The elegant tangles of Chinese lettering run alongside nearly 200 items on the bilingual menu at Mini Garden Orient & Vegetarian Cuisine. Chefs clatter through the kitchen as their knives flick against cutting boards and steam rises from pan-fried onion pancakes, noodles with roast duck, and squid with pickled vegetables. A range of vegetarian dishes brim with bitter melon, lychee, ong choy, and other produce found only in traditional Chinese dishes and Marco Polo’s vacation slideshow.
For more than 30 years, the chefs at Maple Garden Restaurant have sourced recipes from northern China to share authentic Sichuan dishes with hungry visitors. Sichuan cuisine traditionally showcases hot flavors in its many forms, from a mild spice to a peppery kick to just a twinge of passive-aggressiveness. Specialty plates of scallops with hot garlic sauce, peking duck, or diced chicken with button mushrooms can be prepared for relaxed dinners in the restaurant’s dining room or for takeout orders.
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).
The menu at Maili Sunset Bar & Grill specializes in the ocean's bounty. Combo meals bring together clams, shrimp, crayfish, and king-crab claws slathered in garlic butter. Sauces and shallots coat glistening oysters on the half shell and fresh chunks of fish poke. Other finger-friendly foods include chicken wings, egg rolls, Cajun fries, and Korean fried chicken. In addition to sating the masses, Maili serves as a venue for watching broadcast sports and live entertainment such as bands and hip-hop open-mic nights with prizes awarded in cash and rhyming dictionaries.
Launched in Florida in the early 1970s, Tony Roma's has since established itself as a cross-country franchise with a knack for cooking up a mean slab of ribs and serving an extensive menu of chicken, seafood, salads, and burgers. The original rack of pork baby backs ($16.99–$23.99) smothers itself in the restaurant's signature sauce, the Hawaiian Coconut Shrimp ($19.99) comes hand-breaded and paired with a culinary bathtub of orange marmalade, and the Ultimate Combo ($28.99) delivers a culinary gift basket of a half-slab of St. Louis ribs, a skewer of grilled shrimp, and a quarter barbecued chicken. Beef buds can savor the flavors of the whiskey-barrel steak, a thick New York strip streak grilled and topped with a Maker's Mark–based sauce ($31.99), served with a choice of side or poem written by Alan Alda. If a hunk of bone-in meat isn't enough to appease the appetite, supplement dinner with Roma's triple-play sampler ($12.99), which includes red-hot buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, and potato skins, served up with a trio of sauces for dipping.
The staff at Banzai Sushi Bar serves fresh, flavorful fish in a down-to-earth atmosphere, earning accolades in the Star Advertiser's Ilima Awards for several years running. Nestled in a corner of Haleiwa's North Shore Marketplace, the restaurant cossets diners in a covered open-air deck constructed of rustic dark wood, with floral floor cushions for Japanese-style dining or conventional seats for settling the bill with games of musical chairs. Raw seafood is laid bare atop nuggets of sushi rice in nigiri or wrapped tightly between layers of rice and seaweed in maki rolls such as the hawaii roll, whose bundle of shrimp tempura and cucumber is topped with spicy tuna and macadamia nuts.