Jacob Hansen, a surfer born and raised on Oahu's North Shore, grew up eating huli huli chicken. After long days spent on the water, he and his friends found that the savory dish hit the spot. But it wasn't until Hansen tasted whole, fire-roasted chicken during a surf trip to Mexico that he discovered how tasty the dish could be. He wanted to open his own roasted-chicken restaurant, and then set out to develop a recipe. Over the next 15 years, he traveled to more than 30 countries?including France, Africa, Thailand, and a secret island nation inhabited only by chickens?sampling roasted poultry and native spices in each new place.
Today, Hansen serves up his own version of fire-roasted chicken at Diamond Head Kitchen. He incorporates seasonings and techniques picked up during his years of travel to make juicy, crisp-skinned chicken that literally falls off the bone as it's eaten. Diners can order whole chickens, portions of white or dark meat, or Moa chicken burgers with toppings such as teriyaki sauce or salsa. For a sweeter note, try Hansen's other specialty?nutrient-rich acai bowls.
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.
Mai McDowell and her brothers have been nourishing local islanders with authentic Vietnamese dishes since 1982, when they opened the doors of their first restaurant—Annam House. In 2011, the restaurant moved to a new location under the name "Saigon Pearl," where the family continues to simmer up the soup, vermicelli, and rice dish recipes taught to them by their grandmother. Their bowls of beef, seafood, or vegetable pho noodle soups were highlighted by reporters from Star-Advertiser's Dining Out Hawaii. The staff also encourages visitors to sup in the sunlit dining room, where bottles of sriracha and hoisin sauces perch upon each tabletop.
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.
Tucked away in the Waikiki Landmark building, Little India Restaurant is stone's throw away from the Pacific Ocean, and its windows provide views of swaying palms and luxurious high rises. Inside, paintings of the jungle and mint green walls surround diners digging into what the chefs call "North Indian fusion cuisine," which allows grilled chicken and tender pork cutlet to be served with or without traditional Indian sauces such as coconut curry and tikka masala. While waiting on a tandoori salmon fillet to bake to a flaky pink, patrons can return the stares of the dining room's totem pole creatures of fanged beasts and fire-eyed animals.
The chefs at Chi-Town Deep Dish Pizza Co. fill the club they're housed inside, the Soho Mixed Media Bar, with the mouthwatering aroma of deep-dish pizza. When they’re not adorning thick pizzas with heaps of toppings, they stack fresh ingredients between bread to create italian-sausage sandwiches and open-faced pizza sandwiches. Guests can choose to enjoy their domestic beers and Chicago-style hot dogs served in the casual pizzeria or found skittering across the DJ’s turntables in the club.