The Chinatown Culinary Scene

By Tannya Joaquin
Photo:  Tannya Joaquin.  chinatown honolulu restaurants

Grodin’s Prawn Ceviche. Photo: Tannya Joaquin.

From Andrew Le’s Vietnamese inspired genius at The Pig & the Lady to Bar Leather Apron’s coveted cocktails, Chinatown Honolulu restaurants are the talk of town.

But why talk when you can taste the hottest, coolest, most underrated, gluttonous, and most anticipated arrivals in this eight block culinary hub?

Hottest: Fête

Photo:  Tannya Joaquin.  chinatown honolulu restaurants

Photo: Tannya Joaquin.

Hawaii native Robynne Mai’i and husband Chuck Bussler bring 30 years of restaurant experience from New York to their New American darling Fête. In Robynne’s words “It’s food we want to eat.”

Who wouldn’t want to eat dishes like this?

Portuguese sausage gives oomph to Linguine Carbonara, with the perfect balance of cheese per bite. ($18)

Korean Fried Chicken with garlic-sesame aioli & Asian pear slaw on a Brioche bun. ($13)

Smoked Ono Club with bacon, arugula and tomatoes on multigrain bun. ($15)

The house-made Rocky Road to Hana Ice Cream ($4/scoop) is a must.

Thanks to Fête’s bartender for his tip “Grondin French-Latin Kitchen is the most underrated spot in Chinatown,” our next stop was clear.

Most Underrated: Grondin: French-Latin Kitchen

Photo:  Tannya Joaquin.  chinatown honolulu restaurants

Photo: Tannya Joaquin.

On Hotel Street past Lucky Belly and Downbeat Diner, Grondin: French-Latin Kitchen is an ode to owner David Segarro’s Ecuadorian roots and wife Jenny’s father, a French master chef.

Grondin was born on the beach when the New York couple opened a Virgin Island restaurant for their group and designed their dream menu with comfort food from their childhoods.

Crepes Mole Negro with Confit Duck leg, Oaxaca mole, cilantro, lime and crème fraiche ($13) showcases the best of both worlds.

Bone Marrow ($12) shines with beef bone, garlic confit and crostini.

Seafood and spice complement the Prawn Ceviche ($14) with Kauai shrimp, house ketchup and Serrano chile.

Our dessert pick: House made ice cream with a surprising standout, North Shore apple bananas. ($3/scoop)

Coolest: Local Joe

Photo:  Tannya Joaquin.  chinatown honolulu restaurants

Photo: Tannya Joaquin.

Roastmaster Charles Asselbaye serves gourmet coffee with a twist: foam art. Selfie? Sure! Pet? You bet! The ocean view and paleo chocolate chip cookies make Local Joe Chinatown’s coolest coffee spot.

Most Gluttonous: Volcano Shake

Photo:  Tannya Joaquin.  chinatown honolulu restaurants

Photo: Tannya Joaquin.

Volcano Shakes are as hot as lava! These $15 monstrosities draw two hour waits on Hotel Street. Order online at to skip the crowd.

Most Beautiful: Senia

Just peruse the Instagram images of the newly opened Senia on North King Street in Chinatown and you’re sure to swoon. With Thomas Keller protegees, Hawaii’s Chris Kajioka and London’s Anthony Rush at the helm, Chinatown’s culinary star shows no signs of fading.

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