Against the odds, a slew of new restaurants opened across Hawaii throughout this strangest of years. The Frolic team's picks are slimmer than in years past, reflecting some team members' desire for familiar comfort dishes from familiar comforting eateries. Still, our picks for best new restaurant took in everything from saimin to haute cuisine.
Interestingly, most came from an area of Honolulu not known for new dining spots lately: Kaimuki and Kahala. This extends to restaurants named as close contenders: Foodland's new Et Al restaurant in Kahala and Coco Bloom Kitchen in Kaimuki were on the runner-up list, along with SingMaTei and King of Thai Boat Noodles, both in the Ala Moana area.
Here are our picks for best new restaurant of 2020.
12th Ave Grill DeliCafe
On Maui, my favorite new restaurant of 2020 is Havens. This no frills, takeout-only counter inside a gas station in Kihei serves up old-school comfort food like saimin, wonton min, beef chow fun and smash burgers — all made fresh to order by Maui-born chef Zach Sato, who gained popularity this summer selling meal kits on Instagram after previous stints at Hotel Wailea and Merriman's. There’s not a ton of local food options in Kihei, so Havens is a welcome addition, especially with Sato in the kitchen. After a challenging year, eating from Havens just feels good, like a warm and needed hug. — Rebecca Pang
30 Manao Kala St., Ste. 102 (inside Shell Gas Station) • Kihei, Maui • (808) 868-2600 • @havens_kihei
Mandarin Kitchen: It's all about the honey-glazed pork ribs. The only drawback is that you have to order them two days in advance, and there's a two-pound minimum, but the planning and anticipation pay off in the form of glossy, juicy slabs that are like American ribs in structure — thick and meaty, more entrée than snack — but distinctly Chinese in flavor. The beef chow fun is also good. Perhaps not as exciting, but a solid staple. — Martha Cheng
4618 Kīlauea Ave. • 739-1388 • mandarinkitchenhi.com
Sarithra South Indian Restaurant
The fragrant, softly fermented idli buns got me first, then the onion pakoda fritters. Dishes at Sarithra were unlike any I'd tasted in my limited exposure to Indian food. Breads and bread-like starters include eight kinds of dosa flatbreads, thicker dosas known as uthappam, layered parottas, grilled chappathi flatbreads, puffy poori deep-fried breads, and the rice-and-lentil steamed idli buns. While there are curries and biryanis, Sarithra's specialty is the food of South India. Sometimes you wait a while for your order but for me the discovery of new flavors among familiar staples, with hints of fresh ginger, unspiced coconut and the gentle tang of fermentation, is worth it. — Mari Taketa
1718 Kapiolani Blvd. • Ala Moana • 226-9672 • sarithrasouthindianrestaurant.com