With a futuristic white bar illuminated from below, cushioned benches and luxurious pillows, an expansive dance floor, and a breezy patio—M seems to be ready for anything. The elegant space welcomes revelers for happy hours, private events, and live music, combining the raucous with the refined. Revelers take advantage of the bar's bottle service, feast on specialty sushi rolls, sip expertly mixed cocktails, and resist the urge to fingerpaint on the brilliant white walls.
According to psychologists, the color red makes people hungry. So it's no wonder that Rakuen Lounge’s combination of vibrant, crimson tabletops and artistically plated sushi consistently incites stomach rumbles. Here, the chefs design their quirky specialty rolls with organic ingredients and a knowing wink: their caterpillar roll arrives adorned with jewel-toned red eyes and micro greens doubling as antennae, creating a presentation that was oohed and ahhed over by Non Stop Honolulu’s Tracy Chan. Bartenders congregate in the center of the dining room at a square-shaped bar where they shake up signature martinis with sake and yuzu, fresh fruit juices, and other seasonal ingredients procured from local vendors rather than intergalactic grocery store chains.
Before he came to Hawaii, chef Chai Chaowasaree learned how to shop for cooking ingredients in Bangkok, where his parents owned a restaurant. Over time, he honed his instinct to reach for the freshest fruits and vegetables—and today, that skill comes in handy when he's wandering markets in Oahu or Chinatown in Honolulu. It's this attention to detail that help Chef Chai win a 2011 Chef's Choice Award at the Hale Aina Awards.
He brings his finds to his eponymous restaurant, using them to create colorful examples of Hawaiian and Asian fusion cuisine. At dinner, spicy grilled pineapples sit beside New Zealand king salmon; a lobster reduction flavors a deconstructed scallop pot pie; and Thai-style oxtail soup can be had with coconut milk ginger brown rice. His roots shine through in the braised pork osso bucco, especially, as the recipe was taken straight from his parent's Bangkok restaurant.
Chef Chai's creations have even criss-crossed oceans. He's the executive chef for Hawaiian Airlines, which means that passengers can be treated to his entrees as well as the menu's many teas. The Emerald Sun flowering green tea, for example, is the specialty tea of choice for first-class passengers and geese that stop by the plane's drive-through window.
Kabuki Restaurant's tableside chefs continue a lively culinary tradition dating back to 1965, hypnotizing guests with gyrating flames as they grill Japanese specialties that complement the sushi bar's raw bounty of seafood-infused rolls. The teppanyaki masters inspire awe while unlocking the flavors of thinly sliced beef, chicken, and veggies on their fiery grills, tossing the ingredients skyward in a cruel game of monkey-in-the-middle with two other chefs. After furnishing empty stomach space with tempura, california, and spicy-tuna sushi rolls, diners can bring home bottled servings of the eatery's house yakiniku and butteryaki sauces for their own culinary adventures.
Shogunai Tacos's oversized kitchen-on-wheels cruises around Honolulu to quell hunger pains with its eclectic array of globally-inspired tacos. Chef Kamal Jemmari whisks his customers around the world with his panoply of dishes, all served in the form of tacos. Melted cheddar cheese with pastrami and Japanese-inspired ginger- and shoyu-marinated pork create unique taco hybrids, and tender lamb, kalamata olives, and feta cheese soak in tzatziki sauce on the Greek taco. The chef's internationally infused take on the Mexican staple has attracted media attention, with favorable reviews from KTV4 and articles on the owners' love of Japanese cuisine. Jemmari ramps up his production with the catering menu, eschewing tortillas altogether in favor of expansive, multi-course Moroccan dinners.
The chefs at Raging Crab make seafood however their customers like it. All of the clams, crabs, shrimp and other seafood delicacies they make come in sundry seasonings, with spices ranging from hot ghost chili pepper to as mild as a sitcom starring a former professional athlete. Raging Crab’s main courses are served with sides such as cajun fries and rice, plus seasonings that include garlic butter, lemon pepper, spicy raging cajun, or a combination of all three.