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11 Chefs Dish on Their Go-To Orders at Their Own Restaurants and at Others Around Hawai‘i

It’s not always late-night ramen and leftover mac and cheese after a long shift.


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where chefs eat in honolulu

 

Alex Yago

Executive Chef, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, Maui

PHOTO: RYAN SIPHERS

 

Mine

Ham’n Sandwich

I enjoy the Ham’n the most at Leoda’s because of the flavors in it: in-house kiawe-smoked ham, pesto aioli, tomato apricot jam, melted Jarlsberg cheese all on toasted rye bread. Everything except the cheese is made in house.

$13.75, 820 Olowalu Village Road,Lahaina, (808) 662-3600, leodas.com

 

PHOTO: RYAN SIPHERS

 

Theirs

Mochiko Chicken, Tin Roof

Chef Sheldon [Simeon] brought that dish to a new level. He adds su-miso (a vinegar miso dressing) and a kochu aioli that makes it pop. I would always have to get two because my kids would always eat all of mine. We would stop by and get it with all the family and friends that visit us here on Maui and their bowls would always be empty.

$8, 360 Papa Place, Suite Y, (808) 868-0753, tinroofmaui.com

 

PHOTO: NINA KUNA

 


SEE ALSO: Sheldon Simeon’s Lineage on Maui Wins Gold for Hawai‘i’s Best New Restaurant


 

Thomas Fuquay

Chef/Owner, Nom Kaua‘i

PHOTO: RACHEL BREITWESER

 

Mine

The Porky Hash

If there was one dish I would, and do, order from my own restaurant it would be The Porky Hash. It is our maple-braised pork belly fried crispy, with garlicky home fries, butter-braised onions, sautéed kale, Tapatío aioli, a fried egg and avocado smash. It is a fan favorite.

$17, 4-1101 Kūhiō Highway, Kapa‘a, (808) 635-5903, nomkauai.com

 

PHOTO: RACHEL BREITWESER

 

Theirs

Saimin, Hamura Saimin

My favorite Kaua‘i grinds are an extra large saimin special ($12.50) with two chicken sticks ($2.75 each) and a strawberry soda ($1.50). It’s my go-to comfort meal.

2956 Kress St., Līhu‘e, (808) 245-3271

 

PHOTO: RACHEL BREITWESER

 


SEE ALSO: Senia Wins Gold for Hawai‘i’s Best Tasting Menu and Silver for O‘ahu’s Best Restaurant


 

Mimi Mendoza

Pastry Chef, Senia

chef mimi

photo: Olivier Koning

 

Mine

Mille-feuille

I love this dish because it has so many textures: crispy, creamy, crunchy. Our nontraditional mille-feuille has layers of local apple bananas, parsnip, Lā‘ie vanilla ganache and pecan caramel. I use parsnip because it’s a very classic pairing with vanilla in more savory dishes. Parsnip to me tastes like vanilla, banana and sarsaparilla. Another thing that’s important to me is the use of local products. We use local vanilla beans from Lā‘ie Vanilla Co., honey from Tolentino Honey Co. and local apple bananas.

$14, 75 N. King St., (808) 200-5412, restaurantsenia.com

 

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Theirs

Kouign Amann, B.Patisserie at Kona Coffee Purveyors

Being from the Bay Area, I love that I can get a taste from home with a perfectly poured cappuccino from the super friendly baristas at KCP. Even better is when they do the kouign amann sundaes for Restaurant Week and the fun flavors for Kouign Amann Day.

$6.25 for original and $6.50 for special flavors, International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Ave., #160, (808) 450-2364, konacoffeepurveyors.com

 

PHOTO: GRANT SHINDO

 


SEE ALSO: 6 Buzzable Coffee Shops That Opened in Honolulu in 2018


 

Roy Yamaguchi

Chef/Owner, Roy’s Hawai‘i

PHOTO: Olivier Koning

 

Mine

Crispy Crab Cakes

As a kid growing up in Japan, I used to walk to our neighborhood market and buy anpan (Japanese sweet roll) and korokke (deep-fried dish, like croquette, usually with ground meat and mashed potato). I really liked the consistency of the moist, soft inside and the crispy outside of the korokke. So when I was developing the opening menu for the original Roy’s in Hawai‘i Kai I wanted to create a dish that had the same type of mouthfeel I enjoyed as a child.

