10 Reasons to Eat Out During Restaurant Week Hawai‘i
The 10-day culinary food fest starts Nov. 10.
The filet of beef with shiitake mushroom sauce and local goat cheese potato purée from Alan Wong’s Honolulu. The restaurant is one of more than 70 participating in this year’s Restaurant Week Hawai‘i.
Photo: Courtesy of Alan Wong’s Honolulu
Ten years ago, when Conrad Nonaka chaired the first Restaurant Week Hawai‘i, he had to convince restaurants to participate. He needed at least 15 to take part, and he almost had to cancel it.
“Now,” says Nonaka, the director of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, “people are calling us! They’re asking, ‘How can we get in? Is it too late?’ There’s a good feeling about it.”
This is the 10th anniversary of Restaurant Week, a 10-day culinary event, which starts today and features more than 70 O‘ahu restaurants offering special menus and discounts. A portion of proceeds raised from every dining deal purchased all week will go toward the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, which supports the six culinary programs within the UH system.
Since this is the 10th anniversary and the event, which normally runs seven days, has been extended to 10, we bring you 10 reasons why you should head out to eat:
1. Try a New Restaurant
The ginger-garlic duck breast from Baku Waikīkī.
Photo: Courtesy of Baku Waikīkī
There are more than a dozen new restaurants participating in Restaurant Week this year, most of which opened this year. Pai Honolulu, which opened in June in Downtown, has a $55 prix fixe menu full of seasonal flavors, including lobster-pumpkin risotto, a warm mushroom and Brussels sprouts salad, and spiced yam cobbler. It’s $25 more for wine pairings.
SEE ALSO: First Look: Pai Honolulu
The robatayaki restaurant Baku Waikīkī, which opened in September in the International Market Place, is offering a $40 prix fixe, four-course menu featuring a chef’s selection of sushi and sashimi and garlic-ginger duck breast with smoked dates.
SEE ALSO: First Look: Baku Waikīkī
Appetito Craft Pizza & Wine Bar, which opened in Waikīkī on Nov. 1, is offering a $25 lunch menu—a great way to sample this new Italian restaurant. The menu starts with a three-appetizer sampler; your choice of the hanger steak tagliata, shrimp verde or porcini cream; and matcha tiramisu for dessert. Wine pairings are available for $25 more.
2. Eat New Dishes at Old Favorites
The iconic “The Coconut” dessert from Alan Wong’s Honolulu.
Photo: Courtesy of Alan Wong’s Honolulu
Most of the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week are old favorites, and many are offering special dishes for this event. Chef Chai’s $52 prix fixe menu mixes signature dishes with new ones, including a deconstructed beef tenderloin Wellington and a grilled portobello mushroom Napoleon. Roy’s Hawai‘i Kai is offering sous vide and seared duck breast; a pesto-crusted big-eye ʻahi and garlic shrimp scampi with Kauaʻi prawns; and pumpkin-spice panna cotta. And the $65 prix fixe menu at Alan Wong’s Honolulu features Keāhole half-lobster tail with Naked Cow Dairy truffle butter and a filet of beef with shiitake mushroom sauce and local goat cheese potato purée. (Yes, the iconic dessert “The Coconut”—haupia sorbet in a chocolate shell that resembles an actual coconut—is on the menu, too.)
3. You’re on a Budget, But You Love to Eat
The Polar Bear shave ice from Tsukada Nojo.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox
There’s no shame in saving money! This year’s Restaurant Week lineup offers some awesome deals. Bread & Butter has a three-course lunch menu with lobster bisque, your choice between a rib-eye steak salad or pasta with grilled shrimp and fresh lilikoʻi, and chocolate mousse for dessert for $28. The farm-to-table izakaya Tsukada Nojo is offering a $40 prix fixe menu that includes hamachi sashimi spiked with jalapeño, shabu shabu and a mini version of its signature polar bear shave ice. (The meal comes with your choice of any signature cocktail, too.)
