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The 12 Hottest New Restaurants in Honolulu

Where to find meaty yakitori, top-notch vegan pho, and the most exciting new restaurant in town

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Today Eater returns to Honolulu, Hawai‘i, to focus on 12 newish restaurants that have been garnering some serious buzz. Once again, Eater asked bicoastal tea expert and food writer Kathy YL Chan to offer up her picks for the buzziest openings of the past year or so.

It’s no secret that Honolulu has great Japanese food, and now there’s even more, thanks to imports focusing on everything from yakitori to tonkatsu (Yakitori Hachibei, Tonkatsu Tamafuji). The city’s buzziest opening — probably ever — and its most exciting new opening, according to Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison, is the result of a collaboration between two Per Se alums and an Eater Young Gun (Senia).

There’s no shortage of great food in Honolulu, so do head to Eater’s comprehensive Hawai‘i guide for all the details. But for Honolulu’s newest and hottest, read on.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Since opening in December 2016, Senia has become a favorite among locals and visitors and an essential Hawai‘i destination; Eater’s national restaurant critic even described it as the state’s “most thrilling new restaurant” in a recent review. Take your pick between the casual dining room, the chef’s counter, and the sleeper hit lunch prix fixe. Its standout dishes — like chefs Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka’s beloved charred cabbage Caesar, delicate poke crackers, and a beautiful genmaicha ice cream sandwich with matcha and honey from Eater Young Gun Mimi Mendoza — have catapulted the restaurant onto the national stage.

Poke chip at Senia.
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

PAI Honolulu

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Dining experiences at the upscale PAI Honolulu take three forms: Small plates at the bar/lounge, a prix fixe menu in the dining room, and a chef’s tasting at the counter. Locals are rooting for chef Kevin Lee (formerly of Prima), whose early hits include the age dashi XO turnip cake, truffled egg chawanmushi, and black tea deviled eggs.

Cornflake-crusted dry-aged cornish hen at Pai. 
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

Yakitori Hachibei

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The Honolulu location of Yakitori Hachibei is the chain’s 11th location and first in America (the other 10 are in Asia). This is the fancier yakitori spot on this list, with a big-city vibe and emphasis on cooking with local poultry and eggs. The best seats are around the counter, and must-orders include the tare bara (pork belly dipped in a sweet soy sauce), sunazuri (chicken gizzards), and the sukiyaki skewer (beef wrapped around enoki mushrooms, raw egg yolk to dip). Don’t forget the housemade goma (sesame seed) pudding for dessert.

Yakitori
Photo: Official site

Piggy Smalls

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Piggy Smalls is the sister restaurant to the essential and ever-popular Pig and the Lady. The crew’s brought along familiar dishes, like vegan pho, Burmese salad, pho French dip, but the menu here is independent, and it’s worth visiting both restaurants. Piggy Smalls also offers weekend brunch, complete with sweet and savory Dutch babies and butter mochi waffles. Whatever you order, make sure to finish with a cup of the heady Hanoi egg coffee.

Piggy Smalls.
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Scratch Kitchen & Meatery

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The original Chinatown location of Scratch closed earlier this fall, but the team is up and running in its new location in Ward neighborhood. The space is bigger and brighter, but the menu is as satisfying as ever, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner on offer. Come with a big appetite: Dishes lean toward the rich and hearty, from the “milk ’n cereal” pancakes in the morning to crispy chicken confit in the evening.

“Milk ‘n ceral” pancakes.
Photo: Scratch Kitchen & Meatery / Facebook

Teruya’s Andagi

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Locals rejoiced when Teruya’s — one of the vendors in the former, and dearly missed, Shirokiya food court — opened on Pensacola Street. Andagi (Okinawan doughnuts) are the draw, and scoring one fresh from the fryer will make your day. Crisp, hot, and with just enough heft and fluff, these are some of the best in town. While there, don’t forget to grab some fried sweet-potato mochi and a pre-packed bento for lunch. (Regulars also swear by the made-to-order sukiyaki donburi).

A post shared by Grace (@yogazure) on

The Lanai at Ala Moana Center

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The Lanai is the newest spot on this list, having opened the last week of October. It’s the third (and ritziest) food hall at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Occupying the old Shirokiya department store — some big shoes to fill — the Lanai consists of 10 vendors (four are currently open, six are opening later this year). Expect to find poke and sashimi plates from Ahi & Vegetable, Japanese pastries from Brug Bakery, and udon, soba, and katsudon from Sobaya.

