If you're driving through Kalihi and see this mural overhead, pull into the parking lot immediately, because you have found Alicia's Market, quite possibly the home of the best poke I've ever had. Doubling as a liquor store, and sharing the parking lot with a laundromat, this place is in a grittier part of Honolulu, but definitely worth seeking out. The fish is clearly cut fresh (the shiniest, reddest ahi I have seen in a long time), and they have a selection of other pokes as well. The tako (octopus) was awesome.
To me, the the food flavors of Hawaii are best expressed in the fresh fish (especially raw), tropical fruit (local papaya that tastes of flowers and strawberries, unlike any other), and the local foods that are often fatty and fried, and mouth-fillingly delicious.
Discoveries and recommendations from this last trip:
1. Alicia's Market (see above). Conveniently located between the airport and town, or Waikiki.
2. Fiji Market and Curry Kitchen in Kahuku. Wow, we were just driving by on the way from the Eastside to the North Shore on Kamehameha Hwy., and thank goodness, I followed my boyfriend's instincts to stop at this place. Best curry that I've had IN YEARS: the shrimp (local, from a farm down the road) curry.
3. Town: always great, breakfast lunch or dinner. In the morning they have great coffee (not the easiest to find on Oahu if you're used to NW coffee), and seriously delicious, flaky scones that change daily. Most of their menu is shaped by the produce coming from local Ma'o organic farm. DownTown, their other location, is excellent for fresh, creative salads and lunch items.
4. Acai bowls: I can't decide if I like this surfer food or not, it's more of a dessert to me than a meal. But if you want to try one, the best was at Lani Kai Juice in Kailua. This is also a great choice if you're looking for a smoothie made of Hawaiian fruit.*
5. Breakfast at Morimoto: decadent, but amazing and interesting. And the outdoor tables look out over the harbor and ocean. The banana/mac nut pancakes are served with kuromitsu (molasses) syrup, and the Japanese style breakfasts are a true treat, with components such as a sous-vide poached egg, miso cod, seaweed, rich dashi, and rice porridge.
6. The fresh markets of Chinatown: these places will transport you straight to Asia, with exquisitely fresh fish, produce, and many prepared food choices.
*One thing about Lani Kai Juice, and so many other takeout places in Hawaii is that they still use styrofoam containers! With all the compostable stuff out there, and the garbage situation in Hawaii, I feel like there's no excuse for this. I hope it's outlawed soon.
`Ono means "delicious" in Hawaiian.