What is a Pupu, Exactly?

January 24, 2012 | By Waikiki Magazine Team

Hawai‘i’s Ultimate Appetizing Attacks!

You see the term on menus all over town—what gives? Essentially, it’s an appetizer or hor d’oeuvre, Hawai‘i-style. The “pupu platter” can be traced back to the beginning of Chinese-American cuisine, where platters of appetizers ranged from chicken wings to fried wontons. Here in Hawai‘i—the melting pot of the Asia-Pacific region—pupu also can include pieces of fresh island fish served raw or marinated (sashimi, ceviche or poke), sliced meats and other fresh seafood options. It is often served in big family portions, encouraging everyone to share.

We found some of our favorite pupu in Waikiki—ranging from beachfront locations to local hole-in-the-wall joints. And don’t forget to pair each dish with your favorite cocktail, for what we call “pau hana” (after work) time.

Wolf It Down

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
2301 Kalakaua Ave. Suite #301

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is known for its quality aged meats, yet one of our favorite items is the seafood cocktail platter that features jumbo shrimp, lobster tail, oysters, lump crab meat and little neck clams served on a bed of ice with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce.

Antipasto Anticipation

227 Lewers St.

The Sicilians have their own versions of pupu called antipasto. At Taormina, its dedication to staying authentic can be seen in its Antipasti Misti platter, which features a delicate arrangement of four of selections of your choosing. We opted for the Caprese, (sliced tomatoes with homemade mozzarella, drizzled olive oil and fresh basil), affettati (sliced artisian cheeses and fresh proscuitto and salame), Ama-Ebi (sweet shrimp served whole) as well as squid and octopus. Other menu highlights include steamed clams tossed in a white wine, butter and garlic sauce, and the beef carpaccio made with high quality filet mignon.

Take the Side Street

Side Street Inn
614 Kapahulu Ave.

One of Hawai‘i’s most-cherished eateries, Side Street Inn is known for its local style dishes, large portions and casual ambiance. Its newest outpost on Kapahulu is conveniently located with ample parking. Our menu favorites include the deep-fried pork chops, kim chee char siu fried rice, and sauteed mushrooms.

Where the Beach Boys Go

Duke’s Waikiki
2335 Kalakaua Ave.

This historic restaurant boasts a prime location on Waikiki beach where the party never ends. Known as one of the best restaurants to catch the sunset—as well as a legendary “beach boy” or two at the expansive bar, it also offers a wide selection of pupu. Must trys include Duke’s nachos with heaps of chips mounted with melted cheese, black beans, jalapenos, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. Or try its fresh ‘ahi sashimi, raw ‘ahi served with ginger, soy sauce and spicy wasabi.

Ceviche Polynesian Style

Hula Grill
2335 Kalakaua Ave.

This oceanfront restaurant overlooks Waikiki beach and offers a unique blend of Pacific Island cuisine with American comfort. Some of the menu highlights include the fresh Polynesian ceviche (marinated chunks of fresh fish in coconut milk, lime juice, topped with local tomatoes, mangoes and onions and served with fresh taro chips), Kahuku corn crab cakes with pickled plum aioli, and the poke tacos (marinated raw ‘ahi, avocado, Maui onions topped with a wasabi aioli). Can’t make up your mind? Opt for the Hula Grill Pupu Platter, which offers a bit of everything including crab cakes, imu barbecued ribs, and coconut shrimp.

Bird’s-Eye Dining

Sarento’s Top of the “I”
1777 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite #30

This restaurant offers a bird’s-eye view of Waikiki, Ala Wai Harbor and iconic Diamond Head. The menu showcases a selection of Italian-inspired dishes with an emphasis on the use of local ingredients. Some of our favorite pupu include ‘ahi bruschetta (crostini topped with thick slices of seared ‘ahi with a Kalamata pesto, ripe avocados and Kamuela tomatoes). Other menu favorites include the osso buco potstickers and the frutti di mare sausage (a combination of grilled seafood sausage served over a lilikoi mustard).

Photos: Lacy Matsumoto