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Critic’s Picks: Jason Genegabus
MORIO’S SUSHI BISTRO
Single-monikered sushi master Morio made the move from a hole in the wall in Waikiki to a hole in the wall on South King Street, and customers couldn’t be happier. The new Makiki digs are still one of Honolulu’s tougher reservations to get (affordably priced sushi tends to have that effect); be sure to call a few weeks ahead, and don’t forget to BYOB when the time comes. Once you’ve settled in, get ready to enjoy some of the freshest fish in town, lovingly cut and assembled by Morio himself. Soft-shell crab tempura and seared moi were favorites on a recent visit, but the best way to order here is omakase style. Sit back, crack open that bottle of sake and let Morio do all the work. You won’t be disappointed.
1160 S. King St.; 596-2288; www.morios.com. Dinner (closed Sundays). $$
Pa’ina Cafe’s Ward Warehouse location is my go-to pick when I need a quick meal that’s healthier than typical fastfood or plate-lunch fare. More than a dozen sandwiches and a variety of salads are on the menu, but I stick to poke bowls served with white or brown rice and piled high with your choice of at least a half-dozen types of poke. I’m a big fan of the Hawaiian Poke Bowl, served with kalua pig and lomilomi salmon in addition to a choice of fish. You can even add toppings like kim chee, taegu, takuan or pickled onions for 50 cents each.
1200 Ala Moana Blvd.; 356-2829; www.painacafe.com. Lunch, dinner. $
JAWAIIAN IRIE JERK
You may recognize chef Cassie Simmonds from his food truck that used to park kitty-corner from the Hawai’i Convention Center on Kapiolani Boulevard. Now he’s in Kaimuki running a traditional restaurant space downstairs from Himalayan Kitchen off Waialae Avenue, but he’s still serving up Jamaican classics that recently scored him an appearance alongside Guy Fieri on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Any dish with “jerk” in it is worth ordering -from shrimp to chicken, pork or beef, you can’t go wrong with this style of seasoning. And while I’m no vegetarian, the Jamaican Ital Stew and Nutty Rice are tasty either as a side dish or entree. Jamaican Curry Goat, Oxtail Stew and Ackee with Salt Fish are best left for more adventurous diners. Don’t forget to order dessert -you’ll be glad you did once a slice of Key Lime Pie or Jamaican Coconut Rum Cream Pie shows up.
1137 11th Ave.; 388-2917; www.jawaiianiriejerk.com. Lunch, dinner. $$
REAL A GASTROPUB
Chef Troy Terorotua knows all about beer and loves to cook, so REAL a Gastropub at the Ward Farmers Market is a fantastic opportunity for him to showcase his passion for quality food and drink. Portions here are manageable enough to order multiple items without getting full; the tapas-style plates also keep prices reasonable, with nearly everything $10 or less. Start off with Deviled Eggs, Garlic Candied Bacon, Pipikaula Poke or Duck Fat Fries, then proceed to even more tempting items like Duck Confit Corn Dogs, Shortrib Poutine, Braised Pork Belly or a Stuffed Kulana Burger. Be sure to save some room for a Guinness Float (made with beer!), Bacon Cheesecake or an Irish Car Bomb (house-made brownie, Guinness gelato, Jameson’s caramel and Bailey’s anglaise). A huge selection of craft beers are the perfect complement to the food -or just drink your dinner!
1020 Auahi St.; 596-2526; www.realgastropub.net. Pau hana, dinner. $
–Jason Genegabus, Entertainment editor/online for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser