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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.
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