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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.
The adventurous in search of a real local food experience should head to this no-frills hangout. You know it has to be good if residents are waiting in line to get in. Here you can sample poi (a paste made from pounded taro root), lomilomi salmon (salmon massaged until tender and served with minced onions and tomatoes), laulau, kalua pork (roasted in an underground oven), and haupia (a gelatinlike dessert made from coconut milk). Appropriately enough, the Hawaiian word ono means "delicious." Reservations not accepted. No credit cards. Closed Sun.
In a pavilion literally on the sand, this casual but refined restaurant wowed critics from the moment it opened, both with its idyllic location on Kuilima Cove and with chef Fred DeAngelo's reliably wonderful food. Ola means "life, living, healthy," an apt name for a place that combines a commitment to freshness and wholesomeness with a discriminating and innovative palate in such dishes as a vegan risotto made with local mushrooms and orzo pasta, slow-poached salmon with caramelized cane sugar and Okinawan sweet potatoes. It is absolutely worth the drive. olaislife.com. Credit cards accepted.
Guests are greeted on the front porch at this re-creation of a 1900s plantation home. Tables and booths are spaced for views. The menu puts forth the bounty of the Pacific with such dishes as crusted opah, coconut lobster skewers, and seared peppered scallops. For beef lovers, there's the slow-roasted prime rib. If you're an early riser, you can also enjoy their daily breakfast or Sunday brunch offerings. www.oceanhousewaikiki.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Lyon-born chef Nico Chaiz opened Nico's in 2004 in a small, takeout-style restaurant with limited seating just a few steps from the city's fish auction. The concept—and Nico's fresh, original dishes at reasonable prices—has been such a success that it has recently moved into a larger, cooler, more stylish space at the same pier. The restaurant's chief clientele is still rough-hewn dock workers and fishermen, but you'll also see a hip, young crowd here for the beers on tap and signature cocktails. You can still get upscale plate lunches (and dinners) such as seaweed-crusted tuna steaks, garlic shrimp, and poke, as well as soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas. A new fish market at Nico's is open from 6:30 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday, and from 10 to 4 on Sunday. nicospier38.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
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Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens