Local Flavor Edition in Honolulu, HI
A hidden hole-in-the-wall food jewel, Ohana is two restaurants in one: a sushi place and a Korean bbq. The price to presentation ratio merits major star points here: The restaurant looks like an old rundown diner, but the food comes out on fancy square plates with zigzags of sauce and garnishes in the corners. Try their Dynamic Maki, which is a roll-style sushi of hot shrimp tempura, cut to pieces and topped with spicy ahi (spicy ahi is a Hawaii favorite made from ahi sashimi pieces, spicy sauce, and mayo). From the Korean side of the restaurant, try the excellent soondooboo (soft tofu soup), made in a fiery black cauldron with beef, vegetables, and a raw egg that cooks in the bowl while you eat it.
Craving roast duck or char siu and don't want to deal with traffic and parking in Chinatown? Drive to Duck Lee in Market City and get yourself a whole duck, charsiu by the pound, or maybe just a duck plate lunch with rice and dipping sauce. It's a popular place, so the meat is fresh and they can cleave it any way you want it butchered. If you don't want duck or roast pork, choose from a few options they can scoop directly onto your plate such as sweet sour chicken, Chinese cabbage, or won ton, or wait while they make menu items to order.
For conveyer-belt sushi at its finest you need to try Kuru Kuru Sushi. An innocuously small restaurant for the volume of customers they serve, expect to wait in line for a seat at the conveyer belt. Once you sit down, getting full takes no time at all, since you don't have to wait for your food, you just grab it off the belt. Try a few different pieces of everything versus eating 8 or 10 pieces of the same maki roll at a regular sushi restaurant. What lifts Kuru Kuru a cut above other fast and cheap sushi joints is the quality of their seafood and huge slabs of fish served in their nigiri sushi. The sashimi literally droops off the rice and down to the plate at Kuru Kuru!
Donburiya Dondon's specialty is dishes served over rice, such as Japanese brown curry over rice, ahi poke over rice, and oyako don, (chicken and egg with onion and sauce over rice). Japanese teishoku (meal sets) also hit a fresh and delicious note, with classics such as tempura, teriyaki beef, and chicken. Don't tell your date, but all items are around $7 to $10 even with sit-down service. Regulars love the chewy udon noodles, which spank of freshness paired with piping hot consistency to boot. Not only is the food above the call of food court duty, but the location is smack inside the food court of Ala Moana Center, and the portions are huge! The sit-down full-service dining boasts the essence of classy with a rock garden and potted plant decor. Take advantage of the competitive Hawaii market for Japanese food at Donburiya Dondon.
A gem of a ramen counter in true Japanese style, specializing in tan tan ramen (ramen with sesame broth, $7): just enough spice, just enough ground sesame, loads of deliciously cooked meat or vegetables, and loads of noodles cooked just right. Classic shoyu-based broth is also on the menu if you don't like sesame seeds. Top your ramen with roast pork, vegetables (three types of mushroom, carrot, and green vegetables), or seafood (shrimp, calamari, scallops) for extra kick. Looking for the perfect accompaniment to your ramen? Goma Tei's chicken tatsutaage is big morsels of fried chicken, spiced, puffed, and served with a special sauce and lemon wedge. Japanese beer, curry, and other foods also served. Located inside Ward Center; plentiful free parking.