Hawaii’s abundance of fresh seafood is always a pleasure. But in the last several years, local produce has also started to shine on restaurant menus. The archipelago’s rich volcanic soil is suited to taro and pineapples, but just about anything else will grow well. In addition to a rainbow of tropical fruits, look for buttery ali‘i mushrooms, mild Maui onions and high-quality local beef and pork. And a bevy of Hawaiian craft breweries and distilleries ensure that no one goes thirsty.
The state’s most sophisticated and stylish restaurants are mostly in and around Honolulu. Elsewhere, the food tends to be simpler and the atmosphere more casual. Restaurants in high-end resorts are, of course, often exceptions to this rule
Located in the rapidly gentrifying Chinatown, the oldest quarter of Honolulu, Fête has a small and fashionable dining room surrounded by exposed brick walls, as well as a shady sidewalk patio where we lunched. We enjoyed the people-watching — this neighborhood draws its fair share of eccentrics — but the powerfully flavorful food is the real draw. We started with a tartare of local beef with spicy mustard, capers, fried shallots and a dollop of creamy béarnaise, accompanied by addictive grilled sourdough spread with anchovy butter. Although the twice-fried half chicken is the most popular main course on the menu, I couldn’t resist the Kauai prawns. They were a joy: big and sweet, bathed in a butter-peppercorn sauce accented with crunchy coconut flakes and fried curry leaves. To help soak up the wonderfully rich sauce, I recommend a side of ginger-scallion rice. The wine list has a lengthy selection of bottles and a creative by-the-glass list. The Valenti “Ciuri di Lava,” an orange Carricante from the slope of Mount Etna, seemed most appropriate, considering the volcanic soil beneath us. Fête is an ideal lunch stop before or after a tour of nearby Iolani Palace. Closed Sunday.