We're getting pretty good at choosing takeout. We know what we really like and what holds up well in takeout containers from restaurant to home. Here's the best of what we got in May.
When it comes to the dine-in experience, I can easily say I’ve missed sushi the most. Sushi isn’t something I can expertly prepare at home, and there’s an intangible plus to indulging in ultra-fresh nigiri at a sushi bar. For months pre-COVID, omakase at 22 Kailua was on my bucket list, but I was never able to snag a reservation. Then the stay-at-home order made the Kailua hidden gem pivot to takeout with $22 sushi and omakase bentos.
This was worth driving over the Pali for. I could finally get a taste of luxe omakase at a reasonable price. And true to the omakase style, the variety featured in the sushi and omakase bentos changes daily. My sushi bento had salmon, ika, hotate (scallop), unagi, inari, California sushi and more, along with the restaurant’s oyster shoyu. Not only was the seafood luxuriant and fresh, the fish-to-rice ratio was spot-on. That bento has been on my mind ever since, and 22 Kailua will be the first restaurant I visit when dine-in is permitted after June 5. I already have reservations.
Note: Bentos need to be pre-ordered at least 24 hours in advance by direct-messaging @22kailua on Instagram. — Kelli Shiroma
Akira Japanese Restaurant
Cheap, convenient, and delicious. Pretty much how I would describe Akira Japanese Restaurant. I'm fortunate that I live a few minutes away, so I often take advantage of their pandemic to-go menu. I don't remember if prices were like this before the pandemic, but the quality-to-cost ratio is amazing. Especially for my go-to order, the Miso Butter Fish Bento Box for $12. Not only do you get creamy butterfish drenched in flavorful miso, it also comes with two juicy pieces of karaage chicken. Add a hefty portion of rice, tamagoyaki omelet roll with a hint of sweetness, and pickled veggies to round out the bento. I've ordered this multiple times during the week, which speaks to how much I love it. I'd even be willing to pay a few dollars more for it, just don't tell them that! — Eric Baranda
1150 S King St. • Makiki • 486-0005 • Daily 11:30a.m.-7:30 p.m • Limited street parking
Pig & The Lady
Sure, I’d like to see my co-workers. But what I’ve really missed while working from home is lunch and pau hana in Downtown Honolulu. So, when my husband said he wanted to try pho for his birthday, it was an easy call to The Pig & The Lady. We ordered a few dishes since we were making the trek out of suburbia but I would have made the drive just for the Pho French Dip Banh Mi. I love this messy signature sandwich so much that I’ve happily dipped it and dripped it all over my office desk. I asked the bread be separate so it wouldn’t get soggy, so the toasted baguette came wrapped in foil. Slather it with Thai basil chimichurri, stuff the bread with sautéed bean sprouts and onions, melt-in-your-mouth brisket and cilantro, then dunk away in the restaurant’s soul-satisfying pho broth. Don’t forget a side of noodles topped with chiles and fresh herbs. We battled over the last tender scraps of brisket before tearing into Pho 75, Vietnamese papaya salad and vegetarian curry, regretting that we did not add the crispy LFC chicken. When you order, make sure to throw in a bottle of Pok Pok Thai Chili Water, a more complex and craveable version of chile pepper water. — Christi Young
83. N. King St. • Chinatown • 585-8255 • thepigandthelady.com • Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-8 p.m., closed weekends • Curbside or in-store pickup
See also: Pig and the Lady opens in Tokyo
I had terrible paella in Madrid, not knowing the rice dish is a specialty of southern Spain, but months ago found redemption at Rigo. While the paella's never had the crispy-crunchy rice crust I love, the balance of subtle seasonings is good, especially with a nice light red. So when my sister asked what I wanted for my birthday takeout, Rigo it was.
My special instructions said "extra crispy" because I'm delusional about what happens to crispy rice that sits in a takeout container. But the extra intensity of flavor this produced, and the al dente texture of the rice in this Chicken, Nduja & Mixed Beans Paella ($21.50, 15% discount if you pick up), made this takeout even better than the paella I've had sitting at Rigo's bar. I ate it together with chilled caponata (like an Italian version of ratatouille), clams steamed in buttery broth and a kale-and-papaya salad, making inappropriate noises the whole time. And Rigo even threw in a complimentary dessert. — Mari Taketa
885 Kapahulu Ave. • Kapahulu • 735-9760 • Daily 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. • Pickup in-store, parking in small lot next to restaurant
Roast Duck Kitchen
I've always seen lines at Roast Duck Kitchen and wondered what the big deal was. Now I know. Ironically for a place called Roast Duck Kitchen, I love their roast pork. It goes for $14.50 a pound. I get a half-pound, which is still plenty of porky goodness for me. A half-pound of pork with crispy skin that gives a satisfying crunch when I bite in. Followed by juicy fat that tantalizes my taste buds and leaves me craving more. Finishing with tender, salty, meaty pork. There's no sauce and rightfully so. There's enough flavor and salt that sauce isn't needed. And a warning about the saltiness, because it's definitely there. If you're watching your salt intake or don't like salty food, I'd still recommend getting the Roast Pork, just don't eat it all at once. Save the rest for leftovers. It's what I do. — Eric Baranda
Aiea Shopping Center • Aiea • 376-0928 • Daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m • Shopping center parking
See also: My Top 5: Roast pork
Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
I celebrated my 30th trip around the sun this month, which means I enjoyed many tasty plates of takeout, but one stands above the rest: the menchi katsu bento from Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin. Menchi katsu or mince katsu are little pork patties crusted in panko bread crumbs and fried like their tonkatsu cousins. These tender, porky morsels play off the panko crust so well, I take my time to savor each sliver. What makes it even better is that Bairin has a multitude of discounts and extra goodies that sweeten the pot. First, locals get an automatic 20% discount. If you're buying two or three meals, the second and third meals are 50% off. Lastly, you can upgrade your normal rice portion to large and recieve extra portions of shredded cabbage for free. If you play your cards right, you could feed yourself and two others for the price of one of their premium tonktatsu sets if you dined in. —Thomas Obungen
255 Beach Walk • Waikiki • 926-8082 •11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. • Curbside payment and pick-up or free parking at Bank of Hawaii
Everyone has been talking about how great Tonktatsu Tamafuji is, and sure enough, it didn't disappoint. I love that you can order ahead and eat your katsu when you actually want to, instead of waiting one or two hours for a seat. The panko stays crunchy even after the drive home, and even AFTER you have taken the time to shoot photos of your bento. I first tried the classic tonkatsu bento; readers recommended the chicken cheese bento (above, $21) and it was fabulous. I can only eat half a bento before getting full, but these make great katsu don leftovers the next day. — Melissa Chang
449 Kapahulu Ave. • Kapahulu • 922-1212 • Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 4-9:30 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m. • Pick up in-store, free validated parking in building
See also: Something crispy: Tonkatsu Tamafuji
Valerio's Tropical Bakeshop
I saw this stuffed ube pandesal up on my Instagram feed earlier this year. Unfortunately, I was in college on the mainland at the time, but I knew that when I came back home, I had to get my hands on these. The tiny bakery in Seafood City bakes these fresh every day. My mom picked some up on a grocery run, and when she got home, the baked goods were still warm. Opening the box revealed gorgeous, golden-crusted, soft pandesals — that's when I knew these were going to be good. Warm, purple bread encases a heaping portion of sweet cream cheese. Fair warning, this snack not for the faint of heart: The cheese makes it very rich and creamy. Paired with the subtle ube flavor of the pandesal, this was the ultimate indulgence. After eating one, I was already full. — Amanda Valiente
Seafood City, Waipahu Town Center • Waipahu • 676-5777 • Daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m. • Cash or credit card, pick up in-store • https://valeriostropicalbakeshop.com/
See also: Ultimate ube roundup
Zippy's Napoleon's Bakery
Since so hard for source baking in-gre-da-ments during these pandemic times, we decided for try these ready-for-bake Apple Napples. Just gotta stick 'em in da oven, bake 'em and trow da glaze on top. Da directions and everyting you need all stay inside. I like Napples. And these fresh ones tasted even mo' bettah! Da amazing part wuz that our childrens, who nevah even like sample one Napple before, they wuz willing for chance this one cuz they "made" it themselves. Lol. And they loved it! Too bad this DIY trick no always work with vegetable kine stuffs. — Lee A. Tonouchi
See also: Da Zippy's fried chicken hack