I just got back from my trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and I think it’s safe to say… I need to go on a juice cleanse. The food was so delicious; I couldn’t help but savor every moment! Below are my top 5 favorite foods from my trip:
Reservation required: http://germainesluau.com
I think everyone should attend one luau in their lifetime. Since this was my 12-year-old niece Sydney’s first trip to the island, we felt we had to take her to one. Germaine’s Luau honors Hawaiian traditions very well.
Cons: It’s packed with tourists, and you sit at communal tables (which means forced conversations with strangers). It requires a rush hour bus ride where your participation is encouraged by the escort (again, forced conversations with strangers) and I can’t say the food was up to par with restaurants featured below.
They also insist you try poi. I’d never decline the chance to try traditional island eats, out of respect… but yikes. I can’t even. Poi is basically a goopy gravy made from the stem of a taro plant. It’s cold and weird and even when you mix it with other foods, it’s just one big NOPE. The most bizarre thing is that I’ve had taro several times in desserts, so how can something so right as a dessert, taste so wrong as poi?
Pros: The live show entertainment was awesome! It’s hula dancing, and they bring out fire dancers! Sydney even went up on stage to dance with them! There’s beautiful live music, the host of the show is great and our escort, Georgie, was very entertaining on the ride over. She made getting through rush hour traffic much more pleasant.
The Kalua pork was cooked in the traditional imu, which an underground style oven. There is something very special about seeing the roasted pig raised from underground. Traditional Kalua pork is not sold commercially in any other state except Hawaii, so I made sure to savor every bite of it.
M. Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712
I’ve had a lot of bad shave ice in my life. They were just too syrupy, too sweet, too messy, it was never really my thing. I’ll be honest with you foodies; I didn’t even want to order anything when we got here.
Holy cow, I would’ve missed out on the best shave ice ever. I’m convinced it’s the best shave ice ever because I’ve never seen it prepared this way (note: I’m from California and part Filipino. Sorry, no one around me ever got this right).
I got the lychee flavor with a coconut cream. Mind blowing. The lychee flavor tasted refreshing and not artificial (although it may be). The syrup pour size was the right amount and didn’t overkill those last ice bites. But the coconut cream added a milky richness to it that I haven’t experienced with shave ice.
To view a video of shave ice in the making, click here.
5.) Island Vintage Coffee
2301 Kalakaua Avenue #C215 Honolulu, HI 96815
Despite having such a lackluster experience with the taro based terror, poi, earlier, I heard rave reviews about the Island Taro coffee-free blended drink. Now, I’m a black coffee kind of gal. I’m not really one for sweets (I especially hate Starbucks Frappuccinos) so I wasn’t sure I’d be into it.
I was so wrong. I’m convinced this drink is made from the Hawaiian gods and delivered to us by hula dancing angels. It tastes like exactly like cake batter. Like an addictive cake batter that you can just drink down. I didn’t feel dehydrated or gross after it either. It’s just absolute heaven in a cup. It’s a must-try, and they have multiple locations, see website.
4.) Sweet E’s Cafe
1006 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
When I think of Hawaiian food, for some reason I recollect Adam Sandler trying to woo Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates. Remembering this scene made me crave pancakes, French Toast, and SPAM. Sweet E’s was recommended to me by a few locals, and when I saw owner Ethel Mathews graced the cover of Hawaii Business Magazine, I knew I had to drop in for a bite. I’m all about supporting #girlpower.
That bite ended up with me ordering a full meal and a pancake on the side. And was a lovely overestimation of hunger it was! My mom and Sydney and I just ended up chowing down on each other’s plates, cause everything was so good!
I feel like this image reeks “This is why you’re fat”, but here’s what we had starting from the bottom left:
Blueberries and cream cheese French toast, side of Canadian bacon, side of banana pancake, Portuguese sausage, Everyday Breakfast with Kalua Pork and Kalua Pork Benedict.
The Kalua Pork Benedict was my favorite item. The eggs were poached to a runny perfection, and the hollandaise sauce had the right amount of lemony tang to pair with the shredded pork. The blueberries and cream cheese French toast was also creamy, dreamy and sweet.
You can view video food porn of this dish by clicking here.
3.) Koko Head Cafe
1145 C 12th Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
This island style brunch spot is another recommendation from to me by friends. And it just so happens to be another female-ran business, the owner is TV personality and Chef Lee Anne Wong.
