The Best Things We Ate in Hawai‘i in 2022

The most memorable bites from a team that eats out A LOT.


What makes a dish memorable? Of all the possible answers, the one that stands out in all our picks for 2022 is surprise: surprise at how good something is, whether luxe-good or humble good. Surprise at how much it impacts your behavior (can’t stop talking about it? Can’t stop going back for more?). And mostly, surprise at how much we’re still thinking about it at the end of the year. That’s how the Frolic team arrived at this eclectic roundup. From potato chips to umami-rich seafood to a luxurious melting dessert, here’s our ode to the best things we ate all year.


Bara chirashi, Sushi Sho

Sushi Sho Bara Chirashi Martha Cheng

Photo: Martha Cheng

This dish kept me coming back to Waikīkī—a feat in itself—for dinner at a much earlier hour than I’m used to. Upstairs Waikīkī is gone now, but for a time it featured this sampling of Edomae sushi master Keiji Nakazawa’s greatest hits. Given its intricacy, only a few were prepared each day, so you had to get to Upstairs early to score a chirashi unlike any other: local shrimp and abalone, murasaki uni from Santa Barbara, akami of bluefin tuna and silver-skinned kohada from Japan, all cured using traditional Edomae techniques to intensify and deepen their flavors. Thankfully, Sushi Sho’s bara chirashi is still available in takeout form for pre-order at the Ritz-Carlton Waikīkī. —Mari Taketa


SEE ALSO: Get a Taste of Sushi Master Keiji Nakazawa’s Bara Chirashi for 45 Dollars at Upstairs Waikīkī


Carrot taegu, Nami Kaze

Nami Kaze Vegetarian Bento Credit Martha Cheng

Carrot taegu was part of Nami Kaze’s vegetarian bento in early 2022. Photo: Martha Cheng

I truly change my mind each visit on my latest favorite dish from Nami Kaze. But I’ll just confess that I can’t stop thinking about those 2022 carrots: roasted, lounging in a spicy taegu glaze, then topped with a chimichurri that whirs together the carrot tops in the herb-y sauce. Carrots! —Robbie Dingeman

1135 N. Nimitz Highway, (808) 888-6264,, @namikaze.hi


SEE ALSO: Nami Kaze’s New Izakaya Style Dinner Is One of Honolulu’s Best


Sizzling goya champuru, Zigu

Zigu Goya Champuru Thomas Obungen

Photo from screenshot by Thomas Obungen

Pork belly gets gussied up in a homey Okinawan dish I had to order twice in one night because it was so satisfyingly tasty on a hot bowl of rice. The bitter melon, although prevalent, is subdued by the fatty bits of rendered belly and makes best friends with wok-tender cabbage, firm tofu and chile threads. The champuru sauce, accented by bonito flakes, shoyu and dashi, tastes like mama made it, yet I find it at home in a bustling izakaya. —Thomas Obungen

413 Seaside Ave., (808) 212-9252,, @zigu.hi



Kitch’n Cook’d Maui Potato Chips

Da news came kinda sudden. In late November, I heard that Kitch’n Cook’d Maui Potato Chips in Kahului wuz going close down by mid-December. I nevah know dat dis past summah when my friend went Maui and brought me back MY MOSTEST FAVORITE Maui Potato Chips. I nevah know wuz going be my last time eating ’em, eva. If I knew, maybe I would’ve kept one chip in da freezer or something. At least I got for eat ’em one more time before da closing. Like always, wuz greasy, but das da way I liked it! Das why even though I ate Maui Potato Chips uku planny times before, dis wuz da best ting I ate in 2022. Maui no ka oi. #nomonomoono —Lee Tonouchi



Lion’s Mane Mushroom Liangban Salad, Lineage Maui

Lineage Maui Lions Mane Salad Martha Cheng

Photo: Martha Cheng

Lineage’s newest chef brings Chinese influences to his dishes, and my favorite is this salad, taking classic liangban flavors and applying them to chunks of lion’s mane mushrooms that resemble very meaty crab. They soak up the punchy vinaigrette made with black vinegar and Sichuan chile oil, while fresh cucumbers and five-spice peanuts add crunch. —Martha Cheng

3750 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, (808) 879-8800,, @lineagemaui



Poke platter, K. Bay Bros

K Bay Bros Poke Platter Pc K Bay Bros

Photo courtesy of K. Bay Bros

Best thing I ate in 2022? So maybe I’m fickle but it might well have been that poke platter than my family and friends picked up from K. Bay Bros Fish & Ice in Kāne‘ohe for my birthday dinner. From the ‘ahi crowd-pleasers of spicy, pau hana and avocado to the tender garlic tako, salmon poke and chunks of firm tofu, it was tough to decide which to eat first. Plus, the extra effort that went into dressing up the platter made it even more special. Choosing six in one as my top dish of the year may seem like cheating, but I see it as keeping an open mind. —Robbie Dingeman

46-028 Kawa St., Kāne‘ohe, (808) 235-0858, 


SEE ALSO: Kāne‘ohe’s New Poke Shop Has More than 20 Varieties Daily


Roast pork banh mi, Le’s Banh Mi

Les Bahn Mi Roasted Pork Credit Thomas Obungen 2

Photo: Thomas Obungen

I feel like I’ve talked about this sandwich with every spare breath I have, but it deserves it. Truly a sandwich of the year. —Thomas Obungen

808 Sheridan St. Suite 306B, (808) 227-3066, @les_banhmi


SEE ALSO: Legit Banh Mi Lands on Top Floor of 808 Center in Honolulu


Seasonal Shave Ice, Bar Maze

Bar Maze Seasonal Shave Ice Melissa Chang

Shave ice offerings change with the seasons. Photo: Melissa Chang

I’m not a big shave ice person (it’s so sticky, and I’m a slow eater so it melts into a diluted syrup drink for me), but I really enjoyed the one served at the end of Bar Maze’s omakase when I went in April: banana bourbon pudding, puffed wild rice, cinnamon powder, chestnuts and a drizzle of spiced almond syrup. Combining typically cold-weather flavors in an icy treat was a fun little twist. —Katrina Valcourt

Part of the $150 omakase, 604 Ala Moana Blvd., Unit 1B,, @bar.maze


SEE ALSO: Sampling the Omakase at Kaka‘ako’s Bar Maze: Four Courses with Cocktails


32-oz Tomahawk Steak, Little Joe’s Steakhouse

I had this for my birthday—a massive dinosaur bone of a bone-in ribeye steak that’s aged in-house and technically still an off-menu item, despite its notoriety. It satisfied my carnivore cravings (who’s sharing? Not this girl!), and there was plenty to take home! —Tracy Chan

580 N. Nimitz Highway, (808) 524-0088,, @littlejoessteakhouse


SEE ALSO: New Little Joe’s Steakhouse delivers big on value


‘Ulu Pizza, ‘Ili‘ili

Iliili Cash And Carry Ulu Pizza Pc Iliili

Photo courtesy of ‘Ili‘ili Cash & Carry

From here on out, all potato pizzas in Hawai‘i should use thinly shaved ‘ulu. But what makes this ‘ulu pizza truly transcendent is the parmesan and leek cream nestled under the blanket of ‘ulu, and the rosemary and garlic oil that spikes the pie. —Martha Cheng

2065 S. Beretania St., (808) 367-0606, @iliili_cash_carry


SEE ALSO: Mō‘ili‘ili’s ‘Ili‘ili Is Now a Full-Fledged Deli With a Soulful New Hoagie


Ume-shiso Spam musubi, Got’z Grindz

The best thing I ate when I was too busy to sit down for a proper meal? I’m going to have to admit it’s the ume-shiso Spam musubi from Got’z Grindz in Kāne‘ohe. That pucker of pickled plum, the peppery shiso leaf, the reliably salty Spam come together in a perfect medley of grab-and-go lunch for me. —Robbie Dingeman

45-726 Kamehameha Highway, (808) 234-0818, @gotzgrinds 


SEE ALSO: Got’z Grindz Now Has Poke Bowls and Ochazuke in Kāne‘ohe 


Uni Waffle, Sooper Secret Izakaya

I love crispy waffles. They’re the only kind I like—and this one from James Beard Award-nominated Sooper Secret Izakaya (R.I.P.) was really crispy. Each corner of each little square of its hatched form was nearly caramelized; you crunched in to reveal soft, steamy crossbeams within. Lobes of sweet and creamy Hokkaido uni nestled together on top, draped with fragrant yuzu maple syrup. It was sensual, textural and just really, really yummy. —Maria Burke



3-Kind Zuke Donburi, Sakura Terrace

Sakura Terrace 3 Zuke Donburi Gregg Hoshida

Photo: Gregg Hoshida

A lot of wonderful dishes crossed my lips in 2022 as I made up for eating at home for most of the previous two years. The dish that delighted me above all others was the 3-Kind Zuke Donburi at Sakura Terrace. Not your usual bowl of rice, the zuke donburi involves hamachi, maguro and salmon, slightly pickled in a soy sauce mix to bring out their natural umami. The slices are laid upon sushi rice with additional toppings of sweet tamagoyaki egg roll, grated yam and wasabi. The resulting deliciousness remains bright on the tongue so that every bite is a delight. —Gregg Hoshida

1240 S. King St., (808) 591-1181,, @sakuraterracehawaii