by VICTORIA HENLEY
Known for snowy white beaches, dazzling blue waters, and draw dropping picturesque views, Hawaii is a “Must Visit” destination, topping the bucket lists of travel enthusiasts around the world.
In fact, a record-breaking 10.4 million visitors flocked to the breathtaking island to explore the vast landmarks and famous attractions like Diamond Head Crater, Pearl Harbor, The Aloha Tower, Manoa Falls and the myriad of popular beaches including Kuhio, Kapiolani and Alamoana.
My team (comprised of photographer, Lynn, and joined by my thrill seeking grandmother, Ramona) made the arduous flight to the spectacular city of Waikiki to not only take part in the area’s premier fashion event, Paradise Island Fashion Week, but also to highlight the vast array of top notch restaurants, attractions, and activities the vicinity has to offer, ranging from household names to hidden gems.
The tourism statistics dropped considerably due to the global pandemic of 2020; however, regardless of what the mainstream media may suggest, Hawaii has dismissed all mask mandates/ testing requirements for entry and is wide open for business.
The Backstage Pass crew scouted the region for the “Best of the Best” destinations you absolutely must add to your bucket list on your next tropical Hawaiian vacation.
ZETTON GROUP RESTAURANTS :
A powerhouse company rooted in Japan (with over 70 locations in the aforementioned country), Zetton has taken the bustling city of Waikiki by storm with a stellar line up of genre-bending restaurants, sure to excite and delight any foodie.
Under the expert guidance and leadership of CEO Daisuke Kikuchi, COO Makoto “Mild” Hasegawa and Executive Corporate Chef Keigo Yoshimoto, the Zetton group owns and operates the wildly popular and successful Aloha Table, Goofy Cafe and Dine, Heavenly Island Lifestyle and Zigu (as well as an upcoming release of a brand new restaurant, which will be launched on what many locals are now lovingly referring to as “Zetton Street”).
You can follow “Mild” on Instagram @makoto_hasegawa_mild for all the latest updates regarding all Zetton’s Waikiki/Honolulu locations.
The Backstage Pass Team experienced every Zetton Restaurant on the Island and undertook the insurmountable challenge of finding just a few items on the eateries’ extensive menus to highlight.
Zetton Group offers a restaurant in Hawaii for every single mood, craving, and occasion, and you can learn all about each establishment below to strategize just the right dining plans to fit your upcoming vacation.
Featuring a relaxed , yet festive island-casual atmosphere, Aloha Table Waikiki offers lunch, dinner and late-night dining opportunities in the tropically chic indoor dining area or the Lanai for an al fresco experience to feel the warm beach breeze.
Trademark to the mission statement of all Zetton group restaurants, the Aloha Table uses predominantly local ingredients , grown and harvested by nearby farmers, as well as fun and unexpected twists on famous traditional Hawaiian dishes.
Offering beachy Hawaiian classic cocktails sure to kickstart your vacation on the right note, Aloha Table’s beverage specialty is sweet classics that everyone in your group will savor.
WHOLE PINEAPPLE PINA COLADA
Served up in a freshly cut pineapple “Cup” this frothy, creamy, sweet concoction is equally photogenic and delicious.
ALOHA MAI TAI
The quintessential “Hawaiian Beverage,” this beautifully presented blend of rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice and orgeat (a nuanced almond syrup) is sure to please the palette.
TASTE OF ALOHA SAMPLER (Hawaiian Pupus)
A savory and scrumptious serving of Ahi Poke, Tofu Poke, Garlic Shrimp, amp Hilo Chicken, Tomato and Onion.
ISLAND COBB SALAD
A hearty take on the healthy classic, topped with garlic, bacon, poached egg and made to order hot dressing. We substituted bleu cheese dressing, served up on the side.
VEGAN LOCO MOCO
A meat-free take on the staple of contemporary Hawaiian cuisine, featuring a Beyond Meat patty, just egg, pickled cauliflower, red cabbage coleslaw, tofu and sea asparagus, hemp seed, plant-based gravy sauce and rice.
TROPICAL MANGO PUDDING
Light, creamy, and bursting with flavor, this fruity sweet treat is just like biting into a fresh mango.
Special thanks to the wonderful Makoto Hasegawa for taking time to enjoy our meal with us and educating our group on the intriguing history of Zetton Restaurants. Thank you also to the entire Aloha Table Team, including Chef Jun, and our server Shota for taking exemplary care of us during our visit.
