24 Perfect Pupu
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Green Door's Very Special Shrimp Roll. The "very special" designation is no misnomer. Put in one order per person—you won't want to share.
Photo by Linny Morris
5. VERY SPECIAL SHRIMP ROLL
Green Door Café, 4614 Kilauea Ave., 533-0606.
The menu at Green Door Café isn’t broken down conventionally—instead of appetizers and entrées, items are grouped by protein. So when we asked which dishes were appetizers, chef/owner Betty Pang pointed to items on four different quadrants of her menu board. The Very Special Shrimp Roll ($7) arrived as petite, fried rolls of mushrooms, taro slivers, and well-seasoned ground pork and shrimp in beautiful, gauzelike wrappers. “It’s noodles!” Pang revealed, describing how ultra-fine noodles are scattered, then pressed together into sheets. “And it’s not too easy,” she laughed. The result: an incredibly delicate, crunchy layer that, when dipped into the sweet and tangy vinegar sauce, once again defied convention. Cash only and B.Y.O.B. Open daily 5 to 10 p.m.
6. HAWAIIAN IMU KALUA PIG NAAN
Hanohano Room – Cobalt Lounge, Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., 921-4600.
Of all the restaurants in town, few have a view equal to the Hanohano Room’s 30th-floor Waikiki vista. And few have a pizza equal to the Hawaiian Imu Kalua Pig Naan, $12, off the appetizer menu for the Cobalt Lounge (basically, the Hanohano Room’s swanky drinks menu). OK, it’s not technically called a pizza, but that’s the obvious inspiration for this assembly of brie melted over smoky kalua pork and dried cranberries on naan bread, drizzled with arugula pesto. We enjoyed it with a sizzling cocktail concoction called the Bourbon Firecracker, with Tabasco and bourbon. Dinner daily from 5:30 p.m. Cobalt Lounge happy hour prices from 5 to 7 p.m.
Drawn and quartered—Hoku's ahi musubi starts as sphere but arrives in four quarters, plenty to share.
Photo courtesy of Hoku's and Shokudo
7. HOKU'S AHI MUSUBI
Hoku’s, The Kahala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kahala Ave., 739-8780.
Nineteen bucks for a musubi? You’d better try the Hoku’s Ahi Musubi before you scoff. It starts out as a globe, bigger then a baseball, with a red center of ahi poke, a thick mantle of sushi rice, and a thin crust of sesame seed and nori. This is cut into quarters and arranged around crisp, fried crab, namasu and soy ginger. You’ll never think of musubi the same way again. This, and two other appetizers, was more than enough food for two people, including the Chinatown Trio (roasted duck, kalbi short ribs and soy-glazed pork bellies), $18, and the Trio of Naan (three slices of naan bread topped with prosciutto and fig, tomato and mozzarella and seared ahi with an Asian remoulade), $16. Monday through Sunday, 5:30 to 10 p.m., Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
8. CRISPY CALAMARI
Hukilau Honolulu, 1088 Bishop St., lower level, 523-3460.
After the fourth person told us that Hukilau’s executive chef, Jason Takemura, serves the best Crispy Calamari in town, we had to investigate. The calamari ($8.50) is indeed noteworthy. The polenta dusting adds the right crunch, and the rings are lightly fried, not a bit greasy. Chinese long beans are fried along with it, giving you visual interest and the illusion that you’re eating healthfully. The calamari are sprinkled with red pepper, adding a pleasant spiciness, and the dipping sauce is a snappy chili-lime treat, not the usual acidic marinara. Note: The calamari is available at happy hour and on the dinner menu, but not on the lunch menu. Monday through Friday, breakfast from 6:30 to 10 a.m.; lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; happy hour, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Closed Saturday and Sunday. www.dahukilau.com.