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From Portuguese and Japanese eateries to restaurants showcasing fresh local ingredients, the dining scene in Chinatown Honolulu has gone through a real renaissance in the past decade.
Ever since the 2003 launch of the First Fridays program -- when shops and studios stay open late on the first Friday each month -- the downtown neighborhood has turned into an energizing and appetizing destination seasoned by eclectic food-and-beverage creations.
Now more than ever is the perfect time to venture outside of Waikiki and savor what's being served and poured in Chinatown. Here are five great options:
Adega PortuguesaThis lively restaurant and bar serves up authentic, made-to-order Portuguese fare using super-fresh ingredients, including a second-to-none Portuguese bean soup. Brazilian dishes spice up the menu on the third Sunday of each month. Live music ranging from flamenco to Brazilian jazz keeps the atmosphere fun and, on Monday nights, clients can take free Portuguese language classes. www.adegahi.com
Bar 35With more than 110 specialty beers from around the world plus specialty cocktails and savory bites, Bar 35 has become one of Oahu's hottest spots. Gourmet pizzas sport toppings influenced by such destinations as Tuscany, Greece, China and France. On First Fridays, Bar 35's fully-stocked indoor bar and outdoor beer garden are packed with young professionals and hipsters. www.bar35hawaii.com
IndigoA relative old-timer among Chinatown restaurants, Indigo opened in 1994 and maintains its edge thanks to award-winning Asian, French and Mediterranean masterpieces crafted by chef Glenn Chu. Its popular lounge and bar offer happy hour food and drink specials, including more than 30 types of martinis. Live music warms up the crowds on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. www.indigo-hawaii.com
Lucky BellyWith its brick walls and concrete floors, Chinatown's newest and trendiest noodle bar may have a limited menu but its dishes make a big statement, with invigorating flavors. Their must-try signature is the Belly Bowl: sesame-based stock swimming with ramen noodles, pork, bok choy, a boiled egg and sausage. The super-tasty pork belly bao -- steamed buns surrounding succulent pork and sauce -- is downright addicting. 808-531-1888
RaKuen Sushi LoungeSmooth beats, sexy sushi and potent martinis command attention at RaKuen Sushi Lounge, whose innovative menu was created by Stephen Hamada, formerly of the popular Chai's Island Bistro. Along with sushi both traditional and inventive, diners can dig their chopsticks into rice bowls enlivened by fresh fish and seasonings and salads designed to put patrons in a zen frame of mind. www.rakuenlounge.com