Best of Honolulu – Food
It’s that time of year again. We’ve scoured the island, grilled the experts and enlisted your help to bring you the best “Best of Honolulu“ ever.
Best Noodle House
Shiro’s Saimin Haven
|Shiro Matsuo, owner of our Best Noodle House winner, Shiro’s Saimin Haven. photo: Mark Arbeit|
If you were to eat a different kind of saimin at Shiro’s Saimin Haven every day for a month, you’d only be halfway through its 60 varieties. The restaurant takes one of Hawai‘i’s great comfort foods to a whole new level, offering old favorites like charsiu saimin as well as creative concoctions like the “Joe Moore” (topped with roast duck and won tons). Noodles are made fresh daily, direct from the family-run restaurant’s other business, Five Star Noodle Factory. And while customers wait for their orders, they can sample some of 87-year-old owner Shiro Matsuo’s inspirational poetry, which brighten up the walls of all his restaurants. Three locations: Waimalu Shopping Center, 98-020 Kamehameha Highway, 488-4834; 94-256 Waipahu Depot Road, Waipahu, 676-2088; 91-919 Fort Weaver Road, ‘Ewa Beach, 689-0999.
Fukuya Delicatessen & Catering
photo: K. Gonzales
For 67 years, hungry Honoluluans have been feasting on potato hash, chow fun, miso butterfish and musubi from Fukuya Delicatessen & Catering. Fukuya’s friendly staff, clean storefront and onolicious food has earned the Mo‘ili‘ili establishment the title of best okazuya. Owner Arrison Iwahiro, great-grandson of the founding owners, credits the success of his family-run business to its steady following of foodies. Over the years, Fukuya has also added fresh mochi and cookies to its menu and a catering service for large events. 2710 S. King St., 946-2073. http://www.fukuyadeli.com
photo: Michael Keany
In addition to selling around 4,000 of its signature chocolate-filled, chantilly-topped coco puffs each day, Liliha Bakery offers an array of old-fashioned baked goods, including cakes, cinnamon twists and danishes. 515 N. Kuakini St., 531-1651.
Best Dim Sum
Legend Seafood Restaurant
For the widest selection of two-bite delights—everything from deep-fried taro puffs to scallop-and-spinach dumplings—you head to Legend Seafood Restaurant, the granddaddy of local dim sum houses. Two locations: Chinese Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St., 532-1868; Waikiki Trade Center, 2255 Kuhio Ave., 926-8999.
Best Ice Cream Parlor
|Bubbies is named after founder Keith Robbin’s grandmother. Somehow, we think she’d love making kids this happy. photo: Mark Arbeit|
Our winner, Bubbies, has a little something for everyone. Kiddie dips for the under-5 set. Egg creams for the nostalgic. Sundaes with risqué names, for the college crowd. Trying to gain weight after dysentery? Down that peanut butter milkshake. Gourmands appreciate the espresso, and the ice-cream toppings, such as black-cherry rum. There are green tea, haupia and lychee ice cream flavors for Island palates. Even Oprah’s on board: She liked the company’s mochi ice cream enough to feature it in her magazine. See, something for everyone. Two locations: 1010 University Ave., 949-8984. Koko Marina Shopping Center, 7192 Kalaniana‘ole Highway., 396-8722, www.bubbiesicecream.com.
|Almost too pretty to eat, these pastries come from the French- and Japanese-influenced bakery Patisserie La Palme D’or. photo: Olivier Koning|
Patisserie La Palme D’or
If food can be called art, then Patisserie La Palme D’or is a museum. Gorgeous—and very tasty—cakes and other sweet concoctions fill the glass display cases at this Ala Moana Center sweet shop. Each dessert is lined up in colorful rows of orange, pink, deep brown and creamy white. Delicious options include a sinful dome of chocolate mousse and toffee, a creamy cheesecake topped off with an apricot-liliko‘i glaze or a sakura cake filled with white chocolate and raspberry mousse. The average single serving will run you about $4.50, a full cake about $30. Ala Moana Center, 941-6161.