The Street — A Michael Mina Social House

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The Street is SF-based chef Michael Mina’s second Hawai‘i venture, a bustling food hall consisting of 13 individual concepts. Popular outlets include Little Lafa, Mina’s homage to childhood favorites, and Maui Onion Burger, where the must-order is the namesake signature with a double-wide patty and local Maui onions done three ways, all on a Hawaiian sweet-potato roll. For dessert, stop at Aloha Ice for shave ice from acclaimed MW Restaurant co-owner and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and finish with a cocktail at the Myna Bird tiki bar.

[Disclosure: Kathy YL Chan was a consultant on the opening of this project. She is no longer involved at the Street.]

Shave ice at Aloha Ice.
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

Yauatcha Waikiki

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[Update: This restaurant closed in 2018.]
Elegant dim sum is the name of the game at Yauatcha Waikiki (the first iteration of this dim sum tea house in America). Dinner here is as much a visual feast as it is an edible one, with eye-catching dishes like roasted duck pumpkin puff, crispy prawn dumplings, and jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs. Stop by between 3 and 5 p.m. on weekend afternoons for Yauatcha’s take on afternoon tea.

Yauatcha
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Tori Ton

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Two yakitori spots opened in Honolulu this year, one more budget-friendly and the other a notch fancier. Tori Ton is the former. Situated at the entrance of Old Stadium Mall, it’s cozy, warm, and low-key. Keep an eye out for the smoky bacon-wrapped skewers (especially the one wrapped around rice and served with a raw egg yolk for dipping) and the variety of kamameshi (rice cooked in iron pots). Order the kamameshi right away, as they take 20 to 30 minutes.

Kamameshi
Photo: Tori Ton / Facebook

Tonkatsu Tamafuji

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If you haven’t been to Tonkatsu Tamafuji, another smash-hit Japanese import, go now. To avoid waiting in an hour-long line, go very early (say 4 p.m.) or very late (around 9 p.m.). Everything about this place is stellar, from the three rice choices (the move is the “seasoned mixed rice”), all made with grains from the Rice Factory, a speciality Japanese rice shop/mill in the Kaka‘ako neighborhood, to the signature aged pork loin katsu. Do try oyster katsu: the breading on the oysters is remarkably crisp and light, and the oysters pop at the bite, plump and briny.

Tonkatsu Tamafuji
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Kan Zaman Restaurant — Kaimuki

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[Update: This restaurant closed in 2018.]

Reservations are a must at this new (and tiny) Kaimuki location of Kan Zaman, where locals head to satisfy Moroccan and Lebanese cravings. Go-to favorites include the baba ghanoush, lamb tagine, beef shawarma couscous, and badinjan mahchi (stuffed eggplant). Moroccan mint tea is a must, and bonus: The restaurant is BYOB.

A post shared by Karen Takigami (@karen_takigami) on

Senia

Poke chip at Senia.
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

Since opening in December 2016, Senia has become a favorite among locals and visitors and an essential Hawai‘i destination; Eater’s national restaurant critic even described it as the state’s “most thrilling new restaurant” in a recent review. Take your pick between the casual dining room, the chef’s counter, and the sleeper hit lunch prix fixe. Its standout dishes — like chefs Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka’s beloved charred cabbage Caesar, delicate poke crackers, and a beautiful genmaicha ice cream sandwich with matcha and honey from Eater Young Gun Mimi Mendoza — have catapulted the restaurant onto the national stage.

Poke chip at Senia.
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

PAI Honolulu

Cornflake-crusted dry-aged cornish hen at Pai. 
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

Dining experiences at the upscale PAI Honolulu take three forms: Small plates at the bar/lounge, a prix fixe menu in the dining room, and a chef’s tasting at the counter. Locals are rooting for chef Kevin Lee (formerly of Prima), whose early hits include the age dashi XO turnip cake, truffled egg chawanmushi, and black tea deviled eggs.

Cornflake-crusted dry-aged cornish hen at Pai. 
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

Yakitori Hachibei

Yakitori
Photo: Official site

The Honolulu location of Yakitori Hachibei is the chain’s 11th location and first in America (the other 10 are in Asia). This is the fancier yakitori spot on this list, with a big-city vibe and emphasis on cooking with local poultry and eggs. The best seats are around the counter, and must-orders include the tare bara (pork belly dipped in a sweet soy sauce), sunazuri (chicken gizzards), and the sukiyaki skewer (beef wrapped around enoki mushrooms, raw egg yolk to dip). Don’t forget the housemade goma (sesame seed) pudding for dessert.

Yakitori
Photo: Official site

Piggy Smalls

Piggy Smalls.
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Piggy Smalls is the sister restaurant to the essential and ever-popular Pig and the Lady. The crew’s brought along familiar dishes, like vegan pho, Burmese salad, pho French dip, but the menu here is independent, and it’s worth visiting both restaurants. Piggy Smalls also offers weekend brunch, complete with sweet and savory Dutch babies and butter mochi waffles. Whatever you order, make sure to finish with a cup of the heady Hanoi egg coffee.

