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Dishes inspired by the romantic Mediterranean resort town of Taormina are served at this elegant restaurant on the Waikiki Beach Walk. In addition to Sicilian-inspired primi piatti (first-course dishes, usually pasta) such as uni (sea urchin) pasta and a light cream risotto with grilled scallops and prawns, the menu features a variety of local fish done with Italian flair. The artfully presented antipasti misti (mixed appetizers) should not be missed. Try the cannoli with a touch of coconut in the filling to round out your meal. The wine list is extensive. taorminarestaurant.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
Across from Sunset Beach and famous for its chocolate haupia pie (layered coconut and chocolate puddings topped with whipped cream), Ted's Bakery is also favored by surfers and area residents for quick breakfasts, sandwiches, or plate lunches, to-go or eaten at the handful of umbrella-shaded tables outside. www.tedsbakery.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
Long lines of hungry locals are the telltale sign that you've stumbled upon Tangö, a dining destination at the swanky Hokua condominiums. Unflappable restaurateur Göran Streng seems to have bypassed the usual growing pains of a new restaurant, instead rewarding his customers' palates with an unfussy menu and polished service. Minimalist yet contemporary decor comes in the form of blond and birch woods, earthy complements to the cloud-like white lampshades. Silver birch branches divide spaces. Streng's dishes pay homage to his Scandinavian background, with touches of Pacific Rim and Asian influences. Dinner standouts include Swedish gravlax with crispy skin, moi (or Pacific Threadfin), a flaky white fish served with fennel coulis, and a burger that stands heads above usual unremarkable bovine renditions. Dinner prices are reasonable (especially by Hawaii standards), but for an additional $6.50, diners can tack on a soup or salad, and a dessert, like lilikoi (passion fruit) sorbet. Reservations are only available only for dinner, and don't expect a super-touristy experience—Streng caters mostly to his discriminating city-dwelling clientele. www.tangocafehawaii.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
Meals here are unforgettable, though you may find the restaurant's approach exasperating and a little condescending. It's possible to order from the menu, but you're strongly encouraged to order omakase-style (oh-mah-ka-say, roughly, "trust me"), letting the chef send out his choices for the night. The waiters keep up a steady mantra to instruct patrons in the proper way to eat their delicacies: "Please, no shoyu on this one." "One piece, one bite." But any trace of annoyance vanishes with the first bite of California baby squid stuffed with Louisiana crab, or unctuous toro (ahi belly) smeared with a light soy reduction, washed down with a glass of the smoothest sake you've ever tasted. A caution: the courses come very rapidly—ask the server to slow down the pace a bit. An even bigger caution: the courses, generally two pieces of sushi or six to eight slices of sashimi, add up fast. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun. No lunch Sat. and Mon.
Sugoi was among the first of a new wave of plate-lunch places to take particular care with quality and to recognize that some plate-lunch eaters are interested in good health. They serve, for example, brown rice and green salad instead of the usual white rice and macaroni loaded with mayonnaise. Garlic chicken and mochiko (batter-dipped and fried) chicken, both adapted from traditional Japanese dishes, are specialties. Service is quick and cheerful. Primarily a takeout place, Sugoi is in a strip mall in industrial Kalihi, north of town. www.sugoihawaii.com. Reservations not accepted. No credit cards. No dinner. Closed Sun.
Just a couple of minutes out of Waikiki proper on trendy Monsarrat, South Shore Grill is a great place to stoke up before or after sightseeing or beach time. It's inexpensive and portions are ample. The food, a cut above the usual plate lunch or burgers, includes ciabatta-bread sandwiches, entrée salads, and stuffed burritos. www.southshoregrillhawaii.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
The largest Korean restaurant in the city, this 24-hour eatery, with its impossibly tiny parking lot and maze of booths and private rooms, offers a vast menu encompassing the entirety of day-to-day Korean cuisine, plus sushi. English menu translations are cryptic at best. Still, it's great for wee hour "grinds" (local slang for food): bi bim bap (veggies, meats, and eggs on steamed rice), kal bi and bulgogi (barbecued meats), meat or fish jun (thin fillets fried in batter), and kimchi pancakes. sorabolhawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
Chai and Joy Chaowasaree's devotion to their native Thailand is evident in the gilt model of the Thai royal palace that graces the entryway of this restaurant just below street level on a busy Waikiki corner. This is also the only Thai restaurant in the city to showcase Thai dance each evening. We especially like Singha Thai's way with seafood—Siamese Fighting Fish, a whole fish sizzling in garlic-chili oil, or fish in Thai chili, ginger, and black-bean sauce—and the contemporary additions to the menu, such as blackened ahi summer rolls. www.singhathai.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
The original Hopaka Street pub is famous as the place where celebrity chefs gather after hours; this second location, also run by local boy Colin Nishida, is on the bustling Kapahulu Avenue, closer to Waikiki. Local-style bar food comes in huge, share-plate portions, and Nishida's famous pork chops, fried rice, and lilikoi ribs make it worth the trip. This is a place to dress any way you like, nosh all night, and watch sports on TV. Pupu (in portions so large as to be dinner) are served from 3 pm to 11:30 pm daily. www.sidestreetinn.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Among restaurants with the best views in Honolulu, 30th-floor Sarento's, looking toward both the Koolau Mountains and the South Shore, is an especially favored date-night venue. Regional Italian cuisine is the specialty, and the wild tiger shrimp-stuffed potato ravioli and osso buco are local favorites. The filet mignon is a melt-in-your-mouth popular choice for meat eaters. The wine cellar contains some gems, and there may not be more attentive service staff in the city. For a less-spendy meal, you may want to opt for happy hour and order from their appetizer menu, which is filled with tasty choices. www.sarentoswaikiki.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
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