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Aussie Chefs’ & Foodies’ Favourite Hawaiian Restaurants

By Franki Hobson

Where do Australia’s top chefs, foodies and nutritionists eat and drink when they’re in Hawaii? Here’s their hot list…

 

The Pig and the Lady, Chinatown & Farmer’s Markets, Oahu

“In the middle of a tropical paradise, you get ‘gritty downtown’ at the Pig and the Lady in Chinatown,” says Aussie chef Bill Granger, who has 16 restaurants around the world, including bills sydney, Honolulu “Vietnamese food is fused with the island traditions – casual, intensely savoury, a bit spicy and a bit naughty.

“My picks are the famous Laotian fried chicken to start (finger lickin’ goodness!); their Hanoi-style whole fish; or their Matsutake pasta with pine mushrooms, chicken crackling, ramen egg and calamansi – an island/Japanese mash-up and Hawaii at its best!”

 

Hanalei Taro & Juice Co, Kauai

“The top Hawaiian chefs promote local cuisine, and many are big fans of the bitter-sweet taro leaf,” explains Sarah Wilson, author of I Quit Sugar. “For an authentic flavour, try it in a laulau (local slow-cooked Kalua pork wrapped in the taro leaf and steamed like a super large wonton) at the Taro & Juice Co food truck in Hanalei. I also ate it cooked down into a puree, which tastes like a nutty spinach, used like a vine leaf as a ‘wrap’ and even with my Eggs Haloa (a local version of the eggs benedict).”

 

Koloa Fish Market, Kauai

It’s seafood heaven at the Koloa Fish Markets with fresh fish, assorted poke, bento boxes and Hawaiian plates galore! Sarah Wilson’s catch of the day is the poke. “Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is raw fish marinated (cured) with seaweed, Maui onions, avocado, tobiko, spicy mayo, sesame oil, fish roe, spices or wasabi,” she explains. “As well as the markets, you can find it in most local-style restaurants and sushi places around the islands.”

 

Ono Hawaiian Food, Honolulu, Oahu

If you’re looking for hearty Hawaiian soul food, you can’t beat Ono Hawaiian Food, says Jimmy Hurlston, owner of trendy restaurants Easey’s in Melbourne and Guilty in Sydney.

“Any of the plate lunches are great!” suggests Jimmy. “ If you’re feeling hungry, then have a crack at the combination plate!”

That cracker ‘combination plate’ comes with kalua pig and laulau (fish with chicken, beef or pork wrapped in taro leaves and steamed), pipikaula (salted and dried beef that similar to beef jerky), lomi salmon (fresh tomato and salmon salad), haupia (coconut milk-based) and rice.

 

Kauai Community Market

“Hawaii is possibly one of the healthiest places to holiday right now,” explains Sarah Wilson, who explored the islands recently on a foodie and hiking adventure. “As with many foodie destinations, local farmers’ markets have become tourist destinations unto themselves.  At the Kauai Community Farmers Markets and the Hanalei markets , you’ll find fresh, local, organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables that taste sensational.”

Hawaiian Luau

You can’t visit paradise without experiencing the great taste of Hawaiian cuisine at a traditional luau, says Elise Strachan, author of ‘Sweet! Celebrations’ and host of YouTube cooking channel My Cupcake Addiction. “The traditional Polynesian luau is so much fun!”

Go with a big appetite. Banquet feasts are brimming with regional flavours including kalua pork cooked in an imu (earth oven), coconut pudding, poi (made with locally grown breadfruit or taro starch), fresh fish and loads of paddock-to-plate produce. Apart from the incredible food, you can immerse yourself in Polynesian culture with island music, hula dancing, traditional fire dancing and the ‘aloha’ spirit.

Many large hotels run weekly and bi-weekly Luaus so check with tourist desks and operators.

 

Banan Bowls food truck, Oahu

For farm-to-table banana ice-cream served up by staff bumping to tunes, check out the Banan Bowls food truck, suggests nutritionist at The Healthy Little B, Kim Holmes.

“I discovered Banan Bowls at the base of Diamond Head and what a great find it is!” Kim says. “The family and I head there for healthy acai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) and smoothie bowls topped with locally grown fruits and superfoods. It’s a hit with my kids!”

 

Spago, Four Seasons Resort, Maui

If you’re looking for a Masterchef and AAA Four Diamond dining option, book yourself in to Spago, suggests The Paddington Inn’s head chef, Justin Schott.

“Spago is my favourite Maui restaurant,” he admits. “Chef Wolfgang Puck’s menu is very clean in flavour and absolutely beautiful – it fits the surroundings perfectly! I recommend the grilled Mahi Mahi with pineapple – it’s the perfect representation of Hawaii.”

 

Orchids Restaurant, Halakalani Hotel, Oahu

It’s set bang on Waikiki beach, walking distance to town and has exceptional service – what more can you ask for? “There are even pool boys handing out icy poles, newspapers and even organic SPF by the pool to ensure you don’t get sunburnt!” says nutritional medicine practitioner, Fiona Tuck.

“I love the lobster with garlic butter and the sautéed kale. It’s fresh, simple and delicious. They also serve the healthiest silver service breakfasts, with out-of-this-world green smoothies.”

 

Buzz’s Original Steakhouse, Oahu

Fancy a kiawe grilled teriyaki steak (ie, cattle raised on local green pastures!) with mixed greens, cranberries, blue cheese, berry balsamic dressing and topped with sour cream and green onions?

