The Best Hawai‘i Restaurants for Celebrating a Special Occasion

Be it a romantic Valentine’s Day meal, a Mother’s Day brunch, a Father’s Day steak dinner, a birthday or anniversary seafood tower, or a New Year’s Day buffet, making a reservation at these 2019 Hale ‘Aina-winning restaurants will promise an affair to remember.

Most Romantic


53 By The Sea

53 by the sea
PHOTO: COURTESY OF 53 BY THE SEA

 

“53 by the Sea has the best ocean view in Honolulu, period. You sit at a vantage point that’s slightly out to sea as the coast curves inward down Waikīkī headed toward Diamond Head. White breakers line the outer reefs, clouds break on the mountains. At sunset you get quite a light show as a reddish-gold afterglow merges with Honolulu city lights twinkling on.”Don Wallace, senior editor

53 Ahui St., (808) 536-5353, 53bythesea.com

 


SEE ALSO: 3 We Tried: Who Has the Best Seafood Tower on O‘ahu?


 

Michel’s at the Colony Surf

michel's
Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

“Stepping into the foyer of Michel’s at the Colony Surf, an intimate, 45-seat jewel box that hugs a strip of beach between Sans Souci and the Outrigger Canoe Club, you’re faced with a stunning coup de théâtre. A wall of glass blazes like a giant Imax projection, giving the front tables a ringside seat to a vast, unobstructed sweep of horizon. No wonder that, on a recent visit, 12 of the 20 tables were reserved for honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries.”—DW

The Colony Surf at Diamond Head, 2895 Kalakaua Ave., (808) 923-6552, michelshawaii.com


 

La Mer

la mer
Photo: Courtesy of Halekulani

 

Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Rd., (808) 923-2311, halekulani.com


 

Noe

noe at the four seasons oahu
PHOTO: COURTESY OF FOUR SEASONS RESORT O‘AHU AT KO OLINA

 

Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina, 92-1001 Olani St., Kapolei, (808) 679-0079, noeitalian.com

 


READ MORE ON FROLIC: Diner-style to luxe: Where to book Valentine's Day dinner


 

Best Brunch


Herringbone Waikīkī

brunch
Photo: COURTESY OF HERRINGBONE

 

“It’s fun eating at Herringbone. It feels like a scene, a rave in an unfinished skyscraper, decorated by a team from Restoration Hardware and a couple of Hale‘iwa surfer horticulturalists. There’s no question Herringbone delivers fresh, frequently amazing shellfish—that’s its boast, part of what made voters choose it HONOLULU’s Best New Restaurant in the 35th Hale ‘Aina Awards. The crab claws were thicker, the flesh succulent. The lobster was equally solid, a generously sized tail not overcooked or held on ice so long it had dehydrated.”—DW

2330 Kalākaua Ave., Suite 316, (808) 797-2435, herringboneeats.com


 

Orchids

orchids at halekulani
Photo: Courtesy of Halekulani

 

“Our dream of a perfect Sunday: unlimited fresh juices and Kona coffee, a view of the blue sea off Waikīkī and, thanks to Halekūlani executive chef Vikram Garg and his team, no end to savories, delicacies and desserts. ”—DW

Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Rd., (808) 923-231, halekulani.com

 


SEE ALSO: 3 Sunday Brunch Plates You Need to Make at Halekūlani’s Orchids


 

Plumeria Beach House

Easter Brunch Kahala
PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE KĀHALA HOTEL & RESORT

 

The Kāhala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kāhala Ave., (808) 739-8760, kahalaresort.com


 

Best Buffet


100 Sails Restaurant & Bar

BRUNCH
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MILES UNCHARTED / 100 SAILS RESTAURANT & BAR 

 

100 Holomoana St., (808) 956-1111, 100sails.com


 

Hōkū’s

hoku at the kahala
Photo: COURTESY OF THE KĀHALA HOTEL & RESORT

 

“Heralded for its innovative fusion fare melding Hawaiian, Asian, Mediterranean and European flavors, Hōkū’s is sure to impress.”—Lennie Omalza

