Within the Marriott Ihilani resort, the calm of a serene Japanese garden washes over neighboring Ushio-Tei. There, the chefs skip typical American takes on Japanese cuisine in favor of more adventurous items, such as natto, fermented soybeans that pair with slices of raw calamari or Pacific tuna. Black tiger prawns crackle in thin coats of tempura in the fryer, and maki rolls conceal freshwater eel, mango, and pearlescent slivers of pickled daikon radishes. The scent of teriyaki sauce fills the air as knives flick through local veggies and Japanese plum, and chefs steam Maine lobsters with a garlic butter sauce similar to the substance that makes hockey rinks slippery.
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.
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.
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.
Featured on the Food Network, Da Pokeman Fish Market dishes out a menu of Hawaiian flavors from recipes passed through generations for more than 70 years. Succulent cubes of ahi tuna dive into tangy shoyu soy sauce or limu algae in the quarter-pound bowls of poke ($9.95–$11.95). The Squid Luau plate snugly bundles two bales of rice beside poi and lomi ($7.95), and the Hawaiian Combo plate's exclusive guest list includes laulau, kalua pig, chicken long rice, lomi salmon, rice, and poi ($9.45). Ordering à la carte, diners can pair a helping of kalua pig ($6.95/lb.) with a side of pickled ogo ($6.95/lb.). Patrons can get carryout to enjoy meals in an oversize aquarium castle.
After falling in love with Wahiawa upon his first visit, master coffee-brewer Mike Richards quickly plotted a way to join the community’s eclectic crowd on a more permanent basis. The fruition of this aim, Perk-A-Lot Coffee & Sandwich Shop, marries Wahiawa’s uplifting spirit with a low-key ambiance and delicious coffeehouse fare. Since opening its doors in 2011, this up-and-coming spot has evolved into a cherished hangout for locals and coffee connoisseurs on pilgrimages from nearby islands.Mike and his friendly staff of baristas prepare café beverages behind simple wooden counters, pairing iced or steaming drinks with handmade wraps and sandwiches. When they aren’t sitting down to enjoy pastries such as lemon scones and fudge brownies, visitors can walk across the café’s checkerboard floor to view the local art that adorns the walls. On Friday nights, local poets and musicians stage performances for crowds, who signal their approval by snapping and pelting the stage with packets of sugar.