There’s a hidden gem tucked inside the Waikiki Resort Hotel that offers tasty traditional Korean cuisine. Try this authentic dish served in a sizzling stone pot filled with rice, seasoned vegetables, beef and an egg. Let it sit for a while to give your rice and veggies some extra snap and spice it up with gochujang sauce, made from red chilies. Mix everything together or savor each ingredient separately. Either way, it hits the right spot.
DECK BAR & GRILL
CRISP ROASTED CHICKEN & MAUI SWEET ONION
Go for the refreshing, handmade happy hour cocktails but stay for this delicious meal and the stunning scenery. The open-air restaurant at Queen Kapi‘olani Hotel has the most gorgeous and iconic perspective of Diamond Head and offers the epitome of American comfort food. The dish is cooked to exquisite perfection,
so much so that it tastes like your grandmother made it special for you and seasoned it with love.
BUHO COCINA Y CANTINA
KALE WRAPPED BURRITO
There isn’t a dish at Búho that doesn’t perfectly represent the reshest flavors of Mexico. This vegetarian dish is mind-blowingly delicious. It’s comprised of a rich blend of homemade ingredients wrapped neatly inside cooked local kale, including Mexican rice, black beans, rajas-onion mix, romaine lettuce, mango pico de gallo, guacamole, coconut lime rice and sour cream. Not only is this original dish one-of-a-kind in taste and presentation, it’s light and leaves your belly invigorated.
WAIKIKI YOKOCHO GOURMET ALLEY
PREMIUM TEMPURA BOWL
At Kaneko Hannosuke, one of many authentic Japanese restaurants in one space, this soulsatisfying bowl of delicate tempura consists of rice, fresh water anago (eel) from Japan, seafood kakiage (mixed seafood), a pair of generously-sized shrimp, a shishito pepper to give it kick and a piece of nori. The most unusual aspect of this bowl is that it’s accompanied with a soft-boiled egg tempura. Your taste buds will throw a party once you crack it open, drizzle on the “special sauce,” and mix the ingredients together.
EATING HOUSE 1849
Every dish at this rustic-chic restaurant at the International Market Place exemplifies the ethnic blend of cultures unique to Hawai‘i. An Asian-Pacific specialty, the fluffy fish is the star of this dish and sits on a bed of Korean rice and Chinese long beans. An ‘ono (delicious) sweet and spicy soy mustard butter sauce makes an exceptional companion, as well as the daikon (Japanese radish) salad and microgreens that provide extra tang for your tongue.
Stunning ocean vistas with Diamond Head’s majesty in the background make the scenery alone fit for any romantic occasion at The Reef Bar and Market Grill. Treat that special person in your life to the sensational crisp, salty air along the shores of Waikiki, while also spoiling them with fresh “farm-to beach” edibles.
Make an impression beachside any time of year, and especially on Valentine’s Day, when the restaurant offers heartwarming specials. Celebrate your love on Feb. 14 with an exclusive “Surf n Turf” dish that features a juicy 8-ounce slice of filet mignon and a succulent serving of lobster.
Prepare them any way you like and choose from a selection of tasty seasonings and homemade sauces.
Seasonal oysters, considered “aphrodisiacs” by many, contribute even more spice to your love life when they accompany your edible agenda. Fresh Oysters on the Half Shell make for a great appetizer. The mollusks are shucked upon order and served with cocktail sauce and chili pepper water mignonette.
If you’ve come with an appetite, pair your entrées with any number of sides, including a Stuffed Baked Potato with butter, black pepper, sour cream, bacon and green onion, enough to accompany any hunk of meat. Or try garlic bread made with a French baguette, freshly grated garlic and butter.
On the most romantic day of the year there will also be a special flourless chocolate cake with strawberry jelly shaped in a heart. A perfect way to cap off the meal.
Can’t make it for Valentine’s Day? Don’t worry. Sumptuous food is always available at The Reef Bar and Market Grill. What makes this spot stand out is the unique way in which meals are selected and prepared. Order from the menu and embark on an interactive culinary adventure on which you grill your own meal.
The Reef, which has an ample salad bar, specializes in Island meat and fish. Select from a variety of options, including local ‘ahi (tuna), rib eye or Kukui Sausage (Portuguese or spicy Italian), as well as vegetarian options such as a “stack” of tofu, cauliflower, zucchini and onion, or corn on the cob smothered in spicy international flavors and garlic butter. From there, choose the seasonings for your meat or veggies and cook your selection under the guidance of the grill master to your desired consistency. Finally, choose from in-house sauces, such as Pineapple Teriyaki or Miso Glaze.