The Kāhala Hotel & Resort, 5000 Kāhala Ave., (808) 739-8760, kahalaresort.com


 

Lā Hiki Kitchen

Lā Hiki Kitchen
Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina

 

Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina, 92-1001 Olani St., (808) 679-0079, lahikisteak.com


 

Best Tasting Menu


Senia

Senia glazed pork belly
Clash of continental flavors: Glazed Kurobuta pork belly with beet “char siu,” Middle Eastern harissa, house-made pickles and Mānoa lettuce serves three to four.
Photo: Steve Czerniak

 

“The 50-seat restaurant aims to fulfill many functions, with a main dining room where you can order from an ever-changing menu; a 12-seat “chef’s counter” that faces the open kitchen, where for $185 you’ll be treated to a customized tasting menu; and a private dining room upstairs.”—Lavonne Leong

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

 


SEE ALSO: Is Restaurant Senia Worth the Hype?


 

Pai Honolulu

Turnip cake
Lee’s signature agedashi XO turnip cake
Photo: Steve Czerniak

 

“Pai Honolulu showcases the range of cooking styles and techniques of executive chef-owner Kevin Lee, yet feels like a neighborhood hangout, a place where you walk in and immediately know someone. Nestled in the lobby of Harbor Court in Downtown, the restaurant offers food meticulously and thoughtfully prepared.”—Catherine Toth Fox

55 Merchant St., (808) 744-2531, paihonolulu.com

 


SEE ALSO: Pai Honolulu Wins Best New Restaurant, Service and Tasting Menu


 

Arancino at The Kāhala

arancino
CARPACCIO DI ORECCHIETE DI MARE (LEFT) AND INSALATA CAPRESE
Photo: STEVE CZERNIAK

 

“The quality of Arancino pasta received a ringing endorsement when di Mare’s rigatoni dell’amatriciana was named one of Buzzfeed’s ‘30 Dishes From Around the Country Every Pasta Lover Must Try.’”—DW

The Kāhala Hotel, 5000 Kāhala Ave., (808) 380-4400, arancino.com

 


SEE ALSO: Meet the Family Behind Hale ‘Aina Award-Winning Arancino at The Kāhala


 

Stage Restaurant

Crab cake
Photo: Courtesy of Pacwest Studios

 

250 Kapiolani Blvd., (808) 237-5429, stagerestauranthawaii.com


 

Best Gourmet Comfort Food


12th Ave Grill

LEFT: 12TH AVE GRILL’S PORK BELLY CONFIT, LACQUERED WITH MAUI DARK RUM AND PINEAPPLE. RIGHT: THE MEATLOAF MELT, AVAILABLE AT THE BAR AN HOUR AFTER OPENING AND AN HOUR BEFORE CLOSING.
PHOTO: STEVE CZERNIAK

 

1120 12th Ave., (808) 732-9463, 12thavegrill.com


 

Side Street Inn

Side Street Inn
FRIED RICE & KALBI: TWO OF THE RESTAURANT’S MOST POPULAR DISHES HAVE BEEN ON THE MENU FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS.
Photo: AARON K. YOSHINO

 

“Sure, the deep-fried pork chops and fried rice served in substantial portions continue to lure customers—including visits from No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain and Man v. Food Nation’s Adam Richman as well as mentions in Saveur and Travel + Leisure—but the atmosphere the owner Colin Nishida created in both of his restaurants is born from a genuine desire the late chef had for people to have a good time. ‘It’s almost like Cheers, where everybody knows everybody,’ says James Beard Award-winning chef Alan Wong, who started eating at Side Street back in the ’90s. ‘It’s just a friendly atmosphere, easy, casual, comfortable, relaxing.’”—CTF

Multiple locations, sidestreetinn.com

 


SEE ALSO: How Side Street Inn’s Colin Nishida Went From Bar Owner to Restaurateur of the Year


 

Monkeypod Kitchen

monkeypod
Photo: Courtesy of Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman Ka‘anapali

 

Multiple locations on Maui and O‘ahu, monkeypodkitchen.com


 

