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Annual Meeting
Hawaii's Restaurants Offer Tastes for Every Palate
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 5 page 28-28

As one of the most international communities in the world, Honolulu offers an abundance of cuisines to please every palate and preference. The dilemma will be choosing, so I offer some guidance to help you plan the culinary part of your trip.

A good place to start narrowing your options is go online to <www.staradvertiser.com> to check out the restaurants that have received awards from the Honolulu Star Advertiser. The guide gives excellent descriptions, so please refer to it for suggestions when searching for a dining spot.

Next, I recommend that you get familiar with Hawaiian direction words. The easiest direction word is Mauka, meaning toward the mountains. Its opposite is Makai, meaning toward the ocean. An easterly direction from Honolulu is the Koko Head direction, and the westerly direction from Honolulu is Waianae (pronounced "Why-uh-nigh") direction. All set? Here we go.

Right across the street from the Hawaii Convention Center in the Waianae direction—€”a few hundred yards wide, several hundred yards long, and four levels high—€”is the huge Ala Moana Shopping Center, with 84 restaurants. An affordable food court is in the middle of the ground floor on the Makai side. There is also an upper-level bar-and-grill court on the Mauka side and numerous other eateries, juice bars, and similar places scattered throughout.

The mid and upper floors have restaurants with mid to upper prices—€”in the $20 to $40 range. Ala Moana Beach Park and the ocean beyond can be viewed on the third floor from Longhi's Ala Moana, ([808] 947-9899), where the food is over-priced but where the noisy sunset happy hour and fireworks visible on Friday nights make it a favorite of people in their 20s and 30s.

A few yards away at the more fashionable Mariposa in the Nieman Marcus store ([808] 951-3420), shoppers enjoy lighter fare, soups, and salads. Recommended are the grilled lemon shrimp, king-crab bruschetta, and onaga and clams in tomato broth.

On the third and fourth floors on the shopping center's Mauka side, there are a number of mid- to higher-end bars and grills, such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, ([808] 949-4867) and several others. My personal favorite, in Macy's, is Alan Wong's The Pineapple Room ([808] 945-6573); it has very high-end food but at a medium-end price. Call ahead for reservations, especially for lunch. Its Kalua Pig BLT is fabulous, and its Loco Moco (local favorite of hamburger patty, eggs over easy, and brown gravy over rice) is a cut above. The menu changes often. With Alan Wong's use of only the freshest foods from nearby farms and his attention to subtle as well as bold flavors lining your palate in every dish, you may become a regular visitor.

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Dim sum trio at Indigo. 

Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Leaving the shopping center and going in the Waianae direction on Ala Moana Boulevard is a complex called Restaurant Row. For incredible seafood, best in the world in my opinion, you cannot do better than Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas, at 500 Ala Moana Boulevard ([808] 533-4476). The startlingly complex tastes that chef Hiroshi Fukui has invented in fusing Japanese food with European techniques will transport you far beyond the expected when paired with wines suggested by master sommelier Chuck Furuya, a family friend whose own wine bar Vino ([808] 524-8466) is next door. We simply ask Chuck to plan our dinner for us and always enjoy, and highly recommend, his suggested progression of signature dishes. They may include Hiroshi's crab "soup" with tomato lemon grass broth, crab meat, cilantro foam, and orzo; grilled mongo cuttlefish with roasted shii-take mushrooms, yamagobo, green beans, and napla butter sauce; seared sea scallops with bacon-tomato takana ragout, kabayaki butter sauce and tobiko, sizzling hamachi carpaccio with julienned ginger, and hau'la tomato concasse.

A few more blocks Waianae bound, turn right, and you will be in Chinatown where, among the numerous dim sum restaurants, I suggest Indigo at 1121 Nu'uanu ([808] 521-2900) for its cleverly titled Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian dishes, such as Fiery Explosions to Heaven Shrimp. Local psychiatrist Leslie Gise, M.D., recommends the michi rice, scallops, shrimp lumpia, spicy lamb dumplings, goat cheese wontons, and salmon cakes, after which I urge trying the ginger crème brulée for dessert.

Switching to the Koko Head direction from the Hilton Hawaiian Village along Kalia Road, stroll on wide sidewalks adjacent to meadows on either side of the street. At the half-mile point, you will come to Roy's Waikiki Beach at 226 Lewers Street ([808] 923-7697), whose open-air bar with sports-channelled TVs and surrounding tables and torchlights several steps up from the street, has a young, hip feel.

The large main dining room at Roy's offers softer Hawaiian music, with views of your chefs at work. On one side of the dining room is a space semi-privatized by frosted glass walls and doors, which can accommodate up to 50 people. My experience as an individual diner outside was most pleasant. Shortly after being seated, I was served a small plate of complementary soybeans and offered Roy's Hawaiian Mar-Tini: Stoli vanilla vodka and Malibu rum infused with fresh island pineapples marinated in the mixture for days. My friend Diva, the manager, floats from table to table, occasionally delivering food or busing tables herself while conversing with guests and making sure that they are being well served. I sampled Roy's Hawaiian-fusion tasting menu, quite a deal for $41.50 ($57.50 if you pair each of the five courses with wine). After an appetizer platter of blackened ahi, Szechuan baby back ribs, and chicken spring roll, I was given a much-appreciated steamed towel to refresh my finger-fooded digits. As for main courses, the hibachi-grilled salmon was wonderfully complemented by the accompanying pickled cucumber namasu in citrus ponzu sauce, a medley of juices from oranges, lemons, and limes. The honey-mustard grilled beef short ribs were tender with a pleasing hint of sweetness, lined with local herbed potatoes, lomi tomatoes, and demi glace. The macadamia-nut tart with a rum-caramel sauce was one of the most outstanding deserts in recent memory, though you wouldn't go wrong with the hot chocolate soufflé.

About 20 yards farther in the Koko Head direction on the Makai side of the road is La Mer at Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road ([808] 923-2311), ranked Hawaii's Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the 2010-2011 Ilima Awards. About 20 feet from the ocean and 20 feet above the sand, with views of Diamond Head and the sunset, excellent classic French cuisine is served by tuxedoed waiters. Among the memorable creations my wife and I have experienced is the eight-course tasting menu, which may include lobster and asparagus soup, a tray of French cheeses, foie gras, and sea bass and end with the delicate dessert called mignardises. Eating here is fabulous, but it doesn't come cheap—€”and it is the only restaurant I know in Hawaii where men are required to wear jackets.

Just Mauka of Roy's Waikiki, Julienne Ong Aulwes, M.D., recommends Taormina Sicilian Cuisine at 227 Lewers Street (808) 926-5050. She praises its "great Sicilian food," especially the uni (sea urchin) pasta and other pasta dishes and its lychee gelato made on site.

About two miles Koko Head of the Hilton is one of the most romantic restaurants in Waikiki, Michel's at the Colony Surf, 2895 Kalakaua Avenue ([808] 923-6552). If you find the music of an acoustic guitarist merging with the sound of waves lapping at the shore, table-side service by formally dressed wait staff, and delicious food with an extensive wine list very intriguing, then this is the place for that special evening.

Chef Hardy's tasting menu is truly fabulous, six courses of gastronomic delights among whose highlights are terrine of Hudson Valley foie gras with guava port wine gelée, napoleon of seared Alaskan diver scallops with oven-roasted plum tomato, grilled zucchini, and lemon-lime vinaigrette, and the blackened yellowfin ahi with crisp fried onions, lemon-wasabi cream, and papay relish. To top it all off, I recommend the molten chocolate cake with apple-banana gelato and fresh berries. The tasting menu costs about $80 per person.

About seven miles Koko Head of Waikiki is Le Bistro at 5730 Kalanianaole Highway ([808] 373-7990) in the small Niu Valley Shopping Center. It is an intimate, classic French restaurant with excellent food but a less formal ambience than La Mer or Michel's. Particularly desirable when in season are the soft-shell crabs and the lobster soup. Often on the specials list, and which I'd highly recommend, is the medley of tasting portions of short ribs, filet mignon, a hamburger, and a ribeye steak, each paired with its own excellent sauce.

These are just samplings of my favorite restaurants that are close to the ocean. Some additional research may point you to dining discoveries of your own. Happy eating! 28_1.inline-graphic-1.gif

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Dim sum trio at Indigo. 

Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

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