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Rarely do you find a café that serves as a wine bar, breakfast spot, gourmet takeout deli, tapas bar, and restaurant with a wide variety of Mediterranean entrées, but owner Don Dymond of Kalapawai Café and Deli has established just that with this green-and-white landmark that is a central meeting spot for Windward residents. Come in on your way to the beach for a cup of coffee and bagel, stop back for a gourmet sandwich or salad at lunchtime. Happy-hour tapas plates include hummus and flat bread or figs wrapped in bacon. All dinner entrées have suggested wine pairings. www.kalapawaimarket.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
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.
Indigo sets the right mood for an evening out on the town: the walls are redbrick, the ceilings are high, and from the restaurant's lounge next door comes the sultry sound of late-night jazz. Take a bite of goat cheese wontons with four-fruit sauce followed by rich Mongolian lamb chops. After dinner, duck into the hip Green Room lounge for a nightcap. If you're touring downtown at lunchtime, the Eurasian buffet with trio of dim sum is an especially good deal at around $16 per person. www.indigo-hawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
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.
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.
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.
The cool courtyards and varied galleries of the Honolulu Museum of Art are well worth a visit and, afterward, so is this popular lunch restaurant. The café overflows onto a lanai from which you can ponder Asian statuary and a burbling water feature while you wait for your salade niçoise or signature Piadina sandwich (a fresh-baked flatbread round stuffed with arugula, tomatoes, basil, and cheese). www.honolulumuseum.org. No dinner.
Built around chef Hiroshi Fukui's signature style of "West & Japan" cuisine, this sleek dinner house focuses on small plates to share (enough for two servings each), with an exceptional choice of hard-to-find wines by the glass and in flights. Do not miss Hiroshi's braised veal cheeks (he was doing them before everyone else), the locally raised kampachi fish carpaccio, or the best misoyaki (marinated in a rich miso-soy blend, then grilled) butterfish ever. For a decadent treat, try the foie gras nigiri. You can also order off the menu from Vino, next door, as they share a kitchen. www.hiroshihawaii.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
The sign claims to serve authentic Nepali and Indian cuisine, but many dishes incorporate a blend of cultures, including Chinese and Hawaiian. Start with Himalayan spring rolls or garlic naan bread, try the mahi Nepali masala—which is a Nepalese curry with Hawaii mahimahi—and don't miss the mango kulfi, which is like a creamy mango dessert. The extensive menu appeals to a wide range of tastes—some that soothe the palate, others that excite—which may be why this little restaurant tucked away in a business/residential area is packed every night. Perhaps it helps that this place is BYOB with no corkage fee, as well. himalayankitchen.net. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
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Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House