· · · · · · · ·

Compelling Hawaiian-inspired dining in Oahu

Oahu, the gathering spot of the Hawaiian Islands, has become the center point of exceptional dining experiences. While most people who visit Hawaii might want the cultural experience of a Luau, the fusion of cooking styles and cuisines make this a one of a kind destination. Expect dishes where Hawaiian culture meets international influence. And with the number of visitors, restaurants are incredibly competitive with you being the dinning winner. Life’s A Beach Wine Festival Hawaii has roving wine and food festivals that span almost six months on the various islands. With a sunset view, the Life’s A Beach combines a variety of wines and dishes (dense on the meat and fish ingredients), into an evening, which is a total event with on the water entertainment and fireworks. Get a ticket, and you get unlimited drinks for this October event at the Ko’Olina cove. Mina’s Fish House Mina’s Fish House on the Ko‘Olina side is the only restaurant on the island with a fish sommelier. They are actual fishermen who catch the fish, then present the story complete with suggested preparations. Definitely, a new spin on fresh with each fish being a different twist on flavor and texture, and the whole fish is de-boned before cooking. Other dishes round out the Asian influenced theme in a beach setting. If fresh fish is not your option, try the lobster pot pie for a totally unique preparation and taste. Morimoto Asia Waikiki Morimoto Asia Waikiki, at one end of the Alohilani Resort presents his unique Asian-fusion menu. Combined with stunning ocean and sunset views, the food spans Asian tastes from China to Thailand. Dishes such as Morimoto Peking duck, lobster chow fun, sweet, and sour crispy whole fish pair well with the unique Iced Kirin beer. Chef Chai’s Chef Chai’s blends classic dishes with an Asian/Hawaiian twist. The fried prawn in a bird’s nest with pineapple is an example of his creative approach with regional ingredients. The beef fillet on potato with crisp vegetables, and a foie gras filled mushroom pastry is a fantastic combination. Deserts get the same culinary layering with the Fried Caramelized Banana Cream Cheese composed of banana, caramel, and cream cheese topped with chocolate Grand Marnier sauce and fresh berries. Orchids Orchids in the Halekulani Hotel presents a combination of Hawaiian flair with coastal Italian dishes. The setting is beachside, and with the tables well placed is ideal for a romantic dinner, an up-scale business meeting, or any special occasion. The Onaga Cartoccio with tomato guazzetto, scallops, and shrimp gives you seaside Italian flavors in the middle of paradise. Endings get the same creativity with the lemon coconut cake with macadamia nuts. Alan Wong’s Alan Wong’s in Honolulu is a testament to an independent chef who can produce world-class cuisine away from Waikiki. Exceptional dishes meet exceptional service with three sets of eyes guiding the gastronomic pacing through your whole experience. Start with the sashimi poke’ with avocado on crispy wonton strips. Expect a good deal of Hawaii meets the ocean with dishes like the twice-cooked short rib with gingered shrimp and Kochu Jang sauce. Expect the same creative approach with deserts like the sorbet plus berries prepared then placed into a frozen coconut shell. Tommy Bahama Tommy Bahama in Waikiki gives the perfect rest stop after a day of shopping right on the boulevard. Add a little more shopping in their clothing store downstairs, and then head up a flight for sunset cocktails followed by always-consistent cuisine. One can’t go wrong with the mushroom flatbread or the vermouth salmon. Wai’olu Ocean Cuisine Wai’olu Ocean Cuisine in the Trump Hotel is placed on an idyllic overlook to Waikiki beach and the adjacent Fort Henry Park. Up-scale Hawaiian ocean cuisine starts with their signature cocktails, like the Ilikea’s Mai Tai, (awarded World’s Best Mai Tai) with caramelized pineapple and pineapple-Bacardi sorbet. If that doesn’t float your aperitif boat, step up with the sake and whiskey flights. Unique dishes include Kona Abalone or Moi fish combined with an exceptional sushi bar. Further testament you can’t go wrong is a late-night happy hour and weekly entertainment Thursday to Saturday nights.

Neil Wolkodoff

Neil Wolkodoff is a golf and travel writer from Denver, Colorado. He covers golf, dining, activities and accommodations from the luxury and unique perspective. He has even been golfing with goats.

Did you enjoy this article?

Receive similar content direct to your inbox.


  1. Who gets to be on the panel that decides that Wai’olu Ocean Cuisine makes the best Mai Tai in the world? How many Mai Tai’s do they get to taste before they can make their decision? And how do you get to be a cocktail judge? I’m thinking that could be the perfect job for me, time for a radical career change.

    1. Steve, I am not sure who judged this one. However, I had one of these on my trip, and I would agree with the award! I only had part of one…

  2. Always tried to live by the “Life’s a Beach” mantra. In fact I’ve even got the T shirt. Life’s a beach wine festival is ten times beater.

    1. It is definitely an inspiration to the mantra, and you should make it there for a great time!

  3. Food has developed so much over the last 20 years or so that I’m just not keeping up with the lingo. I know that Hawaii is a long way from where I live but I’m completely baffled by “The Onaga Cartoccio with tomato guazzetto”. I don’t know what it means but it sounds great and I want to try it in Oahu.

    1. Judy,guazzetto is a slow cooked, tomato based stew that is fairly chunky in some instances. So in this dish, all the ingredients were added to this stew base for final cooking, so the flavors combined well!

  4. Brilliant that there’s a fish sommelier at Mina’s Fish House. It’s good to know the story of the fish, too often we understand far too little about how food gets to our table.

    1. Beth, it was a very compelling part of the story, as this man is a master of his craft. So you get the story of the fish with some cultural nuances. And the best part is you get to eat the fish!

  5. Hawaii is one of those dream destinations that so many of us aspire to. It’s on a lot of bucket lists for that day, with wishful blue sky thinking, when we’ve got a bit more money in the bank and a few less bills to pay. After reading this, when I finally make it to Hawaii I’ll be calling into Oahu for some very special meals – and cocktails too.

  6. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting some of Hawaii’s famous fares. I especially like the poke which showcases the fresh fish the island is known for. And I can see that most of the dishes featured in this post also highlighted this. And I saw that Kona Brewing Co. picture and I would recommend it as well. The bartenders are super friendly and the drinks can’t be beat.

  7. Always liked the sound of going to Hawaii, even better if it’s foodie heaven! I like that it’s not just typical of what you’d think for the US, there’s lots of variety. I’ll go for the whole menu Morimoto Asia Waikiki and the Mai Tai at Wai’olu Ocean Cuisine. Pineapple-Bacardi sorbet sounds so good right about now. Didn’t know there was a Trump Hotel there. Is that actually THE Trump?

    1. Danni, that hotel was started by D. Trump and his property company and has been there 10 years. My understanding is it is not in his control and run by a management company. I have learned that is the travel business a name on something does not mean they have direct control or ownership.

  8. Asian fusion would suit me down to the ground. I’m a big guy with a big appetite and really straight Asian food is often a bit too minimalist for me. I’m hoping that some good old United States of America size portions might bump up the size of what appears on my plate.

    I like spicy food, but not too spicy, I wouldn’t want Pacific Rim volcano explosions from the dishes. Again I’m hoping that a little American moderation might tone down the fire.

    1. Kenny, I think you will find the right amount of spice there. Remember, they are catering to people from all over the world. In terms of portions, the high end restaurants can have smaller dishes, as they are about artistry and taste, not the amount of food. That said, we did not go hungry in our travels there, and you can always ask the server about the sizes of dishes in your short list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *