Unless you have a serious aversion or allergy to seafood, there are few better places to dine out on the bounty that’s caught fresh every day than Honolulu. The first settlers of the Hawaiian islands ate seafood as one of their main staples, and why not? Luckily that trend has endured, and has been injected with the many spices and preparation methods brought by immigrants from around the globe. You can probably find your favorite fish dish from home, along with many more to try for the first time.
For the freshest possible, it’s hard to get any fresher than sushi. There are almost too many sushi restaurants to count in Honolulu, many of which have unique menu specialties and chefs who love their craft. The most fun experience is to let the chef choose, which usually results in a many-coursed meal of whatever ingredients look best. A great place to try a meal like this is Sushi Sasabune. Ignore the retro décor, and sit at the bar for a world-class lesson in how to enjoy a wide variety of sushi – unless you’re already an expert, of course! Another wonderful place for chef’s choice sushi and for other delicacies like grilled fish is Sushi Izakaya Gaku, which is just as inconspicuous from the street and just as fresh and delicious.
Local Hawaiian cuisine is also a must-try for fresh fish. Common dishes include poke (raw ahi tuna with sesame and green onions), lomi lomi salmon (raw fish with tomatoes and Maui onions), and lau lau (pork and butterfish steamed in ti leaves). All these and more would be served at any luau arranged by several hotels in Waikiki, or a number of Hawaiian restaurants serve these dishes as well. The most delicious examples include Mitsu-Ken, a more low-key option, or the upscale enjoyment of Alan Wong’s and Roy’s (the original restaurant of the nationwide chain).
Other restaurants integrate some of the ingredients and flavors of Hawaiian food into other cuisines. The Azure Restaurant, for instance, takes traditional Italian and French dishes like osso buco and oysters Rockefeller and intersperses them on the menu with the Asian-influenced dishes with soba noodles and sake-steamed clams. Or for a more economical option, the seafood trucks that are around the island, like the Blue Water Shrimp and Seafood Company, sell tuna, shrimp, crab legs and more right out the window. It may be in a Styrofoam container, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
[photo courtesy of Sarah_Ackerman]