SEE ALSO: First Look: Tsukada Nojo
Bethel Union is offering soup and a sandwich (or pasta) for lunch for $19.99 or a three-course dinner—entrée choices are braised short-rib papardelle, wild mushroom bucatini or chicken Parmesan—for $29.99. And Rainbow Drive-In off Kapahulu Avenue is serving a special mixed plate with fried saimin, barbecue steak, rice, mac salad and a large soda for $8.95.
4. You Support Local Ag
The Maui Cattle Co. short ribs from 12th Ave Grill.
Photo: Courtesy of 12th Ave Grill
Many of the restaurants are highlighting locally sourced ingredients. 12th Ave Grill’s $42 prix fixe menu features Madagascar tea-braised Maui Cattle Co. short ribs with a gingered Ho Farms butternut squash. The $60 menu at Stage Restaurant showcases Hāmākua aliʻi mushrooms, Maui-grown pineapples and Kōloa Rum. The $35 dinner menu at Mahina & Sun’s has local fish, Sweet Land Farm chèvre beignets and rigatoni with 2 Lady Farmers pork ragu.
5. You Love Dessert (Who Doesn’t?)
Kouign Amann sundaes from Kona Coffee Purveyors.
Photo: Courtesy of Kona Coffee Purveyors
Both MW Restaurant’s lunch and dinner menus showcase desserts by pastry chef extraordinaire Michelle Karr-Ueoka, who was inspired by her recent trip to Japan. The $25 lunch menu ends with a matcha-strawberry shortcake; the $55 dinner menu—with entrée choices of mochi-crusted Kona kampachi, steamed onaga, Japanese-inspired curry gumbo, Hokkaido scallops and Kauaʻi shrimp—is finished with either Karr-Ueoka’s take on kushi-katsu or Hibiki mud pie (for $10 more). Kona Coffee Purveyors has three Restaurant Week specials that turn its kouign amann into decadent sundaes. Each one is topped with fior di latte gelato and flavored with pumpkin pie filling, chocolate ganache and strawberries, or strawberries and guava.
SEE ALSO: The Hard-To-Pronounce French Pastry is Now in Honolulu
6. You Work in Downtown and Want to Eat Something New
Poke crackers and Kusshi oysters from Senia.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox
We work in Downtown, too, and despite the variety of restaurants within walking distance from our office, we always seem to go to the same places for lunch and after-work bites. Fête has a $38 prix fixe menu with a Vida Farms kale Caesar salad with mimosa eggs and bacon, Ni‘ihau lamb with house-made ricotta cavatelli, and local honey panna cotta with butter mochi.
SEE ALSO: First Look: Fête
Senia, which opened last December to rave reviews, is offering an over-the-top prix fixe dinner menu for $85, with its popular poke cracker, Kusshi oysters, cavatelli with a pork ragu and aged fontina, Maine sea scallops with bacon XO and cauliflower purée, filet of beef with a sweetbread-and-wild-mushroom ragout, and pavlova with grapefruit curd and candied pistachio.
SEE ALSO: Is Restaurant Senia Worth the Hype?
The Pig & The Lady offers a lunch menu we’re excited about. For $29, get the Weekend @ Burmese Salad with green papaya and various toasted nuts and sprouting seeds; your choice of noodles, rice or banh mi; and a soft-serve sundae. Grondin French-Latin Kitchen has a $30 menu featuring your choice of a market salad or French onion soup; either adobo pork chop, chicken mole or pan-roasted market fish; and crème brûlée.
7. You’ve Got a Hot Date
The house-made mushroom tortelli from Arancino at the Kāhala.
