I spent a couple weeks in Oahu this month. I've been to Hawaii pretty regularly over the last 20 years, and each visit further convinces me that Honolulu is up there with some of the nation's great cities in terms of people who love to eat well. Just thought I'd report on some of the highlights.
Gina's Korean BBQ, great Korean take-out joint in the FoodLand strip mall where Kapahulu meets H-1. Fantastic, spicy BBQ squid (Ika) and chicken, delicious, generous panchon (side dishes). This was probably the best new place I tried. (new to me, that is).
Malasadas: Along with Leonard's on Kapahulu, try Champion's on Beretenia: a little more doughy than Leonards, but pretty comparable.
Shave Ice: Waiola Market on Kapahulu has great, homemade flavors (like green tea, lychee and strawberries and cream) and an extremely fine ice texture. (They also have good short bread cookies). I still think Matsumoto's up in Haleiwa on the North Shore does better ice cream and azuki beans.
Plate Lunch: my favorite is Keneke's, out in Waimanolo, amazing pork adobo, kalua pig, and the Fear God Wrestling Team. I wanted to try the Rainbow Drive-Inn, which I've heard good things about, but didn't get to.
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. I heard it changed ownership since I was there last, but the shrimp tasted just as good. I went to the Haleiwa branch.
High End: Alan Wong's, as always, was spectuacular, the chocolate soup in the chocolate sampler was particularly extraordinary. We visited Hoku at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for the first time - it was good but not extraordinary with the exception of one great appetizer: fried poke musabi was ahi poke (sashimi salad with soy and sesame oil) covered with rice, rolled in sesame seeds, and fried long enough to create a delicious crust and make the poke warm but still raw, served on Japanese pickles.
Disappointments: I was not impressed by Hale Vietnam, out past Diamond Head, the food was bland. Sam Choy's Kapahulu seems to have gone down hill, though I enjoyed the casual ambience and homey food at his breakfast, lunch and crab. (If you have kids, every Tuesday night is Keiki night, with all kinds of kids activities).