38 Best New Dishes and Drinks You Must Try in Hawai‘i
The best new dishes and drinks around the state.
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Year round, we eat out a lot, so of course it’s always exciting to encounter something we haven’t tasted before. Here are the recently introduced dishes (and drinks) that we’ve been craving, the ones that we can’t stop thinking about. They might be surprising additions to the menu at our favorite, go-to restaurants, or they might be stunning dishes at the new hot spot in town. Either way, they are the ones that we keep coming back for, that we can’t wait to introduce our friends to.
Mochiko Chicken and Waffles
Photos: Steve Czerniak
Appropriately nook-ish, hidden within Puck’s Alley, this restaurant has a menu that’s short and sweet and fun. Like the newer brunch spots, it breaks out of the usual eggs-Benedict-and-pancakes rut with creative comfort food, the best example being the mochiko chicken and mochi waffles. We can’t think of a more awesome Hawai‘i food mashup since loco met moco. Crispy, juicy chicken, matched with crispy, chewy waffles, all drizzled with maple syrup.
$13.50, 1035 University Ave., 942-2222, thenookhonolulu.com
Mexican Pork Lau Lau
Búho Cocina y Cantina
It looks like a culinary identity crisis: a warm flour tortilla, beer-simmered black beans, pickled red onions, Mexican rice—and a neatly tied lau lau. Open it, and you’ll find a softly steamed chunk of slow-roasted cochinita pibil that’s reminiscent of kālua pig. But here’s the secret: It all comes together once you take the dish back to its Mexican roots. Tear off pieces of tortilla and wrap a little bit of everything inside for bites that are porky, starchy and pickly, with a hint of crunch and a faintly beery finish.
$28.95, 2250 Kalākaua Ave. 5F, 922-2846
New England has its lobster roll, and now Honolulu has its own version: the he‘e roll. Chunks of locally caught octopus are lightly tossed with aioli, punctuated with fresh celery heart and tender leaves. It’s all stuffed into a classic, split-top bun, buttered and toasted. Long Island-born Dave Caldiero says, “Ed (Kenney) and I have always shared an affinity for a soft and buttery Long-Island-style lobster roll, which was the inspiration for the sandwich.”
$13, 3458 Wai‘alae Ave., 734-7800
The Pig and the Lady
It’s a chef’s dream dish, skewed crazy: A giant marrow bone arrives at your table, wafting the star anise scent of the pho broth it’s stewed in. The server spoons the steaming marrow onto bread brushed with olive oil, and tops it with glistening orbs of salmon roe, slivers of fresh citrus and sprinkles of Hawaiian salt. But you’re not done. As you bite in, a bartender runs up and splashes a shot of mezcal cocktail into the marrow cavity. You pick up the giant bone in your bare hands and drain the warm liquor. Now you’re done. All completely subject to change according to the chef’s whim.
$24, 83 N. King St., 585-8255
Lazy Lūau Dip
Off the Wall Craft Desserts & Kitchen
Anyone who deconstructs lū‘au and serves it as a dip with tortilla chips deserves a nod. But there’s more. The hot pool of whole-leaf lū‘au comes topped with a round of kālua pig that’s itself topped with mozzarella and a sprinkle of katsuobushi flakes, a reference to the salty butterfish inside the lau lau it was inspired by. And then the sides—ramekins of lomi salmon, pickled onion and chili pepper water—bring it home. Why the name “lazy lū‘au”? Because, while the components are the same as for lau lau, this one’s not rolled—and it’s cooked in a slow cooker.
$12, 1272 S. King St., 591-9255
Singaporean Chili Lobster Tails
A luxe riff on Singaporean chili crab. Don’t expect a fiery sauce—rather, it’s a subtle tomato sauce, sweet and salty, with just a touch of heat. Whisked with egg and thickened with cornstarch, it’s pure comfort. The three fried mantou (Chinese steamed buns) that it comes with will not be enough to sop it all up, so here’s a tip: Order a side of rice and spoon all the leftover sauce over it. You won’t want to waste any of it.
$52, inside the Hyatt Regency, 2424 Kalākaua Ave., 237-6180
Think of it as a deconstructed piña colada cake, a version so light that each of its components seems as if it could just float off the plate. Pillowy coconut chiffon cake is ever so lightly weighted down with a kaffir lime pudding, haupia sorbet and ribbons of pineapple, sliced so thin that they’re sheer.
$10, 1538 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Suite 106, 955-6505