And just as on Valentine’s Day, there are a range of appetizers and desserts to pick from for a romantic dining experience year-round. Try the Baked Goat Cheese with crisp toasted herbed focaccia made for dipping into an angelic basil and sundried tomato pesto with fresh goat cheese. Desserts include the Kona Mocha Chocolate Wedge, a house special chocolate cake and the Upside-Down Pineapple Cake with tropical coconut ice cream.
The menu at this open-air restaurant is thanks in part to Delia Romano, director of Food and Beverage. She strives to craft dishes that use as many flavorful local ingredients as possible and combines them in ways that are “innovative and memorable.” She always makes sure that the menu is filled with options for people with a range of dietary needs, from vegans to those with certain allergies.
Romano has always had a fondness for food but it was her grandma who really drew her into the craft of cuisine. Now she delights in preparing meals for visitors and kama‘a¯ina (Hawai‘i resident) alike at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, whose dining room opened in 2017.
“Food is one thing that everybody has an opinion on, which makes it such a great profession to be in,” she says. “To be able to push people to try new things or turn their stance on certain foods is empowering.”
Dine in a casual, charming atmosphere with your loved one on Valentine’s Day, or celebrate each other any other day of the year next to one of the most beautiful shorelines in the world at The Reef Bar and Market Grill.
It’s unlikely you’ve ever had this famous fireside treat in quite the same fashion. Made exclusively for Valentine’s Day, the S’mores Bar is a perfect way to celebrate your love. Savor the incredible layers of sweet graham cracker crust, chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse and torched marshmallow top. Mix the one-of-a-kind s’more with an unbelievable homemade strawberry ice cream that truly pops and is arguably one of the best features of this dish. Share the crisp homemade tuille (French vanilla wafer) shaped as a cup for the ice cream and a heart that sits on top of the s’more to add even more delight to this decoratively crafted dessert. And, of course, the restaurant, located at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, offers an assortment of other goodies year-round for you and your loved one.
Mahina & Sun’s
Executive chef Erik Leong has done it again. He’s crafted yet another delicious concoction at the ultra-trendy Mahina & Sun’s, tucked inside the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club. Packing a pretty pleasant punch, the dishes at this Ed Kenney restaurant are centered around fresh ingredients combined with exceptional, flavorful extras. The Salted Caramel Banana Pudding is a prime example. Leong whips up a delectable vanilla pastry cream blended succinctly with fresh, melt-in-your mouth bananas. This bowl of saccharine heaven is accompanied with a homemade double chocolate cookie sprinkled with cacao nibs and drizzled with caramel sauce.
Fresco Italian Restaurant
You can’t go wrong ordering one of Italy’s most celebrated desserts at Fresco, a premiere Waikiki Italian restaurant. The eatery, located in one of O‘ahu’s most happening hubs at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, serves a heaping slice of traditional tiramisu with sensational texture and consistency. Tiramisu Hawaiano is precisely crafted with dewy lady finger biscuits, divine mascarpone cream and Kona coffee caramel sauce. To say Fresco’s signature dessert and all its flavors fuse together in an exquisite manner is an understatement. This dish is a lovely conclusion to any meal at this elegant, yet casual, south shore dining establishment.
Make sure you save room for this delicious delight. Better yet, make it a point to head to this eatery, open 24/7, at the Hilton Waikiki Beach, for the primary purpose of ordering the Donut Split Sundae. Share it with a friend or splurge on this sumptuous dessert by yourself. Just make sure your belly has extra space and forget about calorie counting. Allow your taste buds to enjoy this treat made with a donut that’s fried in-house and piled skyhigh with whip cream and Lappert’s vanilla ice cream. Other luscious additions include chocolate drizzle, chunky Oreo crumbles, cinnamon sugar and a liliko‘i glaze that combine for an even greater confectionary festival.
Buho Cocina Y Cantina
Almost too beautiful to eat, Búho’s Caramelized Avocado Brulée is a work of art. This creative dessert was created by culinary master, chef Arturo Silva, who, instead of placing the creamy custard inside a ramekin, tucks it into a sliced avocado. The dessert has a sensational, crisp, caramelized sugar layer that cracks open into a luxurious center. Topped with a scoop of Kona coffee ice cream meant to resemble the avocado’s seed, this extra adds more unparalleled flavor to the unique menu item. While you might not think of avocado as a dessert food it is an ingenious way to add Mexican flair to a traditional French dessert. The pear-shaped fruit adds extra smoothness to this already delightfully velvety treat.