Photo: Courtesy of Arancino at the Kāhala
There’s no better way to impress your date than being armed with Restaurant Week menus. For a splurge, check out 53 By The Sea’s $75 dinner menu with pipi kaula samosa, smoked Kona kampachi, your choice of the catch of the day or a duo of braised short ribs and grilled New York steak, and Big Island citrus gelée and tapioca milk for dessert. Arancino at the Kāhala has a $57 prix fixe menu with a wild mushroom consommé; bagna cauda; entrée choices of fresh house-made mushroom tortelli, the impressive risotto Parmigiano-Reggiano or pizza topped with eggplant, spicy provolone and fresh basil pesto; and chocolate mousse for dessert. The romantic Le Bistro in Niu Valley has a $45, four-course menu with choices of ‘ahi tartare; escargot Bourgogne; French onion soup; bouillabaisse with scallops, mussels, clams and shrimp; and chocolate bread pudding.
8. You Want To Try Out a New Chef
The main entrée selections—pan-roasted chicken breast and the catch of the day—on the prix fixe menu at Hōkū’s.
Photo: Courtesy of Hōkū’s
In September, Eric Oto became the new chef de cuisine at Hōkū’s at The Kāhala Hotel & Resort, and you can sample his style by trying the restaurant’s $65 prix fixe menu. It features your choice of an ʻahi and hamachi crudo or soy-braised beef short rib and avocado tempura, a Big Island goat cheese and beet salad, and an entrée choice of pan-roasted chicken bread with Hāmākua mushroom risotto or the catch of the day prepared by the new chef.
SEE ALSO: New Chef, New Menu, New Flavors at Hōkū’s
Mariposa also hired a new executive chef this year. Lawrence Nakamoto has added his personal style and influence on the new menu at the restaurant at Neiman Marcus, and you can sample it this week. From today through Sunday, try the soy-braised short ribs at lunch ($28) or the 34-ounce, bone-in tomahawk steak ($110) for dinner; from Nov. 13 to 15, order the arare-crusted onaga ($30) at lunch and the togarashi-spiced scallops ($36) for dinner.
SEE ALSO: Asian and Italian Flavors Collide in Mariposa’s New Menu
9. You Deserve a Staycation in Waikīkī
The buffalo octopus from Herringbone Waikīkī.
Photo: Courtesy of Herringbone Waikīkī
Why not turn Restaurant Week into a staycation in Waikīkī? Try the new Basalt in Dukes Lane Market and Eatery, which is offering a $45 dinner menu with choices of lobster bisque, rib-eye steak, kasu-marinated Alaskan black cod and black sesame panna cotta.
SEE ALSO: ABC Stores Ventures into Upscale Dining with Dukes Lane Market and Eatery
For $58, Yauatcha Waikīkī is serving a spread of tasty bites, from baked venison puffs to XO scallop dumpings to jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs. Included are the chef’s choice of dessert and either a lychee martini or cha thai.
SEE ALSO: First Look: Yauatcha Waikīkī
Get fancy at Stripsteak Waikīkī, which offers a $65 menu and $85 premium menu for dinner. The latter features a hearty lineup of sushi, ʻahi tartare, lobster tacos, blistered shishito peppers, watermelon carpaccio, prime rib-eye and king crab Oscar, miso-broiled diver scallops and a decadent devil’s food cake using Valrhona chocolate. Wine pairings cost extra.
For $60, try the new Herringbone Waikīkī, with your choice of buffalo octopus or California avocado toast for a starter, the catch of the day for the entrée, and assorted ice cream and sorbet for dessert. Vegetarian options are available, too.
10. It’s For A Good Cause
Restaurant Week Hawai‘i supports the construction of the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, the state’s first four-year culinary program. The first $25 million phase of the 7.8-acre facility was completed this year, with four single-story buildings, an outdoor cooking area and two parking lots. Other phases will include the building of a 200-seat teaching restaurant, a 100-seat auditorium for cooking demonstrations, and two more baking and patisserie labs.
Restaurant Week Hawai‘i takes place Nov. 10–19. See the menus at restaurantweekhawaii.com.
READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX