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This casual little spot introduced Honolulu to okonomiyaki, the famous savory pancakes that are a specialty of Osaka, with mix-and-match ingredients scrambled together on a griddle, then drizzled with various piquant sauces. They also specialize in unusual appetizers such as fried lotus root with cheese and a cracker-like crust or a wasabi-tinged tossed salad with crab and avocado. The combinations may at times strike you as bizarre, but you can always order simpler grilled dishes such as sliced pork wrapped around enoki mushrooms, slices of Wagyu beef, or eggplant with shaved bonito (dried mackerel). Credit cards accepted.
This is the first "farm-to-table" buffet on Oahu (or the other Islands), and it's quite a surprise to find it in a hotel like the Sheraton Waikiki. Local chef Darren Demaya helped to bring this concept to life, creating recipes that use as much local produce as possible. The dinner menu changes daily, and you get the added bonus of an open-air luau-style show. Be sure to take a look at their "living wall" of herbs, which are plucked as needed during the preparation of very small buffet servings such as kurobuta pork loin with lehua honey mustard glaze or Chinese salt and pepper head-on Kahuku shrimp. Kai has created a following with locals as well as tourists for the high quality of food and friendliness of the service. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
If the Rat Pack reconvened for big steaks and a bigger red, they'd feel right at home at Hy's, which has changed little in the last 30 years. The formula: prime-grade beef, old-style service, a men's-club atmosphere (but ladies very welcome), and a wine list recognized for excellence by Wine Spectator. Specialties include Beef Wellington, Caesar salad, and those tableside flambéed desserts rarely seen these days. www.hyshawaii.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
At this restaurant owned by Indians of Malaysian origin, dosai, griddle breads made of rice and lentil flour, are filled variously with savory and sweet ingredients. Like most such restaurants, this one is very vegetarian-friendly, serving up dals (lentil stews), curries, and samosas. www.indiacafehawaii.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch Mon.--Thurs.
The placid younger sister of boisterous Duke's, downstairs, this restaurant and bar resembles a plantation-period summer home: open to the air, outfitted with kitschy decor, stone-flagged floors, warm wood, and floral prints. The food is carefully prepared and familiar—standard breakfast items, steaks and grilled seafood at dinner—but with local and Asian touches that add interest. There's a fabulous Diamond Head view. www.hulagrillwaikiki.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
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Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens