Hidden Treats in Honolulu

My best friend is currently living in Honolulu on Oahu. She’s living in Chinatown, miles away from the tourist traps and chains stores of Waikiki. As you see in the previous post, she lives near the marketplace and a million wonderful places to eat. We ate a LOT while I was visiting, but not every meal made it onto the camera. But what did was interesting and fun, so without further delay, here are four great meals from my trip. (Also, shout out to Indigo, I couldn’t get pics but it is the BEST. Forget Waikiki, really.)

Dim Sum Lunch

Happy Garden Dim Sum– Chinatown

After walking all of Chinatown and visiting ‘Iolani Palace we needed a big lunch. Happy Garden is just a hole in the wall with barely 10 tables and a crowd outside. we probably waited 20 minutes and then were offered a table to share with two other people. The restaurant was hot, noisy, bustling. We were seated, given tea, and then had to wrestle our way back up to the front to select premade Dim Sum from the window (we could also order and wait, but we were too hungry.)


We ended up with seafood dumplings, meatballs, sesame buns with bean paste, and soft pork buns. All were decently good, nothing outstanding. The novelty of this tiny restaurant where I could imagine Anthony Bourdain or another food/travel icon wandering in was enough for me. It was so cool and tiny and BUSY. Happy Garden may not get rave reviews but the place was packed with people lined up the entire time we were there. After wards, we wandered across the street for fresh fruit shakes with lychee, mango, pinapple, strawberry, and about 10 other options. This is the most charming part of Chinatown, the abundance and variety of food and places to eat.

Fresh, fresh, fresh salmon jalapeno roll

Doraku Sushi– Waikiki

We went to Waikiki for an early dinner on Sunday after kayaking in Kailua bay till 2pm. Kayaking  (we rented from the Twogood Kayaks company, check them out!) was amazing and amazingly difficult, so this beautiful dinner was a well-earned reward. Doraku is situated in the Royal Hawaiian Center, one of those monstrous indoor/outdoor malls with stores normal people can’t afford to walk into. But Doraku is fairly affordable while still looking like a millions dollars. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed the juxtaposition of palm trees and Christmas lights while waiting for dinner.

Sweet Maui Onion Salad with Salmon and Bonito flakes

Ahi Basil Tempura with Teriyaki sauce

The food was light and fresh, it felt so virtuous to eat fish and vegetables after a hard day of battling waves. It was so lovely to eat lazily and enjoy the evening atmosphere of the city. If I went back to Doraku (can’t wait till June 2011!) I’d order nothing but sushi. The roll A. ordered was amazing, the fish was so fresh it practically melted in your mouth. After dinner, we drank tea and chatted before joining the crowd gathering in the streets. It seems Waikiki has a few treasures tucked in amongst the Senor Frog’s and Pei Wei’s.

Inside Leonard's. Where are the Malasadas?

Leonard’s Bakery– Honolulu

First of all, you have to understand that Malasadas are these amazing fluffy doughnut-like rolls rolled in a variety of sugars and handed over to customers fresh. They are a Portuguese traditional food made on Shrove Tuesday. Malasadas are not small (A. was deceptive in her description of them) and they are not in the case. I’m telling you this so you don’t have to stand in line like me wondering where they are and what the heck they look like.

Malasada- breakfast of champions

Malasadas are really, really good. Different from a doughnut, something you won’t eat every day, and warm! Leonard’s is another place that looks like Guy Fieri is going to pull up outside any minute and start shooting and talking a blue streak. Make sure to get one with Haupia sugar, it’s tart!

Last dessert

Ottocake– Chinatown

If you love cheesecake, I have found your heaven. With 86 flavors available for order and at least 15 in the case at all times, Ottocake is fun and always different. The cheesecake is made by hand with real ingredients daily. As someone who had a cheesecake for her wedding cake, I can say I was impressed and want to go back again.

Inside Ottocake

Since A. is not fond of cheesecake, we ordered one slice of key lime flavored cheesecake. It was heavenly- not too heavy, tart, and rich. The only thing better than it was the homemade lemon ice box pie I tried while in Louisiana last week (will be making this soon). It was fun to sit and watch the baker mixing up a cake, although he didn’t really want to be bothered with questions. We sat and enjoyed our dessert and talked over all the fun we had during my visit. It was a sweet ending to a SWEET trip!

Key Lime Cheesecake


1 Comment

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One response to “Hidden Treats in Honolulu

  1. Ashley

    Ahhh good times and good food!

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