PHONE: (808) 922-2221
Nestled above ZIGU in the heart of Waikiki, natuRe offers an effortless, natural elegance, an aesthetically pleasing ambiance and an artfully curated menu sure to impress even the most discerning of self-proclaimed “foodies.”
Operating under the steadfast leadership of Ian Yang (manager) and Yoshiaki Kuno, (district manager for both the natuRe and Zigu locations), natuRe is proud to feature a sustainable, eco-friendly operation and a female-led chef and dessert team, a rarity in today’s upscale restaurant climate.
natuRe is French for “Nature,” the core value of the restaurant’s concept, which places high value on using only the finest quality locally-sourced foods from local farmers, and goes far beyond the standard “call of duty” for a sustainably operating restaurant (all food waste is sent to “eco feed” for enjoyment by the area’s farm raised pigs and all of the candles adorning the tables are made with leftover kitchen oil).
Visionary Executive Chef, Nae Ogawa, remains committed to offering a dynamic and innovative selection you won’t find anywhere else, and Waikiki “regulars” (a substantial portion of natuRe’s clientele) delight in the fact that the menu is reimagined every two months, ensuring each dining experience is fresh and exciting.
(NOTE: natuRe is also one of the most vegan friendly restaurants on the island, serving up a staggering selection of meat and dairy free options, which are all specified on the menu. Elegant private rooms for special functions are also available, upon request.)
SIGNATURE CRAFT COCKTAILS:
3 RUM MAI TAI
Ko Hana Kea, Don Q Christal Rum, Smith and Cross Rum, Orgeat, Cointreau and lime
Gin, Big Island Honey, Lilikoi Concentrate, calamansi and hibiscus
Koloa Rum, Allspice Rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and lime juice
A LA CARTE MENU (be sure to also ask about NatuRe’s signature “Tasting Menu”)
Fresh Oysters (3P)
Hawaiian Ocean Gelee and Sea Asparagus
Roasted Beets Poke
Glazed Sunchoke Chips Sunchoke Purée
Crispy Zucchini Beignet
Pomelo Tapenade, Green Onion Aioli, Moringa
HOUSE MADE FRESH PASTA
Kauai Shrimp and Macadamia Nut Pesto Linguine
Sweet land Farms Tomme Cheese; Vegan Options of this dish are also available.
Portobello Mushroom Laylah Pithivier(Taco Mash and Truffle Sauce)
Tarte Au Citron
Meyer Lemon Cream, Lime Meringue, Cointreau Oranges, and Basil Ice Cream.
Local Sweet Potato Mont Blanc
Cashew Ice Cream, Mac Nut Crumble, Coconut Rum Gelee.
Sorbet of the Day
Lilikoi Coulis, Macadamia Nut Crumble, Season Fruits.
Special thanks to Ian, Chef Nae, and entire NatuRe team for a wonderful, personally tailored dinner.)
PHONE: (808) 212-9282
Adhering to Zetton’s mission statement to offer only the freshest and most optimal quality locally sourced ingredients, Zigu is Waikiki’s premier Japanese dining establishment, offering authentic farm-to-table Japanese cooking and an exciting line up of Sake selections.
Offering seating in both the cozy, beautifully decorated interior and spacious outdoor courtyard, patrons can expect not only to find traditional Japanese classics, but also dynamic fusion cuisine, and several genre-defying influences, offering up a gourmet dining experience you will not forget.
The building that houses both Zigu (lower level) and NatuRe (upper level) has stood for nearly a century, cementing its status as both a Waikiki landmark and an inseparable component of the city’s landscape.
Zigu proudly partners with local farms including Mari’s Garden, Sumida Farm, and Ok Poultry to offer only the healthiest, finest quality ingredients, void of preservatives and harmful toxins.
Featuring Maui Gold Pineapple /watermelon. Lime, mint, and sake.
A smooth, sweet, deliciously fruity frozen concoction, comparable to a pina colada.
Yamadanishiki) unpasteurized, undiluted , unfiltered. Locally brewed by a female-led distillery.
Assorted tempura Soba Noodle
Available chilled or hot; We ordered ours hot.
Hot Broth Soba Noodle
With seaweed, green onion, fish cake.
Local Farm Sweet Potato Salad:
With Fried fish cake, bacon, smoked egg, smoked radish pickle.
Grilled Sweetened Miso salmon
Served with grilled Shinto pepper and topped with macadamia nuts.
House made Haupia Anmitsu
With local Kimani, Zulu beans, matcha ice cream.
Special thanks to our server Masha and Manager Masoto Hibi for the superb hospitality.