Best Steak


Ruth’s Chris Steak House

steak
Photo: Courtesy of Ruth’s Chris Steak House Hawai‘i

 

Multiple locations on O‘ahu, Kauai, Maui, Big Island, ruthschris.com


 

Hy’s Steak House

hy's
Photo: Courtesy of Hy’s Hawai‘i

 

“Forty years is an especially long time in the often fickle and unstable restaurant business, but, on a rainy evening in early March, Hy’s Steak House teemed with guests. It has survived this long because it appeals to visitors and locals alike, despite the touristy location at the Waikīkī Park Heights hotel, offering intimate and indulgent experiences worth the occasional splurge. Diners around the restaurant sunk into luxurious leather booths, enjoying perfect steaks and conversation, the ambiance enhanced by romantic dark woods, warm lighting and wine. The drab weather, rather than ruining anyone’s plans, seemed to make the sprawling restaurant that much cozier.”—Katrina Valcourt

2440 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 922-5555, hyswaikiki.com

 


SEE ALSO: 35th Hale ‘Aina Awards: These 3 Original Winners Are Still Winning Decades Later


 

Stripsteak

stripsteak
Photo: Courtesy of Stripsteak

 

2330 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 800-3094, stripsteakwaikiki.com


 

Morton’s The Steakhouse

morton's steak hawaii
THE CÔTE DE BOEUF (LITERALLY “BEEF RIB”) FROM MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF MORTON’S THE STEAKHOUSE

 

Ala Moana Center, (808) 949-1300, mortons.com


 

Best Dessert


 

MW Restaurant

Affogato
COFFEE HEAVEN: THE AFFOGATO FEATURES CHOCOLATE CAKE, COFFEE ICE CREAM, AND DEHYDRATED CHOCOLATE.
PHOTO: STEVE CZERNIAK

 

“MW Restaurant’s menu, stripped down, reads like a Hawaii diner’s—fried chicken, ahi poke, Portuguese bean soup, oxtail stew, kalbi, tonkatsu. The dessert list, too (almost as long as the entrees), gives a survey of familiar comfort: candy bars, cheesecake, chocolate banana cream pie. Except nothing is what you expect: An oxtail stew and rice is an oxtail deboned, stuffed with more meat and braised, set on top of a beef-stew risotto. The banana cream pie doesn’t resemble a pie at all, but is instead chocolate, bananas, custard and whipped cream layered in a jar and topped with an oatmeal crumble. This is local food interpreted by two former Alan Wong chefs, with a little French Laundry and a lot of Zippy’s thrown in.”—Martha Cheng

1538 Kapi‘olani Blvd., #107, (808) 955-6505, mwrestaurant.com


 

Moku Kitchen

best dessert
Photo: STEVE CZERNIAK

 

“The local ingredients [are] sourced by the restaurants, from libations that use locally produced spirits to the Big Island beef used in its burgers. The salad greens are from Waipoli, vine-ripened tomatoes from Hau‘ula, onions from Maui, hearts of palm from the Big Island, mushrooms from Hāmākua, shrimp from Kualoa, macadamia nuts from Waiehu and strawberries from Kula. Even the noodles the restaurant uses in its saimin are crafted by the Iwamoto Natto Factory in Pā‘ia. And then there are the cream pies, a signature dessert at any Merriman’s restaurant. While the chocolate-macadamia, banana and haupia are delicious choices, the best-selling strawberry cream pie is the star, with a cloud of whipped cream, guava-jelly glaze and fresh strawberries.”—CTF

Salt at Our Kaka‘ako, 650 Ala Moana Blvd, Suite 145, (808) 591-6658, mokukitchen.com

 


HONOLULU Magazine’s gathering the top breakfast and brunch restaurants for BrunchFest presented by American Savings Bank. It will be a morning of delicious sweet and savory bites, bloody marys and mimosas, lawn games, entertainment and more. Join us for a relaxed Sunday Funday vibe on March 8, 2020 at the Ho‘okupu Center. Click here for ticket details.