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From ingenious pop-up restaurants to farm-to-table cuisine, Oahu’s flourishing dining scene has everyone hungry for more. Thanks to a surge in inventive eateries and events, visitors are discovering a smorgasbord of tantalizing tastes and toasts around the island.
According to Stacey Martin Alford, director of travel industry sales for the Oahu Visitors Bureau, the island’s chefs and restaurant owners are demonstrating a growing commitment to sustainability as they support local farmers, ranchers and fishermen who produce a variety of quality, homegrown ingredients.
“There are a lot of exciting restaurants emerging outside of the typical visitor areas,” added Alford.
For instance, at a pop-up venue called Taste, chefs rotate in and out on different days, creating fresh menus that delight and surprise its patrons. Taste is located in Kakaako, an emerging urban hub between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu.
In the same neighborhood, Alford likes to send visitors to a monthly gathering called Discover Kakaako, featuring some of the island’s favorite food trucks along with street vendors, live entertainment, and new events such as Eat the Street and Honolulu Night Market.
The current culinary news in Waikiki includes the debut of Signature Prime Steak and Seafood on the 36th floor of the Ala Moana Hotel. Diners can enjoy views of the skyline while savoring dishes from a classic steakhouse menu. It’s the latest venture for restaurateur Peter Kim, who owns the popular Liliha Bakery.
Park is also new on Oahu’s dining scene and has been making its mark at Lotus Honolulu since Aug. 1. Featuring original art pieces and intricate interior design, the 3,600-square-foot restaurant serves Mediterranean dishes using organic and locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible.
On Kapahulu Avenue, bordering Waikiki, a newcomer called Wada Restaurant is dishing up Japanese cuisine by combining a progression of yakiniku and kaiseki courses. In nearby Kaimuki, Restaurant and Bar Ko features a bright open space for traditional cuisine with price-fixed menus.
After Hawaii Regional Cuisine chef Chai Chaowasaree closed his Chai’s Island Bistro, he recently opened Chef Chai. Located in the Pacifica Honolulu building between the downtown district and Waikiki, the restaurant features an intimate setting and upscale modern decor. The menu fuses fresh Hawaiian ingredients with exotic Asian flavors.
Paakai is a restarant at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore that features sea-to-table cuisine, part of the hotel’s renewed effort to use locally sourced and inspired dishes. Fresh island fish, farm-raised lobster, Kauai prawns, sea asparagus, seaweed and Hawaii-made sea salt are some of its signature ingredients, presented in a contemporary, ocean-inspired ambience.
On the western coast of the island, Yuzu Sushi is the newest restaurant at Ko Olina Resort. Open since June 2013, it puts a unique spin on traditional Japanese cuisine by using bold ingredients and cooking techniques.
Looking ahead, Waikiki is gaining two new restaurants with the 2016 opening of The Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach. The 37-story condominium-hotel tower will serve as the first U.S. location for Sushi Sho, a Japan-based restaurant known for its Edo-style sushi. BLT Market, meanwhile, is a farm-to-table enterprise driven by the seasonal ingredients from local and regional areas of Hawaii.
Travel agents who stay current with Oahu’s dining scene will improve their clients’ experience by integrating them with the local community.
“These are experiences that are defining Honolulu’s culture at the moment,” Alford said. “Oahu has definitely evolved into one of the most exciting places to eat in the nation.”