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2013 Hale Aina Awards: When to eat where

Our readers named the best restaurants in the Islands. To help you navigate the wealth of great dining, we lead you through a year-long itinerary of Hale Aina eating: when to eat where.


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Hy's Steak House (Best Restaurant for a Date Night, silver) proves that we find something utterly romantic about decades-old institutions, tuxedoed waiters and tableside service.

Photos by Olivier Koning

There are 142 Hale Aina award-winning restaurants.

Which means you’d have to eat at one almost every other day to try them all. It’s a daunting task. While you may not be able to cover them all, you can certainly try. Here’s a calendar year’s itinerary of Hale Aina eating: when to eat where. It’s time to get started … now.


The Yamazaki Sidecar at Nobu.


Happy 2013! The world didn’t end in 2012, which calls for a celebration, cocktail in hand. Ring in the new year with drinks from Nobu Waikiki (Best Cocktail, gold; Best Japanese Restaurant, gold). Sip a Sado Blossom—a light, refreshing mix of soju, yuzu, hibiscus, shiso, mint and housemade sorbet—in Nobu’s swank lounge, or pair a Yamazaki Sidecar, gently mixed Suntory 12-year whisky, orange liqueur and yuzu, with bar bites. In the lounge, the small plates might be crispy yuba tofu with uni, or steamed clams with pancetta and kale in a miso dashi broth.

On New Year’s Day, Nobu’s special menu includes ozoni soup, a traditional Japanese soup with mochi that is supposed to bring good luck. Does it work? Let’s just point out that the president ate here last year on New Year’s Day, while Mitt Romney did not.

Ozoni soup is well and good for tradition’s sake, but also indulge in Nobu’s contemporary Japanese plates: creamy, spicy crab; or lobster with wasabi pepper sauce. Salads at Nobu are some of Honolulu’s most innovative, such as ribbons of Big Island heart of palm, kissed with yuzu and jalapeño.

On the flip side, since the world didn’t end in 2012, it means you might have to replenish the retirement coffers. Every weekday, you can grab a three-course, prix fixe menu at The Grove (Best New Restaurant, silver) for just $17. It includes a soup or salad and a choice of such dishes as the adobo-braised pork ribs with mango chutney, or the Greek-marinated roasted chicken. While New Year’s resolutions for a healthier, better you are still intact, you can also opt for the whole-wheat spaghetti and Manila clams, leaving room, of course, for a vanilla-bean panna cotta. For those who choose to start off the New Year more wickedly, choose from the small plates menu, which includes deep-fried bites such as cheese-stuffed olives, chick pea fritters and arancini—fried, creamy risotto balls that ooze melted cheese. Or go all out and get the chicharron-topped pork belly. These bites are perfect enjoyed with a glass of wine in The Grove’s pleasant outside seating.

The Grove's braised beef short ribs


See the full list of winners.

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