“I love Hawaii,” says nutritionist and author of ‘Falling In Love With Food’ Zoe Bingley-Pullin. “I always stay at Kailua and my favourite restaurant is Buzz’s. The food is typical Hawaiian, but healthy. My favourite dish is the artichoke surprise.”

 

Island of Hawai‘i ‘Farm to Table’ Food Love

Hawaii’s Regional Cuisine Movement has made it a lip-smacking hit with foodies. Experience ‘farm to table’ fresh, seasonal and artisanal cuisine at these three Island of Hawai‘i picks…

 

Ulu Ocean Grill & Sushi Lounge, Four Seasons Resort, Hualalai

The ocean-to-table menu is a seafood lover’s dream with oven-roasted, flame-grilled and wok-fired options of signature dishes including Whole Fish cooked ‘your way’, Lobster & Shrimp Pad Thai and Tableside Ahi Poke.

 

Canoe House, Mauna Lani Bay

Canoe House Chef de Cuisine Allan Nagun has developed a Hawaii Regional Cuisine menu with artisanal flair focusing on Island fresh sustainable ingredients. Enjoy Wild Prawns with Coconut and Basil, House Goats Cheese, locally-reared beef and Lobster Fried Rice with sensational oceanfront views.

 

Huggo’s, Kona

Huggo’s chefs continually update the menus with innovative dishes to reap the best of the local harvest and catch. Try Kona Poke with zesty Chili Marinade, Crab-Crusted Ono, Grilled Chicken with Tamarind-Orange Glaze, Ginger Creme Brulee with 100 percent French-pressed Kona Coffee and Hualalai Ice Cream Pie.

 SKY Waikiki is set 19 stories above Waikiki and offers sweeping views of the city below. 
Credit: SKY Waikiki
 Eat like a local and experience Hawaiian cuisine at restaurants across the islands. 
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Faris
 Even burgers are taken to a new level in Hawaii, like this one which comes with a side of taro chips.  Credit: Paula Joye
 Poke is a delicious raw fish salad that has been influenced by Japanese cuisine and is very popular across the Hawaiian Islands. 
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
 Hawaii offers an incredible range of restaurants and cafes to suit every taste.
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
 Rumfire at Sheraton Waikiki offers delicious cocktails and incredible views of Diamond Head.
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
 Freshly caught seafood can be found in abundance across Hawaii’s restaurants and farmers markets.
Credit: Jacob Lienau
 Honolulu is the epicentre for nightlife in Hawaii, but amazing local bars can be found on all of the Hawaiian Islands. 
Credit: Tor Johnson
 Freshly caught seafood from the islands can be tasted at many of Hawaii’s restaurants. 
Credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds
 Start your day in Hawaii with a delicious breakfast made from locally sourced ingredients. 
Credit: Renee Hahnel

BARS

Waikiki, Oahu

“I love Duke’s on Waikiki beach,” says author Elise Strachan, who was a flight attendant before her pastry chef skills launched her international culinary career. “Duke’s is iconic – it has a great atmosphere, live music and views to die for.”

The RumFire Bar in the Sheraton is a great place to watch the sunset to the sounds of acoustic guitar and crashing waves while sipping unique tropical cocktails like a Tiki Torch (rum fire single barrel rum, ferrand dry curacao, orgeat and fresh pineapple set ablaze by cruzan!). “RumFire has great live music and an interesting cocktail list,” says chef Justin Schott. “It’s right near Waikiki beach and it’s a great place to have a drink and a dance.”

 

 Beachside bars, North Shore, Oahu

Pull up a patch of sand, enjoy the famous Hawaiian surf and take advantage of the local tropical fruits and fresh cocktails, suggests Jimmy Hurlston.

“Utilise the Dole pineapples,” he suggests. “Pineapples in Hawaii are second to none, so there is nothing better than a cheeky Mai Tai on the beach at sunset.

 

Chinatown bars – Downtown Honolulu, Oahu

The revitalised Chinatown district of Honolulu is home to some great bars as well as restaurants – hip urban spaces where the local cool crowd hang out.  Try the always buzzing loft-style wine and cocktail bar Tchin Tchin; whiskey bar The Manifest, which has a blackboard full of specialty whiskeys and craft beers to choose from; or intimate speakeasy-style Bar Leather Apron, with its extensive wine, beer, spirit and cocktail menu.

 

The Sly Mongoose, Lahaina, Maui

For friendly bartenders, a local crowd, reasonable prices and a jukebox-watering-hole feel, check out The Sly Mongoose. “I love to grab a mocktail while my husband drinks a cocktail,” says Phoodie’s Marie Phitidis.

 

Kona Brewing Company, Island of Hawaii

Kona Brewing Company  beers such as Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale and Fire Rock Pale Ale are available throughout Hawaii, but a tour of the brewery followed by sampling one of the brewery’s beer flights (up to 10 different beers are served daily with the menu changing regularly) is a great way to soak up some “liquid aloha”.

 

The Hawaiian Islands have long been close to the hearts, minds and dreams of travellers. Hawaii’s six main islands each have their own personality, underpinned by the famous Aloha Spirit. Aloha is much more than just the Hawaiian word for hello and goodbye, it’s a way of life, of genuine welcome and friendship – an essence that those who call Hawaii home practice in their daily lives and share with visitors.

Whether you’re an adventure lover, a nature lover, a foodie, a shopaholic, a lie-on-the-beach-with-a-good-book-and-a-cocktail holiday lover – or all of the above, you’ll find your ideal holiday in Hawaii. To plan and experience your aloha, visit www.experiencealoha.com.au