There’s a food renaissance happening throughout Hawaii right now. Young chefs are taking the best seafood in Hawaii from the surrounding waters and cooking it up with locally harvested produce. To one-up past trends, they are bringing their French, Mexican, Thai, and other culinary training to the table and plating amazing dishes. On every island, you can find awe-inspiring seafood.
Bar Acuda and Merriman’s Fish House
The kitchen at Bar Acuda in the sleepy village of Hanalei on Kauai’s North Shore uses local fish-auction catch procured on a daily basis. The seared opah (moonfish) with a pesto made from island Macadamia nuts, served with locally grown tomatoes, is melt-in-your-mouth memorable.
On the South Shore of Kauai, Merriman’s Fish House is all things fish, offering some of the best seafood in Hawaii. The selection of poke—cubes of raw ahi served with variations of soy, sesame oil, and green onion—will draw you back again and again. If ahi isn’t your thing, there is a separate ceviche menu, which includes local lobster ceviche (sweet Maui onion, coriander, and avocado) and a Tahitian-style ceviche with a coconut milk base that will have you speechless.
On the docks directly across from the Honolulu Fish Auction is Nico’s Pier 38—one of Oahu’s few al fresco dining experiences on the water. Nico Chaize is a French chef that toiled in hotel dining rooms for 10 years before opening this “give the people what they want” eatery that spotlights the best seafood in Hawaii served pure. The fish and chips uses local monchong, a flaky, succulent white fish, and his cioppino (Italian-style seafood stew) is overflowing with nearly a dozen types of fish, including local octopus. It’s so soft and tender, and such a far cry from the calamari of your local bar menu, that it will have you rethinking the eight-legged creature as a delicacy.
Chef Tylun Pang launched a concept at Ko (inside the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui) that brought together the flavors from the early 20th-century plantation-era Hawaii. The food shared by pineapple and sugarcane field-workers hailed from Vietnam, China, Philippines, Hawaii, Tahiti, Japan, and Portugal. They mixed on the plate, and now they fill the menu at Ko. Go in and ask for the laulau. This is the freshest catch—whatever it happens to be—dusted with island sea salt and herbs, wrapped in a thick ti leaf with bok choy and local mushrooms, then steamed. Or go for the zarzuela: a kettle of steamed fresh fish and homemade chorizo sausage in a fragrant saffron broth. After enjoying a nice seafood lunch on Maui, a nice way to spend your afternoon and evening is on a relaxing sunset cruise to take in those dramatic views of the island.