Hau’oli Lanui: 7 Top Hawaii Restaurants to Dine at During Winter Break

There’s no reason every meal shouldn’t be outstanding during your winter getaway to the Hawaiian Islands. In recent years, Hawaii’s food scene has mushroomed. Local chefs are continually inspired by the Island’s diverse ethnic cooking styles and rich cultural history, and it shows in their menus. Even better, restaurants are cultivating stronger bonds with the Islands’ farmers, ranchers, and fishers to source local ingredients.

If you’re headed to the Aloha State for winter break, we’ve rounded up seven top Hawaii restaurants worth visiting, from Mud Hen Water, the east Honolulu neighborhood gem serving up eclectic Hawaiian fusion dishes and Italian comfort foods at Mi’s Italian Bistro in Kealakekua on Hawaii Island to fulfilling all your noodles cravings at Star Noodle in Lahaina, Maui.

MW Restaurant, Honolulu, Oahu
A lunch or dinner at MW Restaurant, just off Kapiolani Boulevard in downtown Honolulu, is a culinary triumph from start to finish. The Hawaii Regional Cuisine menu boasts dishes from locally sourced product from husband and wife team Michelle Karr Ueoka and Wade Ueoka—the “M” and “W”, respectively. The pair is renowned for inventive dishes inspired by Hawaii’s culinary history. This is polished, local comfort food. Plus, pastry chef Karr Ueoka was nominated as a 2015 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist and was nominated last year—as was MW for best new restaurant.) Order the ahi poke appetizer, served with uni, ikura, and crispy rice crackers followed by the mochi-crusted opakapaka, served on a bed of somen noodles. Be sure to save room for dessert! There’s the MW Candy Bar, crunch with macadamia nut praline, or the Tropical Fruit Creamsicle Brulée made with lilikoi sorbet and custard, tapioca pearls, tropical fruits, and guava chiffon. You’ll never be so happy you didn’t skip the sweets

Top Hawaii Restaurants

Mi’s Italian Bistro, Kealakekua, Hawaii Island
If you’re looking to shake up your dinner routine during your holiday on Hawaii Island, head to Mi’s Italian Bistro in the quaint town of Kealakekua, along the Big Island’s south Kona coast. The bistro is tucked in a small shopping area, but the restaurant is welcoming with its homey decor and tables with red and maroon linens.

Chef Morgan Star started Mi’s Italian Bistro with his wife Ingrid Chan. The eatery sources from local farmers, as well as Big Island cattle ranchers. But it’s perhaps best known for it’s freshly made pasta, and it’s no wonder some of its most popular dishes are the spaghetti Bolognese made with Big Island beef or the gnocchi topped with porcini-crusted pork tenderloin.

Top Hawaii Restaurants

Merriman’s Waimea,Waimea, Hawaii Island
Chef Peter Merriman’s namesake restaurant in Waimea has become synonymous for a quality, fresh Big Island dining experience. Merriman, a Hawaii Regional Cuisine chef, is known for cultivating farm-to-table menus by working directly with Hawaii’s growers, ranchers, and fishers – and his efforts are evident in his fare. For example, the butcher’s cut of Kahua Ranch lamb is incredibly tender and comes with a side of rainbow chard, jalapeño whipped potatoes, and Maui onion-mint chimichurri. Another Merriman’s favorite is the steak, sourced from Hawaii’s Lowline Cattle Company and served with potatoes, grilled Waimea asparagus, and churned Waimea herb butter. Still not convinced? The restaurant is known for its top-notch service.

Top Hawaii Restaurants

JO2 Restaurant, Kapaa, Kauai
Fall in love with Kauai’s fresh produce and its fresh fish with a meal at JO2 Restaurant in Kapaa on the east side of Kauai. Don’t let JO2’s shopping-center location throw you — you’re in for an ultra-fine dining experience at this modern restaurant. Chef Jean-Marie Josselin French heritage comes through in each dish, as well as his love for Hawaii’s melting pot of culinary traditions and inspirations. (Josselin is one of the original chefs that spearheaded the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement, and has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award six times.)

Kick things off with JO2’s seared Korean short rib, under which is nestled a Vietnamese crepe with organic tomatoes. Then tuck into lemongrass sesame-crusted mahi-mahi with Thai coconut curry basil sauce or the roasted Hawaiian butterfish miso with sake and cilantro.

Top Hawaii Restaurants

Star Noodle, Lahaina, Maui
If you’re craving noodles — saimin, ramen, udon — look no further than Star Noodle. This small restaurant, which opened in the Lahaina Business Park (aka the Lahaina Light Industrial) is known for housemade noodles. The menu also features creative Asian-inspired small plates, such as the miso salmon, chicken yakitori, and steamed pork buns. (The restaurant was also the former home of Maui celebrity chef Sheldon Simeon, who competed and won fan favorite by viewers during season 10 of Bravo’s “Top Chef;” Simeon was the executive chef.)

The noodle joint is fitted with a communal table in its center, surrounded by smaller tables around the perimeter, as well as bar seating. Make reservations ahead of time, or go for lunch; wait times for tables can be long. In addition to its noodle dishes, the Lahaina fried soup (fat chow fun, pork, and bean sprouts), the garlic noodles, and the steamed pork buns are must-orders. Star Noodle also has a solid cocktail list sure to satisfy mixology fans.