$19, 6600 Kalaniana‘ole Highway, (808) 396-7697, royshawaii.com

 

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Theirs

Saimin, Zippy’s Restaurant

Definitely a large saimin for breakfast at Zippy’s Koko Marina, with lots of green onions and char siu. It’s the way I used to eat it with my grandfather back on Maui when I used to visit.

$4.65, 7192 Kalaniana‘ole Highway, (808) 396-6977, zippys.com

 

PHOTO: ZIPPY’S RESTAURANT

 


SEE ALSO: Expanding Tastes: Roy Yamaguchi is Cooking for the Kailua Community at Goen Dining + Bar


 

Keola Warren

General Manager & Owner, Moke’s Bread & Breakfast

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Mine

Loco Moke

It’s our version of a loco moco, which substitutes a rib-eye for the hamburger patty. I’m a sucker for eggs, rice and gravy. We make our gravy from scratch and it’s delicious. (There’s also a secret menu version in Kaimukī, which adds a corned beef hash patty and side of Portuguese sausage! It’s called the Big Cat.)

$15.95, multiple locations, mokeshawaii.com

 

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Theirs

He‘e Lū‘au, Mud Hen Water

It’s such a creative play on squid lū‘au. The he‘e is always soft and tender—they have really mastered the preparation of it. The lū‘au is delicious as well with local greens, coconut milk and some sesame. Lū‘au leaf is much more than simply an afterthought here.

$16, 3452 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 737-6000, mudhenwater.com

 

PHOTO: GRANT SHINDO

 


SEE ALSO: Ed Kenney of Mud Hen Water is Hawai‘i’s Restaurateur of the Year


 

Chris Oh

Chef/Partner, Chingu

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Mine

Chicken and Cheese

Our famous chicken and cheese would be my obvious choice. Tender morsels of chicken sautéed in a sweet and spicy Korean barbecue glaze served tableside in a cast-iron skillet with a mound of bubbling hot cheese is definitely a crowd pleaser and goes great with a Korean beer or shot of soju.

$22, 1035 Kapi‘olani Blvd., (808) 592-1035, chinguhawaii.com

 

photo: olivier koning

 

Theirs

Curry Crab, Mai Lan

It’s a close one, but I would have to choose Mai Lan’s curry crab. Whole Dungeness crab slathered in a Vietnamese curry sauce of I have no idea what, but whatever is in it makes you want to mop up the plate with the fresh hot baguettes that come with the dish. I personally ate a whole one by myself along with two whole baguettes!

$56, 1224 Ke‘eaumoku St., (808) 955-0446

 

PHOTO: DAVID CROXFORD

 


SEE ALSO: Chef Chris Oh’s Chingu Hawai‘i Brings L.A.’s K-Town Vibe to Honolulu


 

Ryan Brannigan

Chef de Cuisine, Manta at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Hawai‘i Island

PHOTO: MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL

 

Mine

Kampachi with Melted Tomato Brown Butter

This is my first chef de cuisine job and this is my menu. This is my baby. I love fried fish. The only way I normally eat kampachi is raw because it can get a mealy texture when cooked too long. This way it is crispy on the outside and just cooked on the inside, served with melted tomato brown butter and crab fried rice with roasted cauliflower and kale from Kekela Farms.

$46, 62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, Waimea, (808) 882-5707, maunakeabeachhotel.com

 

PHOTO: MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL

 

Theirs

Grilled Butter Roll, Liliha Bakery

At 12 o’clock at night, I make sure to get those butter rolls with the nuclear jelly, I don’t know what the flavor is. They just toast them on the griddle. I can just fill up on those. I also have to get the waffles and pancakes. You have to go to the old Liliha Bakery (in Liliha), not the new one. It’s not the same.

