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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Peace Café’s Heart and Seoul, a vegan take on the classic bi bim bap, with soft-as-custard tofu and fresh marinated carrots, bean sprouts and kale.

photo: rae huo

Sweets at Peace Café also satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike, particularly the mochi, the flavors of which change everyday: coconut banana, apple cinnamon, pumpkin spice, lemon berry, matcha berry, kinako chocolate … the list goes on. “Everyone goes crazy for mochi,” Moriya says. As far as inspiration for dishes and desserts, “In the beginning I just created what I wanted to eat, but now I create what customers want to eat,” she says. What do customers ask for? “Anything chocolate. Also, I got a lot of requests for something cold, sweet, creamy—basically they wanted ice cream.” So she created a vegan ice cream with soy milk, coconut milk and maple syrup, in chocolate, vanilla bean and avocado flavors. 2239 S. King St. #C, 951-7555.
 


Mariposa’s lunch bestseller: lobster club with bacon, avocado,  roasted pepper.

photo: mark arbeit

Mariposa

Best Lunch, Gold

The one menu item Marc Freiberg could probably never take off Mariposa’s menu (along with the complimentary popovers and chicken consommé) is the lobster club. Meaty pieces of lobster are married with bacon, roasted pepper and avocado and layered between toasted bread like a traditional club sandwich. It’s the No. 1 bestseller on the lunch menu.

But if he can’t change the lobster club, Freiberg adds his own touches elsewhere, all the while catering to an upscale, mostly female, health-conscious clientele. For lunch, this means a lot of filling, one-dish salads, like the king crab salad with Big Island hearts of palm, Kula butter lettuce, baby radishes, frisee and avocado with a green goddess dressing, redolent with herbs, creamy with avocado, with a vinegary bite. It’s a throwback dressing that complements the crab and lettuce.

Another relatively healthy and hearty item is the ahi tuna melt, a whole ahi steak smeared with lemon-caper aioli, Fontina cheese and grilled red onions on a whole-grain roll.

Freiberg says he takes an Italian approach in his use of ingredients. There may be few actual Italian dishes on Mariposa’s menu, but he’ll highlight seasonality and ingredients, a philosophy acquired while working in Italy. Freiberg’s last gig was at Sergio’s at Hilton Hawaiian Village, a job he took because the owner promised him a paid trip to Italy if he worked for him for a year. “I got to spend a month over there, work and just really soak it up.” 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., #2101, 951-3420.

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

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,January

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