For the healthy eater, find vegetarian and vegan dining options across Waikiki.
A lifetime vegetarian and recent semi-vegan convert, I’m always on the hunt for clean, organic, local cuisine that bypasses animal products. In tow with the ever-growing population that’s turning toward a plant-based diet, I’m in luck what with vegan menu items popping up even in unexpected places, from mom-and-pop cafes to Hawai‘i’s most elegant dining venues.
Roy’s Waikiki Four-Course Vegan Prix Fixe Menu
This fine dining establishment has it all, from a luxurious ambience to a four-course prix fixe vegan menu featuring a soup or salad, an appetizer, entree and dessert. Best of all, Roy’s Waikiki is dedicated to using local farm veggies whenever possible.
“Usually when I do the vegan menu, I talk with the pastry girls because they’re vegan and we have other vegans who work here,” says Jason Ichiki, executive chef. “I ask them what ingredient or cuisine they want and I’ll go from there.”
Ichiki’s Hamakua Mushroom appetizer is made with Hawai‘i Island abalone mushrooms glazed in a five-spice plum sauce and loaded into bao buns along with pickled onions and some light greens. A side of soy mustard offers a wasabi-style kick for those who love it spicy. The main item, Crispy Tofu, is a party of textures and flavors. Silken tofu is fried in a light tempura batter and nestled on a creamy bed of hearts of palm pureed with quinoa. It’s finished with a Thai chili miso glaze and topped with a daikon relish. Each bite pops with flavor.
Dessert is a straight-out-of-the-oven peach upside-down cake, complete with sides of peaches glazed in ruby port and paired with zesty dollops of Meyer lemon curd and sprigs of mint. Each of the four items can also be ordered à la carte, and each comes with suggested wine pairings. Ichiki refreshes the delectable menu several times a year. The regular menu also features a vegan sushi roll. This is no garden-variety vegetarian roll. It comes with a spicy chickpea purée to give it a mock tuna flourish.
“It’s easy to make Asian dishes vegan, because they don’t call for butter, milk or cheese,” Ichiki notes. “Using citrus and vinegar makes everything explode in your mouth.”
Waikiki Beach Walk
226 Lewers St. [C:7 Waikiki Map]
P.F. Chang’s Vegetarian Offerings
With four vegetarian items in the appetizer menu alone, P.F. Chang’s is looking out for vegetarians. There’re veggie lettuce wraps, dumplings, crispy green beans and spring rolls, as well as several side dishes like wok-seared mushrooms and Sichuan-inspired asparagus. But it’s the four vegetarian entrees that really hit home. Coconut Curry Vegetables is a toothsome medley of veggies stir-fried with silken tofu and peanuts, and smothered in a curry coconut milk sauce.
“All of the dishes at P.F. Chang’s are Asian fusion, and one of our original items is the Coconut Curry Vegetables, which is my own favorite vegetarian item,” says Ed Locke, general manager.
The restaurant has incorporated that sense of fusion into its dishes, which on the vegetarian side, include Buddha’s Feast, a vegetable-tofu stir-fry, and Ma Po Tofu, a hearty plate of broccoli topped with silken tofu flash-fried to give it a crisp shell and saturated in a ginger-chili paste. Finally, there’s a veggie fried rice, which Locke often recommends even to non-vegetarians.
The spacious restaurant has large tables for large parties and an upstairs dining area, all fashioned to suit sizable international groups and families. Chang’s Hawai‘i is included in the overseas market and attracts a clientele that appreciates vegetable-based dishes, shares Locke. To appeal to its variety of customers, P.F. Chang’s also boasts gluten-free versions of many of the menu items.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2201 Kalakaua Ave. [C:8 Waikiki Map]
Ruffage Natural Foods’ Vegetarian Specialties
Ruffage Natural Foods and its sister health food store, Veggie Star Natural Foods, stock juices, energy bars and shelves of health-oriented snacks and body care products. But it’s the fresh-made smoothies, sandwiches, salads and specialty items that draw in hungry passersby. In addition to traditional wholesome fare like veggie, taro, tempeh and avocado burgers made to suit vegans and vegetarians alike, Ruffage offers a popular specialty menu.
On the specialty menu are organic lasagna, a tofu scrambler, veggie chilidog and burrito. The Veggie Burrito is comprised of greens and slices of avo folded into a whole wheat tortilla and smothered in Ruffage’s trademark meat-free chili recipe. Some choose to just order chili by the bowl, which along with many of the items is not only vegan, but gluten-free.
Ruffage is one of those homey hole-in-the-wall cafes that’s convenient to duck into for some quick, nourishing victuals anytime of day. Outdoor seating with hanging plants also make for a laid-back recharge station, perhaps with some of the store’s fresh Hawaiian kava, after a day’s worth of adventures.
Ruffage Natural Foods
2443 Kuhio Ave. [B:10 Waikiki Map]
Veggie Star Natural Foods
417 Nahua St. [B:8 Waikiki Map]