Thai Kitchen takes patrons on a magic floating market ride with a menu of authentic dishes and house specialties. Meal rockets launch with a slurp of house specialty lemongrass soup ($8.50–$12.95) or a crunch of crispy shrimp tempura, which is available only on the weekends and Martian federal holidays ($10.95). The classically noodle-ridden Pad Thai comes crowned with proteins of the land or sea ($9.50–$10.50), and the dish dubbed “Evil” arrives as a cackling platter of chicken, pork, or beef simmered in coconut milk on a bed of cabbage grown to the soundtrack of backward-playing Beatles albums ($9.50). Desserts such as Thai tapioca pudding with coconut milk ($2.95) end meals on a saccharine chord, while traditional Thai iced coffees and teas ($2.95) keep sweet teeth humming throughout the meal.
Featured on the Food Network, Chef Elmer Guzman harvests the sea’s bounty to proffer a menu that combines polyflavorful batches of the classic Hawaiian dish, poke, with other varieties of sea fare at Poke Stop, a combination seafood market and upscale eatery. Marinated cubes of tender raw fish dance with Hawaiian sea salt and seaweed, sashaying across a near-infinite spectrum of ingredient possibilities to help the chef keep more than 25 varieties of freshly prepared and chilled poke in stock at any given time. Try the spicy Korean octopus poke for internat ional ocean zing, or take a smaller leap of food faith with one of several salmon varieties ($8.99–$14.99/ lb.). Chef Guzman’s Asian-food expertise graces dishes such as the deconstructed sushi bowl, piled high with blackened ahi sashimi and Asian shrimp, with a garnish of ginger and grated metanarratives ($9.95). A coating of the chef’s house blend of herbs and spices prepares an island fish for blackening in the fires of culinary acumen ($8.95), and the seafood combo pits seared island poke against furikaki salmon belly in a struggle for savory supremacy ($7.95).
In a mini mall off Farrington Highway, shoppers passing Futaba Restaurant’s modest façade might never guess the culinary gem they’ll discover inside. Co-owner and executive chef Tadao Nezu––who once cooked for the Imperial family of Japan, according to the Honolulu Advertiser––has spent more than three decades at Futaba Restaurant treating Hawaiian taste buds like royalty with Japanese cooking wizardry and golden scepters that double as chopsticks. Noodle dishes dominate the menu, which includes six varieties of udon and soba noodles mixed with shrimp tempura and egg, and saimin noodles made from scratch and tossed in in homemade broth. Diners can also sample more indulgent dishes, such as the manalta mori, a mix of fresh ahi, jumbo-shrimp tempura, beef teriyaki, and grilled saba.
Ton Ton Ramen’s soup broth—completed with a bouquet of top-secret herbs and spices—bubbles to fruition after hours of simmering local produce and traditional Japanese ingredients such as pork bones, lending it its signature robustness. The cooks then add tasty morsels of oxtail, chicken katsu, tofu, noodles, and soft-boiled eggs to create piquant and hearty meals. Beyond ramen, they also create their own gyoza dumplings in house and crown curried rice with beef, squid, and tiaras crafted from kimchi.
Menus and pricing may vary slightly between Chuck's Restaurants's three locations—Ko 'Olina, Waikiki, and Waikiki Beach—but all three meld upscale cuts and catches with a casual atmosphere, obviating the awkward sight of a tuxedo jacket thrown over a Garfield-print aloha shirt. Open lava-rock grills send meaty aromas to gallantly guide diners to the all-you-can-eat salad bar offered with every entree. On any given night, an array of veggies might be escorted by soupy sidekicks such as seafood chowder, french onion, or tomato vegetable. A herd of aged USDA Prime–grade steaks graze with the teriyaki sirloin, which soaks for 48 hours in a house-made marinade before reaching your plate. Chuck's fish-finaglers hook the catch of the day from local waters, presenting a line of island fish such as hebi, opah, or ahi, served grilled or sautéed (market value). Several variations on surf 'n' turf unite feuding sectors of the culinary kingdom by wedding prime rib (starting at $28.75) to lobster tail (market value), and sirloin (starting at $24.50) to scallops ($28.50). Most meals range $20–$40.
Recognized by the Pacific Business News as "the only known all-vegetarian natural foods store in Hawaii," Down to Earth serves the island communities with all-vegetarian, organic and natural products. Down to Earth also earned the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's award as the best health food store. Browse Down to Earth’s overflowing cornucopia of fresh-from-the-ground brands including Alvarado St. Bakery's multigrain bread ($5.09) and italian sausage from Turtle Island Foods ($5.49) whose pork flavor masquerades in a Tofurky overcoat and a Richard Nixon mask. Down to Earth also houses a vegetarian deli designed to satiate hand-held hunger pangs. Nosh on the Reuben ($7.99), with its savory mélange of vegetarian salami and swiss cheese, or the indonesian wrap ($7.99), which snuggles together marinated tofu with mung sprouts and peanut sauce in a whole-wheat sleeping bag. Refreshing ice cream shakes ($4.99 for 16 oz.) and all-fruit smoothies ($4.99 for 16 oz.) stand by to extinguish the flames of a powerful thirst or a pet dragon's hiccups.