For more than 35 years, Kobe Steak House's skilled master chefs have fired seafood, meat, and vegetarian fare on tableside griddles—or teppans—right in front of captivated patrons. Pulling from a pantry stocked with tender aged beef, Nova Scotia scallops, cold water lobsters, and garden-fresh vegetables, these teppanyaki artists dazzlingly toss their ingredients and cookery tools into the air as they sear dishes such as teriyaki chicken or Emperor steak. Diners can also dig their chopsticks into sushi selections, including fresh cuts of daily-caught Hawaiian maguro sashimi.
When they're not watching the chefs helm a thrilling knife show, guests can cast their gaze upon the antique décor of a 300-year-old fisherman kimono, emperor dolls, fine porcelain hibachis, and steak-sauce bottles from the Edo period.
Headed by the much-lauded Chef Philippe Padovani, an originator of the Hawaiian regional cuisine movement, Padovani Grill features sautéed steaks and seafood worthy of mentions in the New York Times and Honolulu magazine. With its leather chairs and recessed ceiling lighting, the posh dining room seats diners in unintimidating luxury, ideal for savoring the decadent menu that's packed with French-style grill fare adapted with signature Hawaiian fruits and flavors. Forks dig into a pan-sautéed weke ($38) sizzled with snow peas and bacon and topped with a rich cilantro-curry sauce. Like the finest meat in the land and Popsicles, the moi fillet ($35) was historically served to royalty, but now the white fish democratically fills any belly with sautéed meat and a summery sauce of sun-dried tomatoes. Gourmet Black Angus steaks and milk-fed veal come enlivened with freshly prepared sauces, such as the green-peppercorn-and-sweet-corn sauce. Local ingredients star in appetizers such as the hearty manila clam chowder ($12), simmering with kahuku sweet corn and Hawaiian seaweed. A decadent dessert menu reveals the chef's gourmet-chocolatier experience.
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.
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.
Oft spotted bearing a contagious grin, Ert staffs his restaurant with like-minded folks who prepare hearty, diner-style dishes “cooked and served with love.” Chefs build breakfast plates atop a sturdy foundation of rice and eggs, incorporating the customer's pick of savory, often unexpected meats, such as hotdogs or Spam. The house specialty, a house-made hamburger-steak plate, causes customers to line up at the window of Ert’s mobile food truck and mail lovelorn letters to the restaurant's unassuming storefront.
A little corner of Mississippi stands in southeast Inglewood. An unassuming space on Crenshaw hosts M&M Soul Food, which recreates a huge menu of southern favorites from 8 a.m. through dinnertime seven days a week. Chefs load up plates with meatloaf, smothered pork chops, barbecue ribs, and fried seafood, among other soul-food staples. Then, of course, there are the sides—three of them per dinner plate, not counting the plump corn muffins. The menu also incorporates many dishes that can be hard to find outside a southern grandma's kitchen, such as liver and onions, chitterlings, ox tail, turkey wings, and oyster loaf. Cakes, cobblers, banana pudding, and potato pie obliterate the danger that someone might accidentally walk out with a little belly space left empty. In addition to standard combinations of grits, pancakes, and omelettes, breakfast hours hold out less-common dishes such as eggs with catfish or smoked beef links.