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You know it's good if, despite being in a hotel, a Chinese restaurant still draws more locals than tourists as customers. Royal Garden is known as one of the best dim sum spots in town, and people don't mind paying a little more for the quality they get. Just point to the steamed and baked morsels that look good; chances are, they're as good as they look.
This restaurant overlooking Ala Wai Yacht Harbor is a multifaceted success, with exceptional high-end lunches and dinners, daily breakfast buffets, weekly dinner seafood buffets, and sold-out weekend brunches. With a truly global mix of offerings, the overall style is Eurasian. Their ever-changing prix-fixe buffet includes offerings such as Australian rack of lamb, Kahuku prawns, and medallions of New York Angus beef. Feel free to order a la carte as well. www.princeresortshawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
This is not your grandmother's department store restaurant. It's überchef Alan Wong's more casual second spot, where the chef de cuisine plays intriguing riffs on local food themes. Warning: the spicy chili-fried soybeans are addicting. The house burger, made with locally raised grass-fed beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, hoisin-mayonnaise spread, and avocado, won a local tasting hands-down. Service is very professional; reservations are recommended. www.alanwongs.com. Credit cards accepted. No dinner Sun.
Chinese restaurants tend to be interchangeable, but this one—named for the local pidgin term for Chinese (literally translated this is Chinese's Chinese Restaurant)—is worth the drive from Honolulu for its focus on healthier cooking techniques and use of local ingredients, its seasonal specials such as cold soups and salads made from locally raised produce, and its exceptional East-West desserts. The menu offers all the usual suspects, but ask the owner and chef Raymond Siu, a former hotel pastry chef, if he's got anything different and interesting in the kitchen, or call ahead to ask for a special menu. www.pahke.com. Credit cards accepted.
Perched along the seawall at historic Gray's Beach, Orchids is beloved by power breakfasters, ladies who lunch, and family groups celebrating at the elaborate Sunday brunch. La Mer, upstairs, is better known for the evening, but we have found dinner at Orchids equally enjoyable. The louvered walls are open to the breezes, the orchids add splashes of color, the seafood is perfectly prepared, and the wine list is intriguing. Plus, it is more casual and a bit less expensive than La Mer. Whatever meal you have here, finish with the hotel's signature coconut layer cake. Collard shirts are required for gentlemen. www.halekulani.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
Stories to inspire your own adventures at Outrigger's travel blog.
Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens