6 New O‘ahu Restaurants to Watch in 2021

Make room on your must-eat itinerary to include these new buzz-worthy eateries.
Newoahu Hautree
The popular eggs Benedict is still on the menu at the newly refreshed Hau Tree in Waikīkī. Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

When you visit Oʻahu, there are those iconic restaurants you have to stop by (we’re looking at you, Helena’s Hawaiian Food and Rainbow Drive-In). But every year, a new crop of chefs and restaurateurs pop up with their own riffs on favorite Island dishes and cuisines. Here are six places that opened (or re-opened in one case) doors in 2021 that already has local foodies buzzing.

Han no Daidokoro

Han No Daidokoro Thomas Obungen

Photo: Thomas Obungen

The newest entrant on the yakiniku scene opened early this year with the city’s highest-end cuts. Course menus at Tokyo-based Han no Daidokoro’s new outpost, in the same building as Isbantul Hawaiʻi and Merriman’s Honolulu in Kakaʻako, feature different breeds and cuts of unctuous, well-marbled A5 wagyu beef. The high-profile restaurant endured months of pandemic-related delays; word is the wait was well worth it. 1108 Auahi St., (808) 517-3229

Hau Tree

Hau Tree Lanai Kelli Shiroma Braiotta

Photo: Kelli Shiroma Braiotta

The ocean view is the same and you’re still inches from the sands of Kaimana Beach, but everything else about local favorite Hau Tree Lanai has changed. New local ownership of the Kaimana Beach Hotel has brought in a team of star chefs headed by Chris Kajioka of Senia and Miro Kaimukī. The new modern American menu of shared plates, a revamped midcentury modern look and open-air setting make this one of Waikīkī’s hottest dining destinations. Open daily for brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. 2863 Kalakaua Ave., (808) 921-7066, kaimana.com/dining

‘Ili‘ili Cash and Carry

The menu of pizzas and hoagies is anything but haute—but then again, that’s the signature style of its chefs. Alejandro Briceño and Lindsey Ozawa met at Nobu Waikīkī and launched a string of destination eateries including V-Lounge and Prima Kailua. Their latest, launched with Fitted founder Keola Rapozo, is an homage to Mō‘ili‘ili’s neighborhood legacy: Plans call for cash-and-carry deli items and alcohol to join the shop’s loaded Italian hoagies and crispy, pan-baked classic and specialty pizzas. Daily 11 a.m.–8 p.m., 2065 S. Beretania St., (808) 367-0606, @iliili_cash_carry

Mama Kim’s

Buzz started early for this nondescript shop tucked behind a bus stop at the corner of Kaheka and King streets, near Ala Moana Center. Photos of Mama Kim’s sushi and poke bowls flooded Instagram, especially its Neba Neba bowl with eight toppings including ‘ahi poke, natto (fermented soybeans) and ikura (salmon roe). Other favorites include the spicy ‘ahi bowl, torched scallop bowl and a rice-less Korean sashimi salad. 1481 S. King St., (808) 260-4109, @mamakimshawaii

Onoya Ramen

Onoya Ramen Black Garlic Kelli Shiroma Braiotta

Photo: Kelli Shiroma Braiotta

It took just days for the latest player on Honolulu’s vibrant ramen scene to draw lines of hungry eaters. Onoya Ramen, already a familiar name among locals from its kiosks at Shirokiya Village Walk at Ala Moana Center and Waikīkī Yokocho, both currently shuttered, opened its first standalone shop on Kapahulu Avenue with bowls of yuzu (a Japanese citrus), cheese curry and shrimp won ton ramen—all made by Oʻahu company Sun Noodle—and notably, a black garlic tonkotsu bowl and a meat-heavy Tonkotsu Special. Izakaya bites include fried karaage chicken and spicy ‘ahi poke atop crispy rice. 611 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 425-4415,  onoyaramen.cm, @oonoyaramen

SXY Szechuan

SXY is an acronym of 蜀乡缘, or shǔ xiāng yuán, roughly translating to “Sichuan hometown connection”—but locals are more apt to refer to the Ala Moana Center spot as “sexy Szechuan.” Dishes are laced with a combination of dried red chiles and Sizhuan peppercorns whose effects range from mild to truly tongue-numbing. The effect is a delicious variety of specialties not often seen in Honolulu, like the Sichuan dry pot of beef, peppers, onions, lotus root, wood-ear fungus and potato chips; and fu qi fei pian with cold beef and tripe in a scarlet chile oil. Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, #2870, (808) 942-8885, sxy-szechuan.business.site

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