Warning: The cocktail I got was a special, so it may or may not be available. Sorry readers, I hate doing that, but I cannot turn down a Coconut Margarita. I’m a big fan of Pina Coladas (and getting caught in the rain), so if I see coconut as the main ingredient in a cocktail, I’m all over it. I especially loved the toasted coconut rim.
Oh boy. Cornflake French Toast. Topped with bacon and a Frosted Flakes gelato. I had to. It just sounded so ridiculous, and it was ridiculously delicious. The Cornflakes on the outside of the French Toast as crispy and buttery. And the bacon adds a savory bite to it. I think it should be mandatory to have gelato melting on top of all French Toasts from now on. This has risen the bar for French Toast so high; I don’t know if I can go back to anything else now.
You can see video food porn of Koko Head Cafe by clicking here.
2.) The Pig and The Lady
83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96815
When you’re in Honolulu, you have to walk down Chinatown; the stretch features many restaurants, galleries, and shops.
The Pig and the Lady is owned by Honolulu-born chef Andrew Le, a James Beard Foundation Rising of the Year Semifinalist. His influence for The Pig and the Lady comes from his mother’s Vietnamese heritage. And, fun fact, she is the Lady reference in the title. I’m a big fan of Vietnamese food, so I was very excited for this lunch.
But first, drinks! I ordered the Golden Pig, herbs, lemon and sparkling rosé. I’m a sucker for anything with rosé so, of course, this was my choice, and it doesn’t disappoint.
We started with the Vietnamese pate chaud, a flaky, croissant-like puff pastry stuffed with savory pate. This French-Vietnamese treat is a perfect start to the meal.
My entree choice was the Pho French Dip, beef brisket roasted for 12 hours, glazed with P&L BBQ sauce, Thai basil chimichurri, charred bean sprouts, and onions and a load of cilantro. Every item in this sandwich contributes its unique flavor, and it’s not overwhelming in any way. The flavors play together beautifully. The pho broth on the side is meaty with a light essence of herb. This is one of those dishes I’ll never forget!
Click here to see more food from The Pig and the Lady here.
1.) Mahina & Sun’s
412 Lewer’s St, Honolulu, HI 96815
Mahina & Sun’s, well-known Honolulu local Ed Kenney’s fourth restaurant, is fresh to the Honolulu scene. It’s located in the recently opened Surfjack Hotel, which is close to Waikiki Beach.
Surfjack Hotel has this kitch, vintage-inspired feel to it and I will for sure be booking a room there on my next trip. I feel in love with the pool that reads “wish you were here” on the flooring. That cute, mid-century-hip look extends into the restaurant as well.
Everything was phenomenal. That starts with my first cocktail, the Mr. Pink. Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin, Lillet, Yellow Chartreuse, Dry Curacao, lemon, egg white and rose flower water. It’s tart but has a mellow creaminess to it from the egg whites foam. I could sip on this and sit by the pool all day long.
The first snack was a Shinsato pork pate, which was whipped to perfection. The dip-ready sides were pickled veggies, buttered and toasted sweet bread and a (so delish) mango mostarda, which is like candied fruit with a mustard syrup. Mostarda may sound a little odd to some of our foodie readers, but you have to try it. I just wish the portion was a little bigger.
I’m known for getting pizza in whatever part of the world I’m in. I’d order pizza in Pakistan if I ever went. So although Hawaii isn’t quite known for perfecting pizza, we ordered a great one here. The Naked Pig Pizza is a thin crust pizza topped with Naked Cow cheese (fun fact: the only dairy farm in O’ahu), bacon and maui onion. This results in a light but lovely pizza. We also tried the Sweet Land Farm chèvre beignets, which have a borderline doughy hush puppy consistency to them, so don’t expect a light NOLA style beignet.
My favorite dish was the Grilled He’e (aka octopus) & watercress salad, with ricotta, potato, green olive, and dill. The flavors together work perfectly, and it’s also a beautiful dish to gaze upon.
The dessert menu looked amazing, but I ended the dinner with The Lavender Rub, a cocktail with Tullamore Dew, Amaro Montenegro, Lustau East India Sherry, Femet and lavender bitters. There’s no better way to end the night than with a strong, floral cocktail- and this hit the spot!
I loved the use of local ingredients and unexpected flavors. I know it’s new to the Waikiki scene, but I highly recommend trying Mahina & Sun’s out!
You can watch a little video on dinner at Mahina & Sun’s here.
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