3660 on the Rise (kaimuki) – Often overlooked by popular reviews but locals and foodies know this is another great place to dine. while Alan Wongs is the standard expected and safe in many ways, 3660 adds a little flair and excitement to their dishes. The word that I recall thinking was "exciting." The flavors are big, the spices high making the dishes pop in your mind and tastebuds. Paired with wine, appetizers and dessert this makes for a nice evening in an unexpected little town.
Alan Wongs (or Pineapple Room at Macys) : The restaurant on King Street is surprisingly informal; valet parking only; food quality is consistent and good; mostly safe. But this is what gave it it's earned reputation. Call ahead for special occasions and they will give you a special announcement scroll and dessert; the desserts are great. The Pineapple Room is good enough for me (salmon in ochazuki is good); I love taking and meeting friends here for lunch. If at the mall and choosing between Macy’s Pineapple Room and Neiman Marcus’ Mariposa, I’d pick the latter (though not Hawaiian food).
Sam Choys (The original restaurant was decent but disappointing. It’s now closed. The Sam Choys breakfast and lunch joint still open; a great stop to the airport). I'd rather just buy his cookbooks and cook at home.
Stage (Honolulu Design Center) - wants to get "in" on the scene, the first restaurant I ever saw that self identified itself as an "Asian American" resturant (what does that mean? hmmmn....the politics of food..!) with a pacific rim twist. It's entering it's second year on the culinary scene with innovative ideas, flavors and combinations. I enjoy the kitchen here...and for a quick sampler visit Amuse Wine Bar (they share the same kitchen). The desserts are great--wonderful pastry chef.
Rainbows; L&L (the former for the 1970s effect drive in )
Kakaako Chicken (Ward); brown rice and healthy options; owners are from 3660 on the Rise
My personal favorite is