Thai Kitchen's chefs curate a dynamic menu of customizable entrees suited to a wide variety of cravings. In the curry department, chicken, pork, beef, or seafood careen through a vibrant sauce of the diner's choosing. Noodles, rice, and lemon grass broth, meanwhile, play host to fresh vegetables and meats, such as oxtail and meatballs, while eggplants and whole fish get star billing on plates of their own. At the end of a meal, diners might indulge in Thai tapioca pudding made with coconut milk, or scrapbook their dinner by stitching pages together with rice noodles.
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.
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.
At Kua'Aina Sandwich, success lies between two halves of a fresh kaiser roll. The shop opened in Hawaii in 1975, and the popularity of its burgers, sandwiches, and fresh cut shoestring fries caused Kua'Aina to expand to a third Oahu location and to franchises in London and Japan. Perhaps people noticed that Kua'Aina's cooks aren't afraid to play around with the traditional burger toppings. Sure, they make classic 1/3- and 1/2- pound cheeseburgers, but they also add accents such as pineapple and avocado.
Cheese and avocados make repeat appearances atop Kua'Aina's charbroiled sandwiches. Toasted multi-grain or hearth rye bread serves as the foundation for the tuna-and-avocado sandwich, pastrami sandwich, or a combination BLT-avocado sandwich so delicious that it defies the normal laws of acronyms.