The Hawaiian islands are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, nearly 2,500 miles from the California coast, so there’s an abundance of freshly caught fish. Plus, the year-round mild weather provides a steady stream of tasty tropical fruits, vegetables, and locally sourced meat. Combine those excellent ingredients with Hawaii’s finest chefs and you’ve got several great choices for fine dining on Oahu.
But wait, there’s more. We’re here to help demystify some of the unusual words you might see on menus like furikake, laulau and lilikoi — and explain which meat is being served and why. And possibly most importantly of all, provide the fun facts on the origins of local dishes.
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Featured Photo: M by Jeremy Shigekane
Hoku’s at the Kahala
Something of an open secret as a celebrity hideaway, due to its location in the discrete Kahala Hotel & Resort, Hoku’s also claims legions of local fans. They come for Oʻahu-born chef Eric Oto’s elegantly plated, Pacific Rim-inspired dishes and well-curated wine list as much as the romantic setting overlooking the Pacific. The tasting and prix fixe menus are smart bets. Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Brunch is offered Sunday 9am to 1pm. Closed Monday. hokuskahala.com
Chef Mourad Lalou of Mourad and Aziza recently took over the space at Miro, a fixture in Kaimuki for more than 23 years. The restaurant is currently serving prix fixe menus, and the cuisine is French-inspired combined with Japanese flavors and techniques. Open Wednesday through Monday 5 to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesday. mirokaimuki.com
PAI opened its doors in downtown Honolulu in 2017. Chef Kevin Lee has a background of working at Michelin star restaurants as well as being a former food scientist, so his cuisine is as innovative as it is delicious. PAI offers tasting menus, prix fixe, a la carte and a happy hour menu. Open Thursday through Sunday 5 to 10 p.m. paihonolulu.com
Take a break from the kid stuff at Aulani, Disney’s compound in the Ko Olina Resort on the west side, at this casual yet upscale open-air beach house. Enormous seafood platters, grilled fresh fish and day-boat scallops are go-to choices but beef eaters will savor the steak menu with traditional sides. Open Tuesday through Sunday 5 to 8:30 p.m. disneyaulani.com
Mina’s Fish House
San Francisco celebrity chef Michael Mina always dreamed of having a fishing boat in Hawaiʻi, and this informal dining room overlooking the beach at the Four Seasons in Ko Olina has helped him realize that. Naturally, catch of the day is the main event — you can even chat with the fish sommelier on the best way to have it prepared. Open daily f3pm to 9pm with a 3 to 5 p.m. happy hour and extended bar hours from 9 to 11 p.m. fourseasons.com/minasfishhouse
Splurge at Mugen, one of Waikiki’s ultimate fine dining experiences (think French Laundry). Located on the ground level of the ESPACIO The Jewel of Waikiki, Chef Jason Yamaguchi puts Waikiki on the global gourmet map with Instagram-worthy dishes and color-changing cocktails… ask for the Butterfly Daiquiri. Driving home the notion of food is art, each course has a custom plateware to best complement the food. Space is limited, so make sure to reserve far in advance. Open Tuesday through Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. mugenwaikiki.com
Orchids at Halekulani Hotel
While the Mediterranean cuisine and island-sourced seafood are standouts at dinner, Orchids is most famed for its elegant lunch, afternoon tea and Sunday brunch with dazzling views of Lē‘ahi (Diamond Head) and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Service is also superb. Open daily for dinner 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10:30am and lunch from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. Sunday Brunch from 9:00 a.m to 1:30 p.m.