$2.99, multiple locations, lilihabakery.com

 

PHOTO: DAVID CROXFORd

 


SEE ALSO: First Look: Liliha Bakery Opens at Ala Moana Center


 

Kenneth Lee

Chef/Owner, Restaurant XO

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Mine

Foie Gras, Salt-Roasted Crispy Rice, Chinese Foie Gravy

Crispy rice has been on our menu since we first opened and has changed toppings over time, from lup cheong to unagi and now foie gras. We recently started putting salt on the rice. I didn’t know rice had flavor until we did that. We salt the pan and put the rice on it so it has a roasted salt and rice flavor. Then we sear the foie gras and make a sauce out of the fat that’s left in the pan, an unctuous cake noodle sauce.

$28, 3434 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 732-3838, @Restaurant_XO

 

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Theirs

Quatro Formaggio, Rigo

I like two of the pizzas: the salami and jalapeño, and the quatro formaggio (four cheese) specifically with the honey. They give you a small packet of honey to put on your pizza. I went, “oh, this weird,” but it was mind-blowing. It’s sweet and savory without feeling like you are eating dessert.

$16.50, 885 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 735-9760, rigohawaii.com

 

PHOTO: RIGO HAWAI‘I

 


SEE ALSO: After Six Months, XO Restaurant Keeps It Interesting


 

Delia Romano

Executive Sous Chef, Outrigger Reef Waikīkī Beach Resort 

photo: olivier koning

 

Mine

Vegan Nachos, Reef Bar and Market Grill

The house-made jackfruit carnitas have a good kick. The flavor is balanced with the rest of the fresh ingredients. It’s a great treat for any time of day and best enjoyed with a cold beverage from the bar.

$24, 2169 Kālia Road, (808) 924-7333, outriggerreef-onthebeach.com

 

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

 

Theirs

Veggie Sampler, Ethiopian Love Restaurant [Vegan]

The sampler can change every time you dine because it’s a chef’s choice. It comes with six items and the house-made injera (Ethiopian flatbread), which is so good. This dish has yet to disappoint and all six items are always packed with flavor and with just enough spice.

$17, 1112 Smith St., (808) 725-7197

 

PHOTO: STEVE CZERNIAK

 

Hank Adaniya

Chef/Owner, Hank’s Haute Dogs

photo: olivier koning

 

Mine

Swiss-Cheese-and-Mushroom Burger

We’re known for our hot dogs and I always wondered when I’d grow tired of them, but I haven’t. But my go-to right now is our Swiss-cheese-and-mushroom burger. It’s a third-pound patty grilled over flame.

$10.42, 324 Coral St., (808) 532-4265, hankshautedogs.com

 

PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING
 

 

Theirs

Charred Cabbage, Senia

Definitely the charred cabbage with shio kombu, green goddess dressing and droplets of buttermilk. It’s something that seems so simple but tastes amazing.

$17, 75 N. King St., (808) 200-5412, restaurantsenia.com

 

PHOTO: STEVE CZERNIAK

 


SEE ALSO: Taste Test: We Tried Every Hot Dog at Hank’s Haute Dogs and Ranked Them


 

Masaki Nakayama

Chef, Zigu

PHOTO: LEAH FRIEL

 

Mine

Applewood-Smoked Local Egg Potato Salad

It is inspired by a dish I had at Dome, another restaurant in the Zetton group, in Japan in 2016. They served a smoked potato salad that touched my heart. Japanese families eat potato salad. You can find it everywhere—supermarkets, okazuya, 7-Elevens and high-end izakaya. It’s such a simple dish, but Dome’s potato salad takes a lot of steps. A lot of hard work and heart goes into making it.

$8.50, 413 Seaside Ave., (808) 212-9252, zigu.us

 


SEE ALSO: Zigu: A Hidden Japanese Izakaya Emphasizes Local Ingredients


PHOTO: LEAH FRIEL

 

Theirs

Tonkatsu, Tonkatsu Tamafuji

I try to eat tonkatsu everywhere in Hawai‘i. And I found Tonkatsu Tamafuji—they make perfect tonkatsu. Crispy golden brown bread crumbs with juicy, rich, soft meat! One of the dishes I would like to eat at the end of my life!

Prices vary by tonkatsu cut and size; 449 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 922-1212

 

photo: thomas Obungen

 

 

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