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5 Hot Spots for Island-Inspired Cuisine

BY The Editors | August 15, 2016 | Feature Features

Food is a huge part of what defines life in Hawai‘i—it's as essential as the rain, sunshine, surf and sand. When our local farmers, fishermen and chefs come together, something truly magical happens. Where can you taste the honest, defining flavors of the Islands? We've picked a few standouts for you to try.
Sashimi-grade tuna, an island fave, gets a shichimi crust, with Kō's Ahi on the Rock ($26).

Executive Chef Tylun Pang gives the islands’ diverse cuisines (think Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese) a delectably contemporary spin. For a real wow, be sure to head here on Sundays when Kō serves a mod take of the classic Hawaiian laulau ($48)—in this case freshly caught Maui fish, shrimp, scallops, spinach, mushrooms and baby bok choy wrapped in the traditional ti leaf. Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, 4100 Wailea Alanui, Maui, 875.2210

2. Brown’s Beach House

At this Kohala Coast destination, Hawaiʻi Island-grown ingredients take the lead in inventive spins on traditional Hawaiian and classic local dishes. Try the char siu octopus ($17), a seafood adaptation of Cantonese barbecued pork, or the crab-crusted Kona kampachi ($46) which is served with ʻulu (breadfruit) and a sauce made from rare poha berries. Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, 1 N. Kaniku Drive, Kohala Coast, Hawaiʻi Island, 887.7368

3. Mission Social Hall & Cafe

Known for his dedication to Hawai‘i’s sustainable food movement, chef Mark Noguchi loves to feature ingredients such as ‘uala (sweet potato), roasted roots and Ni‘ihau lamb at his haven in the Mission Houses Museum. When not at Mission, Noguchi is also a popular presence at local culinary events. His squid luʻau (squid with young taro leaves) was just featured at the kickoff for the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival. 553 S. King St., Downtown Honolulu, O‘ahu, 447.3913

4. The Pig and the Lady
At his Chinatown flagship, chef Andrew Le takes Vietnamese cuisine and roots it firmly in local island culture, using ingredients such as limu seaweed, fiddlehead ferns, Kaua‘i shrimp and taro stems. You can also sample his cuisine at some of the weekly Hawai‘i Farm Bureau Federation farmers markets. Next on the menu: breakfast dishes at Piggy Smalls, opening this fall at Ward Village. 83 N. King St., Chinatown, O‘ahu, 585.8255

5. Tin Roof Maui

When family-run Ko Ko Ichiban Ya closed, the torch was passed to frequent customer and Top Chef alum/island celebri-chef Sheldon Simeon. With his wife, Janice, he transformed the space into Tin Roof Maui, the name reminiscent of his old Hilo days of hanging and cooking under a tin-roof garage with family. With Migrant’s recent hiatus, fans line up daily for Simeon’s elevated rice bowls ($9 to $13) of pork belly, mochiko chicken, garlic “scrimps” or poke, loaded with velvety halves of six-minute eggs, and banchan (Korean side dishes). 360 Papa Place, Kahului, Maui, 868.0753

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