Chef Hiro Mimura derives great pleasure from cooking. This is evident in his ear-to-ear grin as he tosses spaghetti from a pan in the neatly tucked open kitchen at Taormina Sicilian Cuisine. It’s a weekday afternoon, moments before the nightly crowd descends upon the restaurant, and Mimura appears to love every minute of the hustle — sprinkling basil and other herbs onto his dishes while directing his staff. This devotion to his craft is incorporated into each and every menu item and is the primary reason why this little eatery is the perfect place to bring your amore.
You are bound to impress your date with an evening of ophistication and exquisite Sicilian cuisine at this quaint Waikiki Beach Walk establishment. Not only will Mimura’s food win over your loved one, the atmosphere is a bonus. Sleek, wooden tones and minimalist European rustic décor, designed by Peter Vincent Architects, provide an intimate ambience. Patrons may dine inside under the dim, romantic lights or outside on the patio where cool, tropical breezes accompany the background bustle of the city. No matter what area you dine in, the service is flawless and staff are accommodating, polite and efficient.
The top-notch food, crafted with love, however, is truly the main event. Mimura has done an impeccable job presenting a Southern Sicily menu to the Pacific. Sicilian food is akin to Italian but incorporates other cultural flavors such as Greek and Spanish. Originally from Tokyo, Mimura gained inspiration for this contemporary cuisine with an “old school” Western Europe essence working at Trattoria Marumo in Japan and also from his adventures in Italy. He traveled to the country at the age of 21 and worked at various fine dining rooms as a sous chef in Florence.
In 2007, he joined WDI International Inc., and assisted in the opening and creation of Taormina Sicilian Cuisine, one of the company’s many eateries. Three years later, Mimura moved to the Islands and became the restaurant’s executive chef, a position he has held ever since.
Mimura uses only high quality meats and seafood, and blends as many seasonal and local ingredients into his dishes as possible. Entrées and appetizers range from featuring the fresh, local catch of the day to vegetables plucked straight from Hawai‘i farms. All dishes have top-of-the-line flavor and are accompanied with light sauces rather than rich, heavy toppings, so every detailed ingredient stands out.
Pomodoro con burrata is Mimura’s favorite dish and one that he recommends for any romantic occasion. The spaghetti is steeped with juicy ripe tomato sauce, basil and creamy, semi-soft cheese, and bursts with a fresh, springtime flavor. It is the most popular dish on the menu and also happens to be the first meal Mimura learned to prepare during his time in Italy.
“Very simple, but reminds me of Italian life,” he says of his beloved dish.
Among Mimura’s other recommendations for an amorous evening of edibles are the Burrata Caprese for starters. This appetizer is another dish that features the smooth, velvety burrata cheese made with mozzarella and cream. A scoop of the hearty cheese, from the region of Puglia, sits on a bed of spicy arugula, local bright red and yellow cherry tomatoes and is finished off with a light drizzle of balsamic reduction to further enhance the crisp taste.
Main courses in addition to the tastefully uncomplicated pomodoro include Sarde e finochetti, a spaghetti with sautéed sardine, tomato paste, fennel for zest, anchovy, olives and capers for salty finesse and seasoned bread crumbs. Or Bolognese Siciliana, another classic entrée made with spaghetti expertly crafted with homemade beef ragu, blended with spinach and garlic, and spiced with red chili pepper.
As for dessert, Taormina, which was named after a seaside village in Sicily, has a range of gratifying sweets to share with your sweetheart. Try any dessert on the menu, such as a slice of traditional tiramisu or a warm, chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice gelato. Or, order something custom like a parfait made with local seasonal fruits such as pineapple and liliko‘i, housemade coconut jelly and tapioca and paired with dragon fruit sorbet—a combination that will bring joy to your taste buds.
This cozy spot, open for lunch and dinner, is made even more exceptional by its specialized wine list, created by master sommelier Roberto Viernes. Over 125 selections are offered here, making it one of the most diverse selections of Italian vino in the state.
All of these factors combine to make Taormina an extraordinary place to take someone near and dear to your heart and spoil them with some of the best Sicilian flavors you will find in Hawai‘i.