Piggy Smalls.
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Scratch Kitchen & Meatery

“Milk ‘n ceral” pancakes.
Photo: Scratch Kitchen & Meatery / Facebook

The original Chinatown location of Scratch closed earlier this fall, but the team is up and running in its new location in Ward neighborhood. The space is bigger and brighter, but the menu is as satisfying as ever, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner on offer. Come with a big appetite: Dishes lean toward the rich and hearty, from the “milk ’n cereal” pancakes in the morning to crispy chicken confit in the evening.

“Milk ‘n ceral” pancakes.
Photo: Scratch Kitchen & Meatery / Facebook

Teruya’s Andagi

Locals rejoiced when Teruya’s — one of the vendors in the former, and dearly missed, Shirokiya food court — opened on Pensacola Street. Andagi (Okinawan doughnuts) are the draw, and scoring one fresh from the fryer will make your day. Crisp, hot, and with just enough heft and fluff, these are some of the best in town. While there, don’t forget to grab some fried sweet-potato mochi and a pre-packed bento for lunch. (Regulars also swear by the made-to-order sukiyaki donburi).

A post shared by Grace (@yogazure) on

The Lanai at Ala Moana Center

The Lanai is the newest spot on this list, having opened the last week of October. It’s the third (and ritziest) food hall at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Occupying the old Shirokiya department store — some big shoes to fill — the Lanai consists of 10 vendors (four are currently open, six are opening later this year). Expect to find poke and sashimi plates from Ahi & Vegetable, Japanese pastries from Brug Bakery, and udon, soba, and katsudon from Sobaya.

The Street — A Michael Mina Social House

Shave ice at Aloha Ice.
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

The Street is SF-based chef Michael Mina’s second Hawai‘i venture, a bustling food hall consisting of 13 individual concepts. Popular outlets include Little Lafa, Mina’s homage to childhood favorites, and Maui Onion Burger, where the must-order is the namesake signature with a double-wide patty and local Maui onions done three ways, all on a Hawaiian sweet-potato roll. For dessert, stop at Aloha Ice for shave ice from acclaimed MW Restaurant co-owner and pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka, and finish with a cocktail at the Myna Bird tiki bar.

[Disclosure: Kathy YL Chan was a consultant on the opening of this project. She is no longer involved at the Street.]

Shave ice at Aloha Ice.
Photo by Hillary Dixler Canavan

Yauatcha Waikiki

Yauatcha
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

[Update: This restaurant closed in 2018.]
Elegant dim sum is the name of the game at Yauatcha Waikiki (the first iteration of this dim sum tea house in America). Dinner here is as much a visual feast as it is an edible one, with eye-catching dishes like roasted duck pumpkin puff, crispy prawn dumplings, and jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs. Stop by between 3 and 5 p.m. on weekend afternoons for Yauatcha’s take on afternoon tea.

Yauatcha
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Tori Ton

Kamameshi
Photo: Tori Ton / Facebook

Two yakitori spots opened in Honolulu this year, one more budget-friendly and the other a notch fancier. Tori Ton is the former. Situated at the entrance of Old Stadium Mall, it’s cozy, warm, and low-key. Keep an eye out for the smoky bacon-wrapped skewers (especially the one wrapped around rice and served with a raw egg yolk for dipping) and the variety of kamameshi (rice cooked in iron pots). Order the kamameshi right away, as they take 20 to 30 minutes.

Kamameshi
Photo: Tori Ton / Facebook

Tonkatsu Tamafuji

Tonkatsu Tamafuji
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

If you haven’t been to Tonkatsu Tamafuji, another smash-hit Japanese import, go now. To avoid waiting in an hour-long line, go very early (say 4 p.m.) or very late (around 9 p.m.). Everything about this place is stellar, from the three rice choices (the move is the “seasoned mixed rice”), all made with grains from the Rice Factory, a speciality Japanese rice shop/mill in the Kaka‘ako neighborhood, to the signature aged pork loin katsu. Do try oyster katsu: the breading on the oysters is remarkably crisp and light, and the oysters pop at the bite, plump and briny.

Tonkatsu Tamafuji
Photo by Kathy YL Chan

Kan Zaman Restaurant — Kaimuki

[Update: This restaurant closed in 2018.]

Reservations are a must at this new (and tiny) Kaimuki location of Kan Zaman, where locals head to satisfy Moroccan and Lebanese cravings. Go-to favorites include the baba ghanoush, lamb tagine, beef shawarma couscous, and badinjan mahchi (stuffed eggplant). Moroccan mint tea is a must, and bonus: The restaurant is BYOB.

A post shared by Karen Takigami (@karen_takigami) on

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