Best Fried Rice
Side Street Inn
To find you the best fried rice in town, we ignored our New Year’s resolutions—and the advice of our physicians—and sampled offerings from 14 restaurants around O‘ahu. We admit, we were biased. Our testers favored the local-style version (you know, rice so sticky you could sculpt something out of it) over the loose-grain dishes served by Chinese restaurants. The hands-down winner of our fried rice showdown? Side Street Inn. With its heaping mixture of medium-grain rice, Portuguese sausage, bacon, charsiu, peas and carrots, it’s pure carnivorous delight. 1225 Hopaka St., 591-0253. Bonus for downtown workers: You can also get the dish at chef-owner Colin Nishida’s second restaurant, Fort Street Bar & Grill. 745 Fort Street Mall, 523-1500.
photo: Kathryn Drury Wagner
Best Burrito Bargain
Rice? Pinto or black beans? Which homemade salsa? There was too many choices, so our server offered, “Do you want me to just put some stuff on there that tastes good?” Yes. Kaimuki’s BC Burrito boasts tasty fillings such as chicken/bay leaf, vegetarian-friendly options and a score of hot sauces. You can get a kid’s size burrito (which is plenty for some adult diners, too) for $2.39, a regular for $4.59 or the Gutbuster ($11.39), which could feed several adults—or at least one hungry, teenage surfer. 3607 Wai‘alae Ave., 737-4700. http://www.bcburrito.com
|photo: Jen Tadaki|
Best Coffee Shop
With 66 Starbucks Coffee stores and counting, Hawai‘i’s most ubiquitous java joint is also your favorite. www.starbuckshawaii.com.
Best Shave Ice
With its rainbow selection of homemade syrups, ever-present line of customers and charming Hale‘iwa location, Matsumoto’s, Hawai‘i’s most famous shave ice store, tops our reader poll. 66-087 Kamehameha Highway. Hale‘iwa, 637-4827, www.matsumotoshaveice.com.
Best Chicken Katsu
photo: Olivier Koning
The art of making the perfect chicken katsu requires you to be on the right side of a lot of thin lines. The panko-encrusted chicken has to be fried but not oily, lean but not dry, crispy but not too crunchy, and the sauce can make or break a katsu-lover’s experience. We found all these things at Kaffé Imperial. The sit-down restaurant has specialized in katsu for more than 10 years, serving six varieties: chicken katsu, tonkatsu, hire katsu (tender, thicker pork), katsu donburi, katsu curry and a combination katsu, including shrimp and scallop katsu. The secret to its success? A homemade sauce and special seasoning for the chicken. 725 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Suite C-112, 593-2626.
|photo: courtesy of Tanioka’s|
Best Poke Shop
Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering
You’re ono for the poke at Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering and, frankly, we don’t blame you. Although the Waipahu institution offers a range of local plate lunches and catering services, it made its name by offering some of the freshest, tastiest poke around, including its top-selling limu poke, sesame tako and hot alae poke. “Our seafood manager buys fish at the fish auction every morning, and we make our poke fresh daily,” says general manager Jasmine Tanioka. “We have loyal customers who come from all over the island.” 94-903 Farrington Highway, Waipahu, 671-3779, www.taniokas.com.
photo: courtesy of Well Bento
Best Plate Lunch for Vegetarians
If you have any lingering stereotypes of vegetarian cuisine as bland or grimly virtuous, macrobiotic takeout spot Well Bento will quickly dismiss them. Chef/owner Todd Brown does amazing things with tofu, seitan and tempeh, including cooking them Louisiana style with homemade Cajun seasonings, Western barbecue style and tamari style with homemade tamari ginger sauce. “I hear the word ‘addictive’ a lot,” says Brown. “Once people make their way up these stairs one time, I definitely see them again.” All plates are decked out with a vegan macaroni salad, coleslaw, brown rice covered with tahini gravy, as well as broccoli, carrots, gobo and potatoes, and everything tastes improbably delicious. For those who aren’t quite ready for a fully vegetarian experience, there’s also a “transitional” menu featuring chicken, steak, salmon, ‘ahi and swordfish. 2570 S. Beretania St., No. 204, 941-5261, www.wellbento.com.
Even in the wee hours of the morning, O‘ahu residents know exactly where they can get a steaming bowl of won ton min, a chili frank plate or veggie tofu burger—Zippy’s. Multiple locations, www.zippys.com.
|photo: Mark Arbeit|
Best Shrimp Truck
Fresh Kahuku shrimp is one of Hawai‘i’s great treats, but with an ever-growing number of shrimp trucks dotting the North Shore, it’s hard to know which one to choose. Well, we took a bullet for you, readers, driving from Hale‘iwa to Kahuku and eating a butter-garlic shrimp plate at every truck we ran across. The winner, by a long shot: Macky’s, near Sunset Beach. For $11, you get huge, firm saltwater shrimp, a great-looking green salad and slices of fresh Maui pineapple on the side. Our plate was so buttery good that we repeatedly burned our fingers trying to shell the still-almost-sizzling shrimp. Macky’s Shrimp Truck, on the mauka side of Kamehameha Highway near Sunset Beach, 780-1071.