Best-kept secrets no more, our favorite foods are quickly gaining traction on the mainland.
Not too long ago, it was said that the best meal you’d have in Hawai‘i is the one eaten on the plane on the way here. Fortunately the islands’ culinary scene has truly become something worth writing home about for those lucky enough to pay Hawai‘i a visit. In fact, a few mainland-based restaurateurs have set up shop with Hawai‘i-inspired o?erings. From San Francisco’s Liholiho Yacht Club to Noreetuh in New York City, there’s more than just poke to be had throughout the States. Here’s just a sampling of some of our favorites …
FROM CALI TO VEGAS
In San Francisco, a new rendition of a “pop up” party that used to be held in the ’80s by the Kealoha uncles on Liholiho Street, Liholiho Yacht Club (liholihoyachtclub.com), aims to reflect that same spirit. “We love the name and the idea: throw a party to allow you to keep doing what you love,” explains chef Ravi Kapur.
The Kailua native wanted to see his culinary experiences reflected on the mainland. “I believe that food tastes best when shared,” he says. Thus, Kapur started LYC as a pop-up to bring that experience to diners in San Francisco.
Kapur says that his menu reflects his home state in subtle ways. “It’s more about the approach to the food and the flavors that I’m familiar with.”
“The spirit of aloha is also an important element in our restaurant,” he shares. Taking care of his permanent restaurant, employees and guests are big factors in how LYC is run.
“We pride ourselves on our hospitality,” Kapur says. “The best way is to come in and ask for some suggestions and we can easily assist you. Not-to-miss dishes are the poke, oysters and beef tongue buns.”
Over in Las Vegas, there’s at least one chef continuing to foster the farmer-restaurateur bond. “It is very important to me to have relationships with the people that grow our food,” says executive chef Roy Ellamar of Harvest by Roy Ellamar (bellagio.com), at the Bellagio.
A native of Hilo, Ellamar grew up learning about how to harvest from the land—farming, fishing and hunting.
He brought that same sensibility to the aptly named Harvest. “I like knowing that the food we present to our guests is the best quality and meets the exceptionally high standards people expect from Bellagio restaurants,” he explains.
Harvest’s signature dishes include the Farmer’s Salad, which is changed weekly to reflect the freshest ingredients. Another signature is the 24-hour, local-ale-brined and smoked Roasted Half Chicken that was inspired by one of Ellamar’s favorite Hawai‘i dishes: huli huli chicken. “At Harvest, it’s my goal to recreate these flavors in my dishes so that guests can hopefully develop their own memories through food.”
Leave it to Seattle to take classic Hawaiian favorites and add a hip, urban twist to the old-time comfort foods. At Ma‘Ono (maonoseattle.com), it’s all the flavors you crave on a plate in front of you presented in an entirely new way.
On the menu, a parade of bold flavors lead the pack in the Fatty Saimin, a bowl of slurp-worthy yolk noodles topped with rich smoked pork and pork fat broth, kalua pig, bacon, cured egg, scallion and furikake.
And then there’s Ma‘Ono’s salt. Let’s just say, it’s not your run-of-the-mill salt. The “not for sale” seasoning hails from the Kaua‘i salt ponds in Hanapepe, where it’s harvested by the restaurant’s family for generations. Sprinkled over taro chips and served with your choice of poke (hamachi, ‘ahi limu or salmon), the salt is a nod to Chef-Owner Mark Fuller’s childhood on Kaua‘i.
At Super Six (supersixseattle.com), “intelligent comfort food” defines the menu. The story begins with one of Seattle’s first food trucks, Marination Mobile, and the massive crowds lining up for owners Roz Edison and Kamala Saxton’s Hawaiian comfort foods and street snacks. Six years later, Edison and Saxton’s sixth restaurant, appropriately titled Super Six, was born.
Today, the restaurant heads towards its two-year anniversary with a menu that “focuses on Asian flavors complementing American comfort food and Pacific Northwest staples.” Here you’ll find hip Seattleites ordering the house made pork belly musubi, sharing a plate of the salt-cured local Seattle salmon poke, and snapping photos of Super Six’s vintage-inspired red and black interior.
When diners want a family-style appetizer, there’s always the Aloha Fries—tender shreds of kalua pork, kimchi mayo, scallions and a fried egg on top of a bed of golden crispy fries.
Saxton, who is of Hawaiian descent, and Edison, whose heritage is Filipino and Chinese, reinvent the assumptions of comfort food with Super Six, and it doesn’t look like they intend on stopping anytime soon.
LET’S HEAR IT FOR NEW YORK
Five thousand miles from paradise, in that city that never sleeps, aloha-inspired cuisine is thriving thanks to a pair of chefs that may always call Hawai‘i home.
Taking the L train from Manhattan to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, Suzume (suzumebk. com) has found rising popularity, craftily refining Hawaiian and Asian strip mall food.
Representing the range of Asian diaspora found in Hawai‘i, Suzume’s culinary focus is ramen, sushi and Hawaiian favorites. The chefs at Suzume have done a masterful job invigorating and mingling their take on dishes you would typically find at Don Quijote or Shirokiya.
Their Ginger Scallion Noodle dish, Hawaiian Fried Chicken Rice Bowl and Chicken Adobo Tacos have moved to the top of the customer favorite list, but co-owner Michael Briones has an affinity for the Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll, a dish he helped create while working at Kai Ku Ono on Maui way back in 2000.
Back over the bridge, the East Village of Manhattan was once the heartbeat of Bohemia, attracting beatniks, artists, poets and musicians by the droves. Like many areas in NYC, Alphabet City (East Village) has had its cultural ebbs and flows over the decades. Presently, the East Village has converged into a modern mix of progressive, reasonably priced eateries and bars surrounded by a vibrant, community-minded presence.
Nestling in with ease, Noreetuh (noreetuh.com) showcases cuisines of Hawai‘i, with prominent ingredients including hearts of palm, pineapple, poke and kalua pork.
Growing up in Hawai‘i, chef Chung Chow utilizes the culinary influences of his home state along with extensive travels to East Asia and the Pacific Rim as he continuously develops a menu with strong ties to Hawai‘i, Japan, Korea and the Philippines.
Since its opening in 2015, Noreetuh— which means “playground” in Korean—has made a concerted e?ort to complement nearly each menu item, like their corned beef tongue musubi, with a pairing of selectively curated wine, sake or craft beer.
“The restaurant’s goal is to create an atmosphere where guests can enjoy artfully crafted food paired with an approachable wine list in an enjoyable and causal atmosphere,” says operations manager Gerald San Jose. With the direction the East Village has taken the past decade it looks like the vibe of Noreetuh has no problem matching its locale.