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2012 Hale Aina Awards

You voted, we counted, and here they are, the best 128 restaurants in Hawaii. On these pages, you’ll find a complete list of the winners and a closer look at some of the specific, delicious dishes that put these eateries on top.


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Le Bistro’s black cod, in grated apples and  finished with yuzu juice and citrus segments.

photo: mark arbeit


Best Wine Program, Silver

As Vino’s Hale Aina award for Best Wine Program will tell you, people come here to drink. Master sommelier Chuck Furuya oversees the wine program, changing wines by the glass weekly. By necessity, the food changes to match the wines, though Chef Keith Endo always keeps some variation of handmade pastas on the menu. Endo uses three basic recipes: one, for the Ligurian trofie pastas, is made with 00 flour (a fine, Italian flour with a lower protein content for more tender doughs), water and salt; the other adds egg yolks to 00 flour, water and salt; the third is two-thirds semolina, one-third 00 flour, whole eggs, white wine and salt. “Ligurian pastas are really labor intensive but are good because they have a really meaty texture as opposed to one of the really delicate, fine pastas,” Endo says. He tends to toss Ligurian pasta with Genovese pesto and serve it simply. The semolina-less dough is more delicate and good for ravioli, perhaps stuffed with a pork ragu. The semolina dough is for pappardelle, fettucine and linguine. One of the latest linguine dishes is paired with corn, jalapenos, lobster uni sauce and fresh Dungeness crab.

Whether Furuya is highlighting big California reds or Champagne, Endo tweaks his food to match. “Sometimes just adding a certain herb or tomatoes, or leaving it out makes a dish more wine-friendly,” he says. “We use a lot of corn and mushrooms that soak up tannins and add texture, umami … We can change any dish to go from Riesling to a Chardonnay to a Pinot or a rosé.”

Vino’s wine list leans on Old World-style wines, and the food that goes with them is comfort food. “It’s very soulful,” Endo says. “They’re dishes your grandmother made, how they made things a long time ago. I love the old stuff because it’s very comforting, it’s not fancy. It’s the kind of food I’m sure in Italy they put down on the table and everyone sits down and drinks wine and just enjoys the conversation and the food.” 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 6D-1.

Peace Café

Best Vegetarian, Silver

Peace Café, a vegan eatery, may have won a Hale Aina for Best Vegetarian, but chefs Megumi Yamaki and Ari Moriya say each dish is created to be fulfilling and to satisfy meat eaters and non-vegans as well. Take the Heart and Seoul, Peace Café’s most popular entrée. It’s a take on the Korean bibimbap, with local and/or organic veggies including kale, bean sprouts, shaved carrots, a salad of greens and a choice of textured vegetable protein or fresh tofu from Aloha Tofu, so soft it’s like custard. The greens come from a variety of sources: Mohala Farms in Waialua, the farmers’ markets, or, more recently, Farm Roof, a local company that utilizes roofs for growing vegetables and lettuces. A dollop of sweet-and-spicy miso paste ties the Heart and Seoul together, and the vegetables are served on a bed of brown and black rice, giving the overall rice color a pinkish tinge. The black rice “is a type of heirloom rice and high in nutritional value,” Moriya says. “We use it because it tastes great and gives a great texture.”

Click here for the full list of winners from the 2012 Hale Aina Awards.

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