Traveling foodies can find great meals on all of the four most visited Hawaiian Islands, but Honolulu is the place to be for Aloha State visitors who want to pack their trip from beginning to end with celebrity chefs and innovative meals.
Honolulu's dining scene is constantly being renewed and refreshed with homegrown and imported talent, with new restaurants opening throughout the year. Recently the city has gotten a fresh injection of new ideas and flavors from a range of places opened in the last 18 months -- everything from new concepts from longtime Hawaiian legends to temporary pop-ups and under-the-radar finds.
Viaggio: Opened in January on the second floor of luxury car dealership Velocity, Viaggio's menu comes from the mind of chef Rodney Uyehara, who learned the trade in his family's New Jersey Italian restaurant growing up, and later went on to be executive chef at Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. The menu is based on Italian cooking with some Hawaiian touches, including items such as Italian onion soup with Maui onions, pappardelle de carbonara with organic chicken and Hamakua mushrooms, and ahi crudo. And, after dessert feel free to browse the Ferraris, Bentleys and Maseratis.
TBD: Who has time to come with a name when the restaurant will only be open for two years? TBD opened in June as a pop-up with a predetermined closing date of June 2021. Near Kapiolani Park, the restaurant from chef Vikram Garg is serving up inventive Hawaii-inspired cuisine that also draws on his Indian roots, like Kona abalone with miso-pepper crust, seafood stone hotpot with lobster, fish and shrimp, and tandoori fried chicken. Garg spent more than two decades at luxury hotels, including time as executive chef at the Halekulani hotel.
Rangoon Burmese Kitchen: This restaurant that opened in fall 2018 has a colorful and bright dining room, and an expansive menu covering starters, soups, salads, noodles, a variety of meat dishes, seafood and more. It is a great choice for vegetarians, with plenty of options. Dishes include golden, flaky samosas packed with potato onions and spices, tea leaf salad, a traditional Burmese dish with fermented green tea leaves and lots of ingredients that add texture and crunch like peanuts and garlic chips, and a clay pot biryani with choice of chicken, beef or lamb.
Zigu: This restaurant and sake bar in Waikiki is a little more than a year old and focuses on Japanese cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. The concept is from Masaki Nakayama who worked in Tokyo's famed Tsukiji fish market prior to honing his skills in restaurants in New York and arriving in Honolulu in 2016. He often can be found behind the chef's counter interacting with diners. The result is an array of creative items such as tuna cheek teriyaki, pork belly laulau and heart of palm tempura.
Vein at Kakaako: The fast-growing neighborhood of Kakaako has seen an influx of new restaurants and bars in the last few years, and Vein is one of the latest entrants. Seasonal Mediterranean-fusion cuisine is served in a rustic setting with a menu crafted by executive chef Dell Valdez, previously of Tommy Bahamas and Mariposa. One highlight is the uni carbonara topped with an egg yolk "confit," guanciale, chives, and pecorino, and they also serve up steaks, grilled chicken and fresh catch of the day.
Goen Dining + Bar: One of the forefathers of Hawaiian cuisine, Roy Yamaguchi opened this new casual Pan-Asian concept east of Honolulu in Kailua's Lau Hala Shops in late 2018. The menu, which will change seasonally, includes a mix of small bites, salads, sushi specialty rolls, and heartier main dishes. Choices include a crispy pork belly appetizer, kampachi crudo with yuzu garlic mignonette, and locally sourced meats prepared on a kiawe wood grill.
Tane Vegan Izakaya: Opened by Kin Lui and Ray Wang, this new izakaya opened in March is dedicated to plant-based foods. Lui, who grew up on Honolulu, met Wang in San Francisco where they operate a similar vegan restaurant called Shizen. Familiar Japanese items are done with all vegan ingredients, such as a ramen made with a flower, mushrooms and seaweed broth with smoked tofu instead of pork; sushi rolls with tempura sweet potato; and gyoza with tofu and pan-fried vegetables.