Best of Honolulu 2012: Food
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Best Poke Bowl
Fresh, glistening poke on steaming rice: Poke bowls turn a pupu into a meal. You can get one at almost any supermarket these days, but for the best, go to Ono Seafood. No fancy ingredients here, just super-fresh, buttery ahi and tender yet toothsome tako, seasoned and mixed to order. You can go half and half and choose two from a short list of poke varieties, such as Hawaiian-style ahi poke or miso tako, all on top of either brown or white rice. 747 Kapahulu Ave., #B, 732-4806.
Best Oxtail Soup
There’s something wondrous about oxtail soup, in which a slow braise of a tough cow’s tail renders the meat soft and the cartilage gelatinous. But not every place delivers as flavorful a broth as Aiea Bowl, which simmers the soup with Chinese red dates, dried orange peel, star anise, peanuts and dried shiitake. Oh, there’s some whiskey, too. The usual shoyu on the side is upgraded to a ponzu brightened with yuzu and hit with chili. 99-115 Aiea Heights Dr., #310, Aiea, 486-3499, aieabowl.com.
Best Fried Chicken
A renewed interest in soul food has sent fried chicken’s stock soaring. But long before Southern food was the trend du jour, Ray’s Café was frying up chicken so crispy the skin shatters like a chicharron. There’s no eating this fried chicken in private; one bite into a juicy thigh had our officemates seeking the source of audible, crackly bliss. The chicken is no-frills (no special seasonings or glazes), just like the Kalihi eatery itself. 2033 N. King St., 841-2771.
Best Kids’ Menu
Kids judge restaurants based on whether or not they pass out crayons. But, as parents, we hope there’s something on the menu that will keep our kid from ordering yet another mac and cheese. Tiki’s Grill and Bar’s menu gives kids what they want: rootbeer floats, a free frisbie, a mini sundae for dessert and, yes, there is coloring. Parents love that it’s obvious the chef took time to make the dishes healthy, and tasty enough for a kid’s picky palate. Our little critic’s favorite? The Keiki Hawaiian Plate with kalua pork pulled from the imu that day. $6.95 per meal, 2570 Kalakaua Ave., 923-8454.
Best Bloody Mary
When it comes to Bloody Marys, we are traditionalists. We like them served the old-fashioned way, like the Chart House Waikiki does—balanced, tomatoey, and dangerously easy to quaff.
Best Tea Experience
Jars of tea line the shelves at Tea Farm Café like bottles at a perfume counter. Sniff each to help you choose from among 50 tea varieties, such as white peony tea or jasmine dragon pearl green tea. The best pot of tea to enjoy in the modern, Zen, bright-white space? The blooming tea, which starts as a ball and unfolds into a desert-bloomlike flower. 2600 S. King St., #106, 945-2679, theteafarm.com.
Best Iced Latte
At Morning Glass, iced lattes are shaken, not stirred. The baristas froth espresso, milk (or soy milk, if that’s your thing) and ice in a cocktail shaker, giving the drink more body, like a real latte. Spice it up with Morning Glass’ housemade cinnamon, caramel or vanilla syrups, or go Momofuku-style with one of the cereal milk lattes, infused with childhood classics like Coco Krispies and Frosted Flakes. 2955 E. Manoa Road, 673-0065.
Best Health Drink
Kombucha, the fermented tea touted as a cure-all by its fans, tastes vinegary. Dried goji berries, the antioxidant-rich fruit popularized by Oprah, taste like raisins that have led long, bitter lives. Thank goodness, then, for good old-fashioned strawberries, which mellow, sweeten and broaden the appeal of these two 21st-century superfoods in the Goji Strawberry Kombucha Love Potion brewed by raw-foods caterer Licious Dishes. Try it with a Wicked Chocolate Tart, made with raw cacao (another superfood!) and agave nectar. The Shops at Dole Cannery, 650 Iwilei Road, Suite 170, 536-9680.