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2015 Top 100 Al Fresco Dining Restaurants in America + 10 Most Instagrammable Outdoor Seating Areas

Summer travel season is almost here! Fire up your Google Maps app. Hit up Priceline for travel deals. And get ready to make the most or your vacation or staycation dining with a meal at one of the OpenTable 2015 Top 100 Al Fresco Dining Restaurants in America! These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Highlighting restaurants in some of the nation’s most coveted vacation destinations, the complete list features winning restaurants in 15 states, and includes Frida’s in Lahaina, Hawaii, Geoffrey’s in Malibu, and The Turtle Club in Naples, Florida. Many of the restaurants are associated with picturesque resorts conceived to highlight the natural splendor of their surroundings or situated on prime spots in some of the country’s most beautiful coastal states. Come armed with your appetite and your phone; these restaurants are ready for their close-ups on your summer travel stream. Don’t believe us? Check out 10 of the most Instagrammable outdoor seating settings from this year’s honorees below.

 

The sunny state of California has 45 winning restaurants, followed by Florida with 18 and Hawaii with 17. Arizona has seven winning restaurants. Nevada and South Carolina have two winning restaurants apiece. Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia are also represented. American fare proves most popular among the winners; however, regional Californian and Hawaiian cuisines are also common, as is seafood.Continue Reading

November Restaurant Weeks: Save Before the Holidays!

CRW 2014The holidays are awesome because presents! Food! Family! Friends! And, did I mention cocktails? Unfortunately, the presents part can leave your piggy bank looking a bit lean. This is exactly why we adore dining discounts during November restaurant weeks! Discover where you can save while you share delicious meals with your favorite foodies in the weeks to come.

* We’re craving Cleveland Restaurant Week and tasty three-course dinners for just $33, November 3-15. Reserve now.

* Say “Aloha!” to Restaurant Week Hawaii. Take advantage of gourmet prix-fixe meals, November 17-23. Reserve now.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week has what you’re hungry for with $20.95 lunches and $29.95 dinners, November 3-16. Reserve now.

* Saving during Jersey Shore Restaurant Week is a sure thing. Enjoy $20.14 and $30.14 dinners, November 7-16. Reserve now.

Long Island Restaurant Week awaits with $27.95 three-course dinners, November 2-9. Reserve now.

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20 Culinary Questions with San Francisco Food Writer Amy Sherman of ‘Cooking with Amy’

amyshermanAmy Sherman is a cook, eater, and culinary enthusiast based in San Francisco. She runs the popular cooking and dining blog Cooking with Amy. An avid gourmand and traveler, Sherman says, “Cooking and eating are one of the best ways to learn about yourself and world around you.” She adores sushi and would eat it every day if she could afford it, but reveals of a common breakfast staple, “For a long time I had an aversion to maple syrup. Just the smell of it freaked me out. Now I love the stuff! I’m particularly partial to maple syrup from Canada.” An OpenTable diner since 2003, she shares her our answers to our 20 dining Qs.

1. What are some of the best qualities of the San Francisco dining scene? San Francisco has so much variety; there are new hip and trendy places but also classics that are just as popular as ever. It’s not hard to find fantastic pizza, Chinese dumplings, Viennoiserie, fusion street food, and high-end contemporary cuisine on any night of the week. In general, though, the quality is high, in part because our produce is so fresh and beautiful. We really are spoiled here.

2.  Any restaurants at which you’re something of a regular? I feel very fortunate to live in such a great food neighborhood. Recently several new places have opened up and Stones Throw has quickly become a favorite. The creativity on the menu and great hospitality make me want to return again and again .

3. If I come to your hometown/city, where must I dine? It’s impossible to not find something to make you happy at Fog City. The restaurant has been reimagined and it’s better than ever. The menu now features everything from burgers to grilled local calamari and oven roasted baby carrots with black garlic mole, almonds and cotija. The smoked salmon and smoked egg salad sandwich at lunch is to die for, and please do order enough of the frozen custard or French crullers for the whole table.

4. Last best restaurant(s) you dined at? I had a great dinner at Verbena, the service is slow, but the dishes are worth waiting for and the vegetarian dishes are as good if not better than the non-vegetarian ones.

5. Restaurant(s) you’d most like to try but have yet to — anywhere? So many places! Even writing about restaurants professionally, it’s hard to keep up, but high on my list to try right now are Aveline, Plin, Urchin Bistrot, and Souvla.

6. Favorite city (cities) for dining outside your own? I’m pretty crazy about Honolulu. It’s a world class dining destination but many of the gems are under the radar. I made a Google map with over 50 of my favorite places. http://bit.ly/honoluludining

7. Destination dining cities you’d love to visit? I would love to go to Copenhagen. Truly, I plan most trips around the food, and, as a result, I’ve been to a lot of great cities! Tokyo, Bologna, Mexico City, and Chicago are a few of my favorites.

8. What’s your overall favorite type of cuisine? Italian is comfort food for me. I lived in Italy for a while and always crave pasta. Even my Italian hosts were impressed by my love for it.

9. Small shared plates, tasting menu or app/entrée dessert? Small plates for sure. Sharing is caring! I want to try as many dishes as I can, but I sometimes suffer from tasting menu fatigue. Grazing on pintxos in San Sebastian was a blast!

10.Dish you can’t resist ordering? Because of the foie gras ban in California, when I do see it on a menu out of state, I’m likely to order it.

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