International Market Place reopened after a major renovation in August 2016 with a spacious third-floor "grand lanai" ready with several vacant shells for a list of restaurants from renowned chefs and hospitality companies to fill.
But only a few restaurants were ready for the launch, including Michael Mina's Stripsteak and Eating House 1849 from Roy Yamaguchi. The plaza's grand opening also included the flagship cafe of Kona Coffee Purveyors, which serves up rich, buttery kouign amanns, brioches, croissants and other goodies from San Francisco-based b. patisserie. Those were quickly followed by Kona Grill, Goma Tei Ramen and Flour and Barley pizzeria, which opened before the close of 2016. In 2017, however, the plaza's dining roster has truly filled out with the debuts of Baku, Hakkasan Group products Herringbone and Yauatcha Waikiki, and the upscale food hall The Street, a Michael Mina Social House.
The open-air retail and dining center is on Kalakaua Avenue, in the center of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. The majority of the restaurants are housed on the plaza's third floor, and the renovations left the property's 150-year-old banyan tree as a centerpiece. There is a torch lighting ceremony and Hawaiian and Polynesian song and dance performance held every evening at sundown.
Here's a look at the dining options new to International Market Place in 2017, which I had a chance to check out during a recent visit sponsored by the Oahu Visitors Bureau.
Herringbone, from The Hakkasan Group and Top Chef alum Brian Malarkey, opened at the International Market Place in August
• Herringbone: From executive chef and "Top Chef" alum Brian Malarkey, Herringbone focuses on fresh seafood, quality meat and modern, seasonal dishes that frequently put a twist on a classic configuration. One example is the Buffalo octopus, grilled octopus drenched in a classic Buffalo wing sauce with black-eyed peas and ranch dressing. They also dish out oceanside classics, such as Alaska king crab, ceviche and salmon to go along with roasted chicken, pork chop and filet mignon. While Herringbone should be a popular spot for those looking for a varied, inventive seafood dinner, visitors should not overlook the brunch, served Friday to Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. The menu includes fresh seafood platters with oysters, crab legs, and shrimp, fluffy, almost buoyant mochi pancakes, chilaquiles with Portuguese sausage, lobster, biscuits and gravy, fish tacos and bottomless tropical mimosas.
Kai Poke, which serves these crunchy poke tacos, is one of more than a dozen different hawker stalls at The Street, A Michael Mina Social House located on the ground floor of the International Market Place.
• The Street: Michael Mina's new dine-around concept occupies 6,900 square feet of the center's ground floor. With more than a dozen stalls selling a wide range of drinks and fare, the lively, casual food hall is a good place for groups to socialize and please different palates. Offerings include Little Lafa, a Mediterranean spot from Mina, International Smoke, from Stephen Curry's wife and restaurateur Ayesha Curry, Italian eatery Adam's Nana Lu, Kai Poke Maui Onion Burger, Aloha Ice, The Ramen Bar, The Street Chocolate Bar and Indie Girl, serving acai bowls, smoothies and juices. There is communal seating and a beer and wine bar. The Street Party Pass, $37, allows diners to choose seven items from any of the hawker stalls over a 30-day period.
• Baku: Opened in August, this Japanese restaurant features sushi and robatayaki grilled meats. The centerpiece of the restaurant with an outdoor patio and parasol-lined ceiling is an 8-foot robata grill, which uses "binchotan" coals made from Japanese white oak that can reach temperatures of 800 degrees. The charcoal grill is fired up for kalbi style short ribs, Japanese wagyu beef, black cod and a variety of skewers that are perfect for sharing. Baku also serves up tuna tataki, oysters and lobster with lemongrass oil and fresh citrus in addition to a selection of rolls and sashimi.
• Yauatcha Waikiki: The Hakkasan Group opened this innovative Chinese restaurant with an abundant tea selection at the International Market Place in February. The tea menu includes 24 varieties from 10 different countries and there are suggested tea pairing for dishes. A menu highlight is the seasonal dim sum, which is grouped by cooking method (steamed, baked, grilled or pan-fried) and designed by Michelin-starred chef Ho Chee Boon, who worked on the first Yauatcha, which opened in SoHo, London in 2004. Dishes include scallop shu mai, venison in a flaky puff pastry, Jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs, and crispy softshell crab. In addition to dim sum, the menu features creative, fruit-enhanced cocktails like the lychee martini with Pau Hawaii vodka and European-style pastries.