Chef Sheldon Simeon (the lovable, smiling finalist from Top Chef: Seattle) was born on the big island of Hawaii in Hilo but now calls Maui home. A strong supporter of Hawaiian regional cuisine (a culinary movement that celebrates the Islands’ traditional dishes and local ingredients), Simeon believes there are three traditional dishes every visitor should try:
Consisting of fresh, raw chunks of ahi tuna or other fish mixed with sweet and salty condiments, poke is a staple from the original Polynesian settlers. It has evolved as other cultures have added their spin on the dish and can now be found everywhere on the islands, from convenience stores to big-box grocery stores.
The classic buried pig luau may seem hokey, but it has deep island ties, especially when the pork is served with taro root.
This light, icy treat, topped with sweet, naturally made syrups, can be found all over the islands. Try a rainbow of strawberry, banana and blue vanilla.
Simeon’s Island Dining Faves
Located at the Wailea Beach Marriott, this is where Simeon creates flavourful dishes that honour the many migrant workers who have shaped the islands’ agriculture. The Hibachi Hanger Steak with Nuoc Cham is a crowd favourite. (migrantmaui.com)
Drive slowly or you might miss it going around the corner. The banana cream pie is a must-eat, but you should try the fried salad first. That’s deep-fried Brussels sprout leaves, celery tops and a burnt orange vinaigrette.
Ilocandia Filipino Store
This convenience store offers up the best Lechon Kawali—deep-fried chunks of fatty pork belly with a chicharrón-like crispy skin. (808-667-6724)
This popular food stand serves amazing saimin, a traditional island noodle soup much like ramen. Try the won ton saimin—a combination of noodles and wontons best enjoyed with a drink or two. (808-245-3271)
They serve delicious Chinese food, like cold ginger chicken, and they serve it fast. Very fast.
This casual pub offers up exceptional dishes, lots of local beer and awesome cocktails created by Dave Power, one of the top mixologists in the U.S.
There are more than 100 items on the Chinese food menu, but the crispy chicken with oyster sauce is the crowd favourite.
Pick up a few boxes of chocolate-dipped shortbread to give to friends and family back home.
This popular spot serves the post-Second World War island classic, Loco Moco. It’s a pile of steamed rice topped with a grilled hamburger patty and sunny side-fried egg, smothered in brown gravy.
It’s underground and incredibly upscale. Dress to impress, and be ready to drop a fat stack on a US$295 tasting menu that will likely include the kitchen’s famous charred cabbage with miso crème fraîche. (vintagecave.com)
This laid-back brunch place, run by Top Chef Season 1 contestant Lee Anne Wong, makes outstanding food, including freshly made dumplings that have diners lining up out the door for a taste. (kokoheadcafe.com)
Here, it’s all about the malasadas—doughnuts covered in sugar, cinnamon sugar or Li Hing (salty dried plum powder). Get them stuffed with custard if you like.
Hotels for Coffee Lovers
For true coffee lovers, these three hotels offer thoughtful programs that energize as well as pamper. Treat yourself to a coffee exfoliation at Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, relax at Le Méridien Versailles's coffeehouse in Montreal or order artisanal coffee room service at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown.