A spread at Lineage, Sheldon Simeon's new restaurant in Wailea, Maui

Photo By Thomas Obungen

The best things we ate in Hawaii this year

Collectively, the Frolic team ate A LOT this year. Here are our absolute faves
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Collectively, the Frolic team has eaten well over 1,000 dishes this past year at places across Hawaii. As 2018 draws to a close, here's a look at the ones we're still drooling over.

Shrimp tempura at Kawamoto Store

That shrimp tempura from Kawamoto Store in Hilo, holy crap. I saw my neighbors, Dawn and Derek Paiva, post it on their instagram, and a few days later when I was in Hilo, I had to try it. I had never even heard about the tempura, but I randomly ordered it, and after heading out to a park to eat our bentos, I was immediately filled with regret for not buying more. The tempura is crunchy all the way through, not doughy, and just has an addicting flavor. I don't know what they do to their tempura or why other okazuyas can't make theirs this good. — Melissa Chang

784 Kilauea Ave. • Hilo, Hawaii • 808-935-8209 • facebook.com/kawamotostorehilo/

 

Applewood-smoked local egg potato salad with crispy potato sticks at Zigu

Living in Hawaii, we eat lot of potato salad, but never has there been one that I dream of at night. ZIGU’s potato salad is full of smoky flavor, with the right crisp and softness in every bite. The egg is sourced from a farm in Waimanalo. — Toby Tamaye

413 Seaside Ave. • Waikiki • 212-9252 • zigu.us

 

Biscuit with mapo gravy at Mud Hen Water

I love nearly all of Ed Kenney’s brunch dishes, but this one and I have a love connection. Soulful, thoughtful, satisfying, this had me licking my plate and thinking about it after. The buttery, flaky biscuit covered with comforting, flavorful mapo tofu, and the crunchy shallots atop a creamy yolk yaas! Nice marriage of flavors and a fine representation of modern Hawaii regional cuisine. — Grace Ryu

3452 Waialae Ave. • Kaimuki • 737-6000 • mudhenwater.com

 

Salmon sashimi with ponzu jelly at Odori-ko

What sets this dish apart from typical salmon sashimi are the ponzu jelly cubes. Unassuming at first, these little guys pack a burst of flavor. A jelly-like texture hiding a zesty ponzu tartness that explodes in your mouth. Couple that with fresh salmon sashimi and it's a dish that won't be forgotten. Best to buy during happy hours for $8. — Eric Baranda

1680 Kapiolani Blvd. • Ala Moana • 955-6555 • odori-ko.com

 

Dan dan noodle at Joy Cup Noodles Mean

I’ve had this dish at various places, but Joy Cup Noodles Mean really raises the bar with all the small details that often get overlooked. Great layers of flavor, all the little accoutrements, a great noodle and variable spice levels. This had us all saying wow! with the first bite. — Jason Chin

1608 Kalakaua Ave. • Pawaa • 725-2898 • facebook.com/JoyCupNoodlesMean/

 

Mary’s duck confit 2 ways at The Pig & The Lady

I love eating duck more than any other fowl, and this dish from The Pig & The Lady ticks all the boxes for me. Whether it’s the sweet glazed duck leg vying for attention with the nuoc cham a l'orange sauce, or the fried pieces of duck dancing with the chilled jellyfish salad, you would be quackers not to try it at least once. — Gregg Hoshida

83 N. King St. • Chinatown • 585-8255 • thepigandthelady.com

 

Pastries at La Provence

Moving to Maui midyear meant an opportunity to explore a new pastry scene. Many would point to Home Maid’s manju or butter rolls from Three Sisters as the best pastries on the island, however I was absolutely blown away by the offerings from La Provence in Upcountry Kula. Fresh-baked classic French pastries start to hit the service window at 7:30 a.m. sharp. The croissants alone are well worth the trip up the mountain, and they sell out fast. My favorite pastry is the apricot tart. Plump apricots baked in flaky pastry transported me to a cafe in France and evoked memories of my pastry apprenticeship with a European Master Chef. — Ed Morita

3158 Lower Kula Rd. • Kula, Maui • 808-878-1313 • laprovencemaui.com

 

Hoppin Juan's at Lineage

The best local thing I ate this year was the Hoppin Juan's at Lineage. The entire meal, an interactive storybook of Sheldon Simeon's life, was easily one of my top highlights of 2018, but this hybrid of his Filipino roots and his time in South Carolina competing on "Top Chef" had me swooning. The garlic rice topped with black-eyed peas, oxtail and marungay was a big ol' bowl of comfort and reminded me of grandma's cooking. Adding a dab of the housemade hot sauce made with chili pepper and fermented sea lettuce sent me into pure nirvana. — Thomas Obungen

3750 Wailea Alanui Dr. • Wailea, Maui • 808-879-8800 • lineagemaui.com

 

Axis deer and charred pineapple at Kiawe Outdoor

There is something magical about food — how it connects people and brings us together. I was blown away this year by Kiawe Outdoor, a new open-fire cooking company on Maui. At their event, they cooked up local axis deer and charred pineapple, served with fresh ahi poke from tuna caught the day before, paiai and ulu chips, and local salads prettied up with edible flowers. It was simple, rustic and primal — and the best thing I ate this year. — Rebecca Pang

Pop-ups around Maui • kiaweoutdoor.com

 

Kapoho moco at Cafe Kalawe

The Kapoho Moco is my fave of the four loco mocos on Café Kalawe’s breakfast menu because of its housemade corned beef hash patties. You won’t find any of the slimy canned stuff here. This is what corned beef hash should be — fresh, juicy shredded beef doused with thick housemade gravy. Also, get the fried rice upgrade. It’s worth the slight fee for the mound of fried rice with Spam, ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, green and white onions and Portuguese sausage. A full-on kanak attack will follow. — Kelli Shiroma

46-005 Kawa St. • Kaneohe • 247-9527 • facebook.com/cafekalawe/

 

Paris ahi poke at Paris.Hawaii

This upscale poke is one of eight courses on Paris.Hawaii’s $85 prix fixe menu. – Photo courtesy paris-hawaii.us.

Simple and stay-on-the-brain good: Pristine ahi poke is layered between a golden sea of yolky poached egg and a tartare of lightly smoked Big Island beef dusted with kukui nut powder, the elements tied together with fruity olive oil and sea salt. The dish feels elemental and luxuriant; I would bathe in it. It's one of eight courses on Paris Hawaii's $85 prix fixe menu. — Mari Taketa

413 Seaside Ave. • Waikiki • 212-9282 • paris-hawaii.us

 

Shiro's local boy beef stew with meat inside at Shiro's Saimin Haven

Get lotta new foods that I might be infatuated with, but I equate "da bes" with true love. Das why for me, my da bestest gotta be one comfort food. Shiro's Local Boy Beef Stew with Meat Inside! I love da playfulness of da name as it implies that oddah restaurants' stews no mo nuff beef in theirs. Lol. Everything in da Local Boy stay cut and cooked to perfection. No chewy meat in this bad boy. My special tip. If you dining in, go order da side order Stew Bowl with Rice and one side order of da Potato-Macaroni salad. You get more stew and more rice when you order 'em li'dat. #nomonomoono — Lee Tonouchi

98-020 Kamehameha Hwy. • Aiea • 488-4834 • shiros-saimin.com