Restaurant Guide: Four Perfect Days

We have assembled the ideal breakfast, lunch and dinner itineraries for Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. This is a gourmand’s fantasy trip—we set aside all earthly concerns, including logistics, calories and budget. Enjoy these, our recommendations for four flawless days’ worth of Island dining.


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Oahu

Breakfast

Start with a rarity in the Honolulu restaurant scene—outdoor dining. Plumeria Beach House, at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, seats you steps away from the ocean where you can spend the morning staring at the greenest green lawn imaginable, the deepest blue sea, an amazing sky and, in the distance, majestic Koko Head.

But you are here to eat, not sightsee. Tempted as we were by the full breakfast buffet ($30 for adults, $15 for children), we went with our server’s suggestion and ordered the surf & turf eggs Benedict with hash browns ($20). From bottom to top: English muffin, beef tenderloin, crab meat, two poached eggs and bearnaise sauce. The evocative, briny smell of the crab hits as the plate is set before you. The crab worked well with the beef, both a bit sweet. And we can’t say enough about the orange juice, so sweet and pulpy it seemed almost like an orange shake. 5000 Kahala Ave., 739-8760.


The humble plate lunch is elevated to new heights at Diamond Head Market & Grill.

Photo: Joss

Lunch

The plate lunch is Hawaii’s lunch, as much a part of our multicultural plantation heritage as pidgin. Think of it as pidgin you can eat. One of the interesting developments in Hawaii culinary history was how the humble plate lunch partly inspired the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, and then was elevated by it. Case in point: Diamond Head Market & Grill, where chef-owner Kelvin Ro serves up foodie-grade plate lunches in a tiny building that once housed Burgerland—a greasy-spoon-type plate lunch place if there ever was one.

Ro has two operations going here. The indoor market side boasts a deli and bakery, serving such conventional gourmet offerings as tomato basil salmon salad, or a turkey sandwich with housemade chutney.

But we headed straight to the outdoor grill for the mixed plate—hamburger steak, teri chicken and char sui, with brown rice, tossed greens and the usual bed-o-shredded-cabbage ($8.50).The hamburger steak was thick, seasoned and grilled on the spot. Ditto the teri chicken.

And the char sui—even Chinese restaurants can render this inedibly oily, but here, you get long, thin slices that still taste like pork. All this, of course, has a terrific, fresh-grilled flavor.

Hawaiian-honey lemonade ($1.50 for a regular) was almost sweet enough to drink as a dessert, but we opted to eat a real dessert. So we grabbed a slice of red velvet cake ($3.75) from the market side of the operation.

OUR ADVICE: Hit the grill, get your lunch to go, take it to nearby Kapiolani Park so it’s still hot while you sit in the shade and enjoy. Now that’s a perfect lunch on Oahu. 3158 Monsarrat Ave., 732-0077

 


The Colorado Lamb, from Chef Mavro, is lamb loin, served with an eggplant dumpling filled with garlic and brussels sprout leaves seasoned with garam masala. Portions are small because the restaurant presents its food in courses, rather than from an a la carte menu.

Photo: Olivier Koning

Dinner

We visited during the first week of Chef Mavro’s summer menu and as he greeted us at the table, Chef George Mavrothalassitis joked that we would be his guinea pigs. As if anything could go wrong. “Actually, by the time we present a new menu, the kitchen has made each dish at least 20 times,” he explained.

At Chef Mavro, the seasonal menu is fixed, as well as the wine pairings, all fine-tuned by a tasting committee. You choose as few as three courses ($69, plus $48 for wine pairings), or, as we attempted to complete, the full 13-course “summer grand degustation menu” ($165, plus $95 for wine pairings).

Do so, and you’ve committed to an unusually focused dining experience, as if Mavro, chef de cuisine Kevin Chong and wine director/sommelier Todd Ashline were working just for you. The Grand Degustation takes two or three hours, as each course is explained and each paired wine are introduced. The pacing and portion size helps your stomach keep up with your palate, but we confess we had to take the Colorado lamb home with us. The small restaurant is quiet and intimate, so nothing distracts you from your tablemate and the courses.

And what courses! Marinated nairagi (striped marlin) and American caviar, with poached quail eggs, sunchoke chips, tomato confit, seasoned with Hanapēpē salt, paired with Domaine Laroche’s 2007 Chablis St. Martin. Wagyu strip loin with burgundy-braised veal cheek, “no eggs no butter béarnaise” boulangère potatoes and essence of Sumida watercress, paired with Clos Les Lunelles’ 2003 Cotes do Castillon. Lilikoi malassadas with guava coulis and pineapple-coconut ice cream, paired with Blandy’s five-year-old Malmsey Madeira.

And 10 others, each a little work of perfection. “It’s like food alchemy,” said our dining companion.

The summer menu continues through the third week of September. 1969 So. King St., 944-4714

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