Oahu's Bold Upstart Chefs

Young chefs have continued the trend of local sourcing and added creative touches of their own.

Lucky Belly oxtail dumplings, image

At the Lucky Belly in Honolulu's Chinatown, the oxtail dumplings come with a hot mustard creme, shoyu glaze, and Ho Farm's cherry tomatoes.

Call it Hawaii regional cuisine, next generation. Twenty-some years after Alan Wong, Peter Merriman, and 12 other chefs began bringing island ingredients to the fine-dining table, younger cooks who trained with them are rattling their own pans at casual new eateries on Oahu. “The early guys got everyone ready for cooking rooted in Hawaii’s traditions and its bounty,” says next-gen chef Mark Noguchi.

At Real (808-596-2526, realgastropub.com), Chef Troy Terorotua reaches further afield. The gastropub’s fare is avidly cross-cultural, with such dishes as blackened-fish sliders with miso aioli, Thai-inspired roasted eggplant-quinoa salad, and duck confit corndog with Guinness mustard and cranberry compote.

Creative Asian street food is the forte of chef Andrew Le at The Pig & the Lady on North King Street in Chinatown and at farmers’ markets (thepigandthelady.com). Together, with his Vietnam-born mother, he whips up such novelties as French dip banh mi sandwiches with Thai basil chimichurri. Inventive noodle soups—such as ramen with Asian chile–spiked shrimp, kim chee, and a soft-steamed egg—are the specialty of Honolulu natives Dusty Grable and Jesse Cruz at Lucky Belly in the city’s Chinatown (808-531-1888, luckybelly.com).

At Kailua’s Cactus, chef John Memering serves locally sourced, Latin-inspired mashups such as Big Island wild boar empanadas with mango-tamarind salsa (808-261-1000, cactusbistro.com). It’s food of the Americas, Memering says, celebrated “with aloha.”

Photography by Craig Fujii

This article was first published in March 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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