PHONE: (808) 212-9252
GOOFY CAFE AND DINE
A breezy, laid back and calming atmosphere paired with hearty, stick-to-your-ribs local fare (at some of the most shockingly affordable prices you’ll find in the Honolulu/Waikiki area), Goofy Cafe and Dine is an instant Island classic and has reached great infamy with locals and tourists alike.
Named in honor of the “Goofy” waves in the “Bowls” area, a favorite spot for local surfers, Goofy Cafe and Dine’s surf-themed decor and “Al Fresco” vibes will put you in instant vacation mode, and the healthy and naturally sourced food, beverage and dessert selections are purposefully rooted in The Hawaiian mantra “Eat Local.”
One of the most popular breakfast and lunch spots on the island, regularly drawing large crowds that wrap around the sidewalk, Goofy Cafe and Dine also offers an impressive collection of dinner specials and hours that span from early morning to (relatively) late night, to accommodate your busy vacation schedule.
DRINKS (A full bar is open and available all day)
Bloody Mary (made with Gray Goose Vodka)
We selected the Clamato Juice option (made with fresh clam and tomato, garnished with a savory slice of thick-cut bacon)
At once strong and sweet, Goofy Cafe and Dine offers their very own rendition of this Hawaiian libation staple.
Local beer (From Maui Brewing Company)
Light, crisp and fresh with a distinct flavor.
MORNING POWER SALAD
Mixed green salad, clover sprout, mustard radish micro green, Pearl radish, cherry tomato, avocado, strawberry, chick bean, and romaine lettuce. Also featuring Brazilian nuts, a wheat muffin and topped off with a carrot and kale dressing. Guests have the choice of selecting a hemp or poppy seed to garnish their power salad. We chose hemp for a bold and flavorful crunch.)
Homemade herb pesto with Hawaiian Macadamia nuts and shrimp.
Featuring marinated local kale, mushroom bean sprouts, organic carrots, minced pork, Waimanalo TKG egg and brown rice, side spicy sauce served with a side of seaweed soup.
Hawaii’s Ice Cream Company. We selected both UBE (purple potato) and mango, served up in a crispy, sweet, waffle cone.
Ice cream selections are made available by Dave’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, which has been serving Hawaii’s families and visitors for over 30 years. The local company’s ice creams are made fresh daily on the Island of Oahu.
(A big “Mahalo” to Chef Koki for taking excellent care of us throughout our visit.)
PHONE: (808) 943-0077
HEAVENLY ISLAND LIFESTYLE:
Nestled only blocks away from the action-packed Royal Hawaiian Center and the dazzling shorelines of Waikiki, Heavenly Island Lifestyle is beachy, laid-back eatery, highlighting some of the freshest organic vegetables, local seafood, meats, and fruits that you’ll find on the Island.
Heavily utilizing ingredients blessed by the lush island lands and tropical weather, Heavenly Island Lifestyle’s immense popularity among visitors and locals alike, and the extensive 5-star reviews they have amassed on countless review platforms, attest to the restaurant’s ardent commitment to offering only the finest quality menus offerings and unbeatably dynamic flavors in each dish you try.
Whether you’re grabbing an açaí bowl or smoothie before a beach outing or enjoying some delicious cocktails for date night during Heavenly Island Lifestyle’s legendary happy hour, one thing is for certain: Heavenly has just the dish and beverage for every mood and occasion.
Heavenly Original Margarita Cocktail
Jalapina Margarita: spicy and guaranteed to excite your palette.
Acai berry mimosa
You can’t go wrong with this smooth, sweet, island classic which sparkles as bright as the waters of Waikiki
JUMP START YOUR DAY:
Super fruit morning Smoothie
Frothy, smooth, and bursting with fruity flavor, this healthy smoothie is a “must” to add to your breakfast order and even sustaining enough to enjoy all on its own.
Açaí Bowl (served with big island honey and organic granola)
Island Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos
White corn tortilla, island local Mahi Mahi fish, homemade guacamole, cheese mix, cabbage, Rex cabbage, arugula, red onion pickles, cilantro with lime and tomato salsa.
Hawaiian Pho Noodle
Hawaiian Style Pho noodle with prom and cal cilantro. Served cold, in a traditional manner; however, this dish can be warmed up upon request, as my team and I ordered this selection.
(We extend our gratitude to Heavenly Island Lifestyle’s General Manager, Akinari Ishibashi for an exceptional island dining experience.)
PHONE: (808) 923-1100
Victoria Henley writes Backstage Pass for iHeart Radio and CTFashionMag.com.