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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
This microscopic sushi bar (15 seats) is an adjunct of a wholesale seafood market operated by gregarious South African expatriate Douglas Mitchell, who oversees the sushi chefs and keeps customers chatting. The fish, air-freighted from around the world, is ultrafresh, well cut, and nicely presented. You can spend as much or as little as you like—$40 for a half-dozen pieces of prime bluefin tuna belly, or just a few dollars for pickled plum sushi. www.mitchsushi.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
With its wide-open windows so close to the water that you literally feel the soft mist at high tide, this is arguably the most romantic spot in Waikiki for a sunset dinner for two. Venerable Michel's is synonymous with fine dining in the minds of Oahuans who have been coming here for more than 40 years. The menu is très, très French with both classic choices (escargot, foie gras) and contemporary items (Hardy's Hawaiian Bouillabaisse—named after the chef who created a Hawaiian twist on a French classic). There's dinner nightly and Sunday brunch. michelshawaii.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
In contrast to the sprawling and noisy halls in which dim sum is generally served, Mei Sum is compact and shiny bright. It's open daily, one of the few places that serves dim sum from 7:45 am all the way to 9 pm. Be ready to guess and point at the color photos of dim sum favorites as not much English is spoken, but the delicate buns and tasty bits are exceptionally well prepared and worth the charades. Other menu items and specials are also served.
Yes, the popovers and the wee little cups of bouillon are there at lunch, but in every other regard, this Neiman Marcus restaurant menu departs from the classic model, incorporating a clear sense of Pacific place. The veranda, open to the breezes and view of Ala Moana Park, twirling ceiling fans, and life-size hula-girl murals say Hawaii. The popovers at lunch come with a strawberty-butter spread; the kurobuta porkchop is inspired, and local fish are featured nightly in luxuriant specials. Make sure to leave room for the warm lilikoi pudding cake for dessert. www.neimanmarcushawaii.com/restaurant.aspx. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
The buffet restaurant at Disney's Aulani resort offers a wide variety of locally produced items, as well as familiar dishes from stateside and the rest of the world. A chef walking the line can explain the various dishes, which always include sustainable Hawaiian seafood and Asian selections. You'll also always find famliar grilled meats and vegetables, in addition to a kids' menu. If you have children, plan months in advance to get a reservation for the Character Breakfast, as it's only offered on select days and is always sold out. An a la carte menu is also available. Arrive early for dinner and have a drink at the adjacent Olelo Room, where the staff are fluent in Hawaiian; you can get a language lesson along with your libation. resorts.disney.go.com. Reservations essential.
Unassuming and budget-friendly, Little Village sets a standard of friendly and attentive service to which every Chinese restaurant should aspire. We have roamed the large, pan-China menu and found a new favorite in everything we've tried: shredded beef, spinach with garlic, Shanghai noodles, honey-walnut shrimp, orange chicken, dried green beans. Two words: go there. Reservations are accepted for parties of five or more. Two hours of free parking is available in the parking lot immediately to the right of the restaurant. littlevillagehawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
Do as the locals do: start your visit to Chinatown with breakfast dim sum at Legend. If you want to be able to hear yourself think, get there before 9 am, especially on weekends. And don't be shy: use your best cab-hailing technique and sign language to make the cart ladies stop at your table and show you their wares. The pork-filled steamed buns, hearty spare ribs, prawn dumplings, and still-warm custard tarts are excellent pre-shopping fortification. www.legendseafoodhonolulu.com. Credit cards accepted.
Like the hotel in which it's housed (Halekulani, "House Befitting Heaven"), La Mer is pretty much heavenly: a softly lighted, low-ceiling room has its windows open to the breeze, a perfectly framed vista of Diamond Head, and the faint sound of music from a courtyard below. The food captures the rich and yet sunny flavors of the south of France in one tiny, exquisite course after another. Three prix-fixe options are offered (from three or four courses or a tasting menu), as well as several rather expensive supplements. We recommend the degustation menu; place yourself in the sommelier's hands for wine choices from the hotel's exceptional cellar. Jacket or long sleeved shirt required for gentlemen. For the most elegant cocktail experience you'll find in Waikiki, visit L'Aperitif bar located inside the restaurant. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
On Monsarrat Avenue in Waikiki and at more than 38 neighborhood locations on the island of Oahu, the Drive Inn location serves up an impressive mix of Asian-American and Hawaiian-style plate lunches. Chicken katsu (cutlet), shrimp curry, and seafood mix plates include two scoops of rice-and-macaroni salad. There are also "mini" versions of the large-portion plates that include just one scoop of each starch. It's a quick take-out place to pick up lunch before heading to the nearest beach or park. hawaiianbarbecue.com.
Just past downtown Honolulu, tucked away in the industrial area of Sand Island, is this friendly South Seas-style restaurant. Once you walk through the doors, you may think that it's still 1955. The owner, the late Annette Nahinu, bought up kitsch from many other restaurants, so it's tikis to the max in a way that's so old-fashioned, it's cool. The food—grilled seafood, steaks—is just okay; but go for the sing-along fun and the feeling that Don the Beachcomber might walk in any minute. www.lamarianasailingclub.com. Credit cards accepted.
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Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
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