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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“There are no shortcuts in that kind of soup,” executive chef Eberhard “Hardy” Kintscher says. “A lot of our dishes are very time-consuming to prepare. We roast bones everyday, for jus and demi glace. That’s really what gives the plate some depth. You don’t get all that out of sauces that are quickly made. I know a lot of chefs that like to use fruit puree and drippings and make a sauce, but it’s not the same.”
Part of the appeal and romance of Michel’s are the tableside waiter preparations, which are put to good use with the steak au poivre, a black peppercorn-crusted prime New York steak flamed tableside with Jack Daniels, creating a glaze of whisky and meat juices.
Dessert could be a chocolate soufflé, another classic featured at Michel’s from the very beginning, but Strawberries Foie Gras Forever is a more adventurous, popular dish. Inspired by a Michael Mina (a celebrity chef and restaurateur) appetizer incorporating strawberries and foie, Kintscher sweetens the dish and serves it for dessert. Strawberries are flambéed with balsamic vinegar, port wine and foie gras and the whole rich and creamy sauce goes over Il Gelato vanilla gelato.
The menu may not change enormously at Michel’s, but Kintscher keeps it fresh by incorporating new ingredients, whether it’s local produce he finds when he moonlights at his Chef Hardy the Mobile Chef stand at KCC farmers’ market, or products not often seen in Honolulu, such as California red abalone, Jerusalem artichokes or Snake River Farms beef. 2895 Kalakaua Ave., 923-6552.
Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Best Big Island Restaurant, Bronze
The story of Sansei’s crab truffle ramen begins with a packet of Sapporo instant ramen and a block of truffle butter. “When I was working in the restaurant, at work I didn’t feel like eating, but when I came home, I started to get hungry,” DK Kodama of Sansei says. “The fridge had nothing, the cupboard had Sapporo ramen.” He worked with what he had, adding fresh herbs from his garden to his instant ramen—Thai basil, green onions, cilantro. It wasn’t rich enough, so he threw in some truffle butter he happened to have in his freezer. (With his expensive palate, it’s lucky that Kodama is in the restaurant business: “I love anything expensive. I can eat caviar by the spoonful—forget the accoutrements!”) After coming home to this souped-up ramen, he figured it’d be great in the restaurant—it just needed something more lush, something more “special occasion.” He settled on king crab to complement the heady truffle broth. Other than that addition, plus fresh ramen, Sansei Waikaloa’s version is pretty faithful to Kodama’s original after-hours snack, topped with cilantro and Thai basil.
Kodama’s other favorite, the Takah Sushi Roll, is an homage to the sushi restaurant where Kodama learned to make sushi, in Aspen, of all places. It’s a beefed-up California roll—an inside-out roll crusted with masago and stuffed with shrimp, ahi, crab, avocado and cucumber. As one of his favorite rolls, Kodama says, “I used to take two of these, four beers, and, instead of popcorn, eat that in the movies.” 201 Waikoloa Beach Drive, #801, Waikoloa, (808) 886-6286.