never die. But it’s also a delight to see Honolulu showcase Hawaiian cuisine from modern, creative angles, partnering it with other cuisines, expanding its possibility.
Modern Hawaiian to traditional Japanese, here are 10 of Honolulu’s best restaurants now.
My Medium Travel Series:
— Honolulu Guide 2022, Part 1: Coffee, Bites, Bakeries & Bars with Good Food
—Los Angeles Travel: Spring 2022 Restaurant & Food Guide
— Los Angeles Travel: Spring 2022 Coffee, Snacks & Drinks Guide
— Support Our Beloved Wine Countries, Guerneville Edition
— Support Our Beloved Wine Countries, Healdsburg Edition
— Staycations, Santa Cruz Edition: Where to Eat, Stay & Drink Now
— South Lake Tahoe: Where to Eat, Drink & Stay Now
— Weekend-ing: Affordable, Hidden Gems in Nevada’s Capital, Carson City
— Harvest Season Staycations: Support Our Beloved Wine Countries, Sonoma Edition
— Harvest Season Staycations: Support Our Beloved Wine Countries, Sebastopol Edition