Best of Honolulu 2015: Food
The 32 editorial and reader picks for tastiest food from our Best of Honolulu 2015 issue.
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Best of Food
Photos: Aaron Yoshino
For just 10 bucks, experience Wade Ueoka’s take on the classic ZipPac. The MW bento will forever spoil you for other bentos: It comes with thick slices of kalbi, Portuguese sausage, delicately fried tonkatsu and a house-made version of Spam. Yup, house-made. There are rice and pickled vegetables, too, as in ordinary bentos, though this one is anything but ordinary.
Available for takeout only, weekdays 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 1538 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Suite 107, 955-6505, mwrestaurant.com
Best One-Woman Diner
Wait, Harry’s Café is run by a woman? Yup, a woman named Christy who didn’t bother changing the restaurant’s name when she bought it. You’ll recognize Harry’s Café by the “Home of the 99c Breakfast!” sign over the door. But that’s not why we come here (actually, the 99-cent breakfast no longer exists). The concrete façade hides a rare warmth: Inside, there are red-and-white checkered tablecloths, mismatched mugs and cups (some we recognize from a Magic Bullet set), and Christy’s motherly affection, which extends to sharing some of her personal stash of cookie butter. She serves solid breakfast food, blueberry pancakes, corned beef hash, and it’s the only place we’ve been where you can order a side of lup cheong. This is where we return to, over and over, post-surf session, post breakup, pre make up. It’s a place to be soothed and comforted—the perfect diner.
1101 Waimanu St., 593-7798
Best Jewish Nosh
Kvetching being a Ludlow Street sport, there is by definition no such thing as a satisfied customer at a delicatessen in New York City. But we’re willing to bet that any visitor from back East who’s missing a nice deli spread will be grateful for This Is It on Cooke Street and its Bishop Street outpost, This Is It Too. Mona Gelson started her first bagel company in Honolulu in 1979, and today with son Josh turns out the stuff of neurotic, Woody Allen-esque dreams: a chewy, flour-dusted bialy; bagels with the proper stretchy texture that comes of being boiled (and that are not the size of soccer balls); a lovely heaping lox plate; and, best of all, a loose pile of pastrami shavings on rye, moistly exhaling flavor instead of being compressed into hard slices. (No matter how high they stack it, pastrami has to breathe.) Gelson says the 443 Cooke St. bakery is where to go after temple.
This Is It, 443 Cooke St., 597-1037, and This Is It Too, 1001 Bishop St., thisisitbakeryanddeli.com
Best Brussels Sprouts
That we can have this category and a good number of readers will, instead of retching, keep reading, proves this sad, abused vegetable is finally having its moment to flutter its tiny little leaves in the spotlight. Roasted, fried and paired with bacon, Brussels sprouts are appearing on menus all over town, knocking out memories of the overcooked, mushy vegetable of our childhoods. Our favorite comes from 12th Ave Grill, where these babies are deep-fried and covered with cheddar crumbles, crispy pancetta, dried mango and toasted macadamia nuts. Crunchy and soft, salty and sweet—shine on baby, shine on.
1120 12th Ave., 732-9469, 12thavegrill.com
Best Salmon-Skin Handroll
One of our favorite izakayas, Imanas Tei, had already won over our stomachs with incomparable nabe, sparkling fresh sashimi and delicate fried gobo kakiage. But the menu was hiding a secret: the humble salmon-skin roll, not so humble at Imanas Tei. Here, it’s a handheld cornucopia filled with crispy fried salmon skin, chunks of meaty salmon, daikon sprouts, pickled carrots and a shower of tobiko that spills over like confetti. It’s a party wrapped in nori. Pictured here: the salmon-skin maki-mono.
2626 S. King St., 941-2626
Best Daikon Salad
Ah, the daikon, humbler than the potato, which at least gets fried, mashed, souffled, baked, gratin-ed. Whereas the daikon, more often than not, is boiled. Maybe simmered, if it’s feeling really fancy. But enter the daikon salad, a staple at many izakayas, sadly overlooked. Because daikon = boring in our minds. Until we tried it at Gazen. Here, shredded daikon is tossed with julienned carrots, bell peppers and cucumbers, in a light peanut-soy dressing. The really fun part? The crushed cashews and Japanese rice crackers mixed in give this salad all sorts of delightful textures. Welcome back to the table, daikon.
2840 Kapi‘olani Blvd., 737-0230