Best Food & Drink / Best new Honolulu restaurant
In February, Weekly food critic Wanda Adams gave a rave review to Yuzu’s temari sushi and house-made udon noodles with lobster. A visit last week affirmed that Yuzu is still our top pick.
Yuzu’s food is pretty and playful and surprising. It pleases the eye, tongue, mouth and stomach. We tried both the night’s specials. First came the baked California roll, smothered with chunks of hot salmon, yellowtail, ahi and scallops in a delectable sauce. Next an ahi roll, each slice capped with a sweet tempura rock shrimp. And the vegetarian trompe l’oeil sushi was a wonder: tomato toro, for one, is full of flavor and free of bluefin guilt. Last came a generous serving of hot, crispy big tempura shrimps.
The vegan desserts–a kiwi granita with strawberry sauce, a chocolate-banana crepe–were rich but light.
The service is slow and kinda spacey, but we were happy to sit back and savor.
Best new Windward Restaurant
Although the pizza alone is reason enough to dine here, the menu is too inventive and playful to not experiment with other dishes. With entrees that range from $8–$23 (excluding the more expensive striploin steak, $27), the menu offers a fine-dining exhibition accessible to everyone. And feel free to enjoy your Italian feast at home, as Prima also offers pizza for take-out.
Best bargain sushi in town
Sansei Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Everything in Waikiki is overpriced, so it’s no surprise that the bill at Sansei can easily rack up over $50 for one. The food is good, not as high-end as Sushi Sasabune, but certainly better quality than Genki or Kurukuru. The trick is to come during their early bird or late night specials when everything on the menu is half off. Yup, everything from the sushi (begins at $2.95/$1.48) to the famous dungeness crab ramen with Asian truffle broth ($17.95/$8.98) becomes affordable. Make sure to come at least an hour early to line up before the doors open for the early bird special.
Best new Thai restaurant
Opal and his wife are always fun to talk story with or suggest a new dish. Their young son provides amusement around the picnic tables next to their Thai food truck, which is nestled with the shrimp trucks on the edge of Haleiwa. Now they have their own new restaurant location in Haleiwa town, and the food is as fabulous and authentic as it has ever been.
Haleiwa Joe’s has become a social and culinary cornerstone for locals and visitors alike due to its position overlooking infamous surf at the beginning of the North Shore’s “Seven-mile Miracle,” views of the harbor, and postcard sunsets. The fabulous views are enhanced by friendly staff and fresh food. Regulars like to take advantage of pau hana specials: Monday through Friday, 4:30–6:30pm, and Late Night Happy Hour on the weekends, 10pm–midnight, in which all pupus are 25 percent off and draft beers and specialty cocktails are discounted.
What’s dark, moody and absolutely delicious? (No, we’re not talking about 50 Shades of Grey. Ew.) Hy’s Steakhouse may feel like a gentleman’s club with mahogany paneling and brass chandeliers, but you don’t need to be a cigar-smoking oldie to appreciate good food. Enjoy free garlic cheesebread before chowing down the best hunk of meat you’ve ever had. Hy’s uses USDA Prime grade beef, cooked over Hawaiian kiawe wood. Our favorite? The beef filet “Wellington” ($45.95)–tender steak baked inside pastry, served with cabernet truffle sauce. End with chocolate lover’s flambé ($14.25), prepared tableside.
Best First Online Dinner-Date Menu
Soul de Cuba Cafe
Everything is looking compatible on your respective online profiles: the common interests in hiking, not looking to have kids just yet, an obsession with Breaking Bad. Now it’s time to see if you both hit it off IRL.
The ambience at Soul de Cuba Cafe strikes just the right amount of casual cool. It’s low-key trendy, but not up tight which will hopefully foreshadow the mood of your date. The price range is also simmers at the perfect temperature–right above cheap, far below conspicuous.
Most notably, however, the Cuban-meets-Caribbean style menu is full of foreign names and ingredients, which is kind of everything when it comes to a first date, because it gives each person a chance to break the ice by either impressing the other on their familiarity with the cuisine, or making light of the fact you can’t correctly pronounce your way out of the restaurant. Though, if you’re successful, chances are you two won’t be leaving your seats for a while.