We scoured Hawai‘i to curate the ultimate guide to living luxuriously. Here are our top food and bev spots for 2021.
Chef Yuya Yamanaka, at work in Paris.Hawaii’s kitchen, is passionate about fresh, local food and sustainability.
BEST MICHELIN-LEVEL FINE DINING
Chef Yuya Yamanaka’s Paris. Hawaii has been a megahit since opening day. Its impeccable dishes are sourced from the islands and prepared using classic French techniques, with standouts including lava rock oysters with paprika puree and Molokai venison with risotto. 413 Seaside Ave., Ste. 2F, Honolulu
BEST HAVEN FOR VEGAN FOODIES
Inspired by the cafes they traversed worldwide during their modeling and photography careers, Malia Murphey and Brooke Berry opened vegan spot Raised by the Waves. Now the 100% plastic-free, plant-based cafe is known for its raw seed cheese plate and spicy beet poke bowl. 56-565 Kamehameha Highway, Ste. B9, Kahuku
A cocktail offering at Swell Restaurant and Pool Bar
BEST SPOT FOR SUNSET COCKTAILS
Sip on cocktail concoctions as the sun sets at this alfresco hot spot. The Cabana Boy with tequila, Aperol, coconut water, fresh lime and grapefruit is as refreshing as Swell Restaurant and Pool Bar is buzzy. 2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Foie gras with honeycomb from Senia’s tasting menu.
BEST DINNER AND A SHOW
Senia’s exclusive eight-seat chef’s counter is an ode to culinary mastery. Although closed during the pandemic, the tasting menu, headed by chef Anthony Rush, who opened the restaurant with wife and partner Katherine Nomura, is a highly technical, multicourse, “gastronomic journey” of beautifully composed, thoughtful dishes. 75 N. King St., Honolulu
BEST CHEF SERVING SCRUMPTIOUS DESSERTS
Chef at MW Restaurant and Artizen by MW, alongside her husband, chef Wade Ueoka, Michelle Karr-Ueoka knows her way around pastries. Her favorite dessert is born of nostalgia. MW Grandma’s Cookies were created based on Karr-Ueoka’s memories of baking oatmeal raisin cookies with her grandmother every Christmas. 888 Kapi‘olani Blvd., Ste. 201, Honolulu
Banán serves up frozen blended bananas a la soft serve—with all the yummy toppings.
BEST TASTE OF THE ISLANDS
Banán is the ideal blend of smoothie bowl and frozen yogurt, made from Hawaiian-grown bananas. On its dairyfree menu, try the original banana Banán topped with granola, dark chocolate, coconut, macadamia nut butter and honey. 609 Kailua Road, Kailua
Merriman’s new location on O‘ahu
BEST CLASSIC HAWAI‘I MENU
Longtime favorite Merriman’s is a beacon for Hawai‘i regional cuisine with menu items like ahi ginger poke, Kalua pig and a signature mai tai with honey-lilikoi foam. Most recently the dining institution has opened a new location in Honolulu with an expanded lanai area coming this summer. 1108 Auahi St., Honolulu
BEST NIGHT OUT FOR A SPLURGE
This classic steakhouse has been serving up mammoth cuts of meat for more than 40 years. Don’t miss the dry-aged bone-in 24-ounce ribeye; its rich marbling provides for a succulent, tender dining experience. 2440 Kūhiō Ave., Honolulu
BEST MIDDAY PICK-ME-UP
This hip, instagrammable cafe keeps it focus on health-filled cafe favorites and brunch, with top picks including the charcoal latte and halloumi burger. There is a premium placed on the homemade here, with the egg s organic, syrups made in-house and ricotta made fresh daily. 324 Coral St., Honolulu
Sasanian Osetra caviar from French Japanese restaurant Mugen
BEST FOODIE TASTING MENU
Combining French and Japanese influences, Mugen’s tasting menu is a work of art. Chef Jason Yamaguchi’s seasonal menu is centered on local fruits, vegetables and herbs, many of which are grown exclusively for the restaurant by Yogarden. Expect rare, sought-aft er ingredients prepared to masterful effect at this O‘ahu gem. 2452 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
BEST SOURCE FOR WINE RECS
At the intersection of wine and farm-totable fare is Island Vintage Wine Bar. Sample from Provençal rosés, Spanish riojas, Italian chiantis and Napa Valley merlots as you tuck into poke, tartare and burgers from its well-rounded menu. 2301 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Et al. opened in late 2020.
BEST NEWCOMER BUILDING BUZZ
Freshly arrived at Kahala MKT. by Foodland, et al. is the new darling of the food scene. Here, et al.’s Keoni Chang gives us the scoop from inside the kitchen. 4210 Waialae Ave., Ste. 401, Honolulu
What’s the philosophy behind et al.’s food and drinks? We developed a menu that wasn’t the typical Pacific Rim cuisine but instead celebrated local ingredients and reflected contemporary food styles that you see in other foodcentric cities around the world.
What can diners expect at the restaurant? We hope they’ll immediately forget about the woes of the day and get excited about being pampered.
Do you have a favorite dish? The menu is casual but thoughtfully selected… the kind of menu you want to come back for oft en because it’s delicious but not overly complicated. [Some] of my personal favorites are the mushroom risotto and our Pier 38 fresh catch, which features our local catch of the day served on a crispy rice cake with nishime vegetables and a light dashi broth.
Photography by: Janet Hoffar; Andrew Tran Redefined; Ryan Yamamoto/Middle Management; Steve Czerniak; courtesy of Aqua-Aston Hospitality; Matt Hew Hong; Scott Naauao