Salt roasted fried rice with foie gras at Restaurant XO, the best thing Grace Ryu ate this year. 

Photo By Grace Ryu

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 eats a LOT across Hawaii. As 2019 concludes, here's a look at the dishes that stayed on our brains and kept us coming back for more. 

Adobo turkey tails at Lineage

Salty, tangy, and just a little sticky, it stretched my thoughts of what adobo could be

Sheldon Simeon's Lineage is worth a drive out to Wailea. The adobo turkey tails are not to be missed. Salty, tangy, and just a little sticky, it stretched my thoughts of what adobo could be. The local mushrooms and tomatoes also fit in perfectly. Get this with a side of the chicharron and the housemade chili peppah watah. — Jason Chin

3750 Wailea Alanui Dr. • Wailea • 879-8800 • https://www.lineagemaui.com/

Ahi brioche at Senia

Ahi brioche with avocado and torched ahi

The first time I had Senia's ahi brioche was at an event. I was so enthralled that I took four more brioches after my initial piece — it's that addictive. This appetizer is on Senia's dinner menu, but only a limited amount is made daily. The brioche is cooked in butter then topped with avocado crushed with shallot and lime juice. The piece is crowned with a generous slab of tuna that's torched and brushed with a tare sauce. The ahi is fresh but that brioche steals the show. Its spongy, soft interior is a stark contrast to the slightly crispy, crunchy outside. Every bite makes me wish this brioche were available by the loaf. — Kelli Shiroma 

75 N. King St. • Downtown • 200-5412 • http://restaurantsenia.com/

Churro french toast at Piggy Smalls

Churro french toast from Piggy Smalls' brunch menu

Churros are one of my many guilty pleasures. The combination of cinnamon sugar with warm, crispy dough is so comforting for me and reminds me of my dad's penchant appetite for sweets. French toast is one of my mom's favorite breakfast sweets. When I saw that Piggy Smalls had somehow turned a churro into french toast, I had to have it immediately. A hunk of sweet bread is soaked in Kona coffee custard and fried to achieve that churro-crisp crust and warm doughy center. It then gets a dusting in cinnamon brown sugar before being smothered in white chocolate yogurt cremeaux and toasted cacao nibs. This is a brunch item I'm going back for again and again as long as it's on the menu. — Thomas Obungen

1200 Ala Moana Blvd. • Kakaako • 777-3589 • https://thepigandthelady.com/piggysmalls

See also: Frolic team picks: Best new restaurants of 2018

Double cheeseburger at Butcher & Bird

Dry-aged double cheeseburger comes with a disposable wet napkin. You'll need it

Juicy, funky, beefy, head-spinning. There are many words that are used to describe the dry-aged double cheeseburger from Butcher & Bird.  As the best dish I ate all year, the only words that matter is let's go! — Gregg Hoshida

324 Coral St. • Kakaako • 762-8095 • https://www.butcherandbirdhi.com/

Foie gras with salt roasted crispy rice and foie gravy at Restaurant XO

Foie gras over salt-roasted crispy rice with Chinese foie gravy 

Restaurant XO’s foie gras over salt roasted crispy rice with Chinese foie gravy was the best thing I ate all year. Multiple times. Once, twice in a day. It checks off every thing I enjoy eating - fat, salt, acid, sugar, and with a variety of textures. This dish is comprised of a seared slab of unctuous foie gras - so buttery and decadent, atop crispy crunchy salt roasted rice, encircled by a delightful sweet yet tart foie gravy, and refreshingly sharp thin-sliced scallions. A symphony of flavors and textures resound in this harmoniously conceived dish. Each element could easily be crave-worthy on its own, but together, they are especially so. Lick-your-plate good! — Grace Ryu

3434 Waialae Ave. • Kaimuki • 732-3838 

Mac salad chicken sandwich with chili at Zippy's

DIY Zippy's mac salad chicken sandwich 

So I wrote about how you can make your own Zippy's mac salad chicken sandwich. In my piece, I wondered if it would taste even mo' bettah if we added Zippy's Chili to da sandwich. IT DOES! Basically it's Zippy's Chili Chicken Mix Plate in between two buns instead of rice. #nomonomoono — Lee Tonouchi

Various Zippy's locations

Modern rigatoni at La Cucina Ristorante Italiano

Modern rigatoni

Most of my favorite foods in Hawaii are Asian. But to be honest, the most delicious food I've eaten in Hawaii for 2019 is Italian! I've actually been to Italy when I was a kid. That was more than 30 years ago and I didn't appreciate food back then as much as I do now. If the kid back then ate Italian food like this though, I don't doubt he would've thought it was delicious. The Rigatoni Modern from La Cucina on Kapiolani Blvd is exactly that, delicious. How does the menu describe it? "Home made Italian sausage sauteed with white wine, pecorino romano and porcini mushrooms." The irony of this simple description is how complex and flavorful the the dish is. The rigatoni pasta has a gentle, but firm texture. Which helps to house the medley of lively tastes. Well seasoned sausage, dripping with decadent juices. Glistening hints of fragrant white wine. The hardiness of the pecorino romano cheese, bringing it all together. — Eric Baranda

725 Kapiolani Blvd. • Kakaako • 593-2626 • http://www.lacucinahawaii.com/

Pain perdu at Pai Honolulu

PAI Honolulu's pain perdu French toast with bacon

It was extremely difficult to choose one thing that I liked best this year, but I can tell you that every finalist on my list was full of carbs! I think my favorite of these was Pai Honolulu's pain perdu French toast with bacon; everything is homemade, from the bread to the shoyu-maple syrup and yes, even the bacon. Sweet, salty, and rich, with enough contrasts in texture to make it interesting. My other finalists included Fabrice Benezit's croissants at the Grand Wailea, the idol sandwich from Ono2Guys, Yukon gold gnocchi from Mauka Makai in the Westin Nanea, and Mimi Mendoza's caneles at Senia. All carbs, baby. #SorryNotSorry  — Melissa Chang

55 Merchant St. • Downtown • 744-2531 • https://www.paihonolulu.com

Uni bibimbap at O'Kims Korean Kitchen

uni bibimbap
— Photo by Thomas Obungen

A bibimbap without kochujang but with plenty of uni, bubu arare and cubes of daikon kim chee for crunch and an umami factor that's out of this world. Or was, actually. Sadly, this was a monthly special at O'Kims, and so good we started making reservations every month afterward to check out the new dishes. Hot rice mixed with sesame oil and laced with creamy richness and pops of sea salt and arare became the go-to dish of not one, but two evenings that month. Crossing fingers it reappears soon. — Mari Taketa

1028 Nuuanu Ave. • Chinatown • 537-3787 • okimshawaii.com