Hardest Oahu Restaurants to Get Into (And How to Get a Table)
The best restaurants in Oahu also happen to be the hardest to get into. Here’s how far in advance you need to make a reservation and secrets to grabbing a last minute spot for the 6 hardest restaurants and bars to get into in Honolulu.
22Kailua: Sushi Omakase
Senia: New American / Hawaiian
Sushi Sho: Sushi Omakase
Bar Leather Apron: Craft Cocktails
The Pig & The Lady: Vietnamese Comfort Food
Bar Maze: 5 Course Omakase Tasting Menu
Omakase Sushi Dinner
22Kailua is a secret sushi omakase spot that few Oahu locals even know about. They opened in 2019, first as a coffee shop and then they quietly started serving sushi in the back.
Omakase is chef’s choice so expect a tasting menu dreamed up by the sushi masters behind the bar. They serve about 14 courses, all small portions and every single thing is spectacular. You won’t be hungry when you leave.
This has been one of the most unique omakase experiences you’ll find anywhere. If you can get a reservation, when you show up, you’re instructed to text one of the chefs, who then lets you in and takes you to the back where there’s a bare bones sushi counter for 6, serving some of the best sushi you’ll ever eat. You get a front row seat as they build It's so cool to watch them build each course with such ease, like it's so simple, but then you taste it and OH MY GOD.
In October 2022, they’ll be moving to a new location (still in Kailua). We’re waiting patiently to see what that experience will be like.
We love that when you sit down to dinner there’s a tiny sign welcoming your party that you can take with you as a souvenir and at the end of the night, the chefs take a selfie with you.
When you book, you’ll choose what tier your want: $100, $150, or $200. The higher the price the higher the grades of fish used throughout the course.
There’s also a special “Shaka Taka from Osaka” Special Menu for $250 / person, but every person in your party must do the same menu.
Extra sashimi is $20 / order.
Alcohol is BYOB.
It’s omakase, so the menu is totally up to the chef. Let them know if you have any allergies and they’ll accommodate as best as they can.
All dinners are BYOB. They proved glassware and water only.
How to get a reservation
You used to have to know someone who had been to one of their dinners in order to get an invite. Now it’s open to everyone but you have to know where to look…
Turn on notifications for their posts so you’re alerted the second they open them up for the following month.
DM them in advance to get their phone number. You’ll need this to make your reservation quickly when they open.
As soon as you see their post letting you know reservations are open, text them ASAP with ALL the details they ask for (like how many people in your party, preferred dates and times, which tier of dinner, etc.). If you’re missing something, they’ll continue booking other people until they get all the info from you.
They’ll start bookings in the order they received requests.
Currently their sushi bar only seats 6 and they do 2 seatings per evening. We’re not sure if that will expand with the new space or not.
They’re currently in the back of the coffee shop at 22 Oneawa Street, but they’re moving into a new space in October 2022. It’s still in Kailua though.
No menus posted online, but you can visit their Instagram stories to see the occasional plating pop up.
Here’s everything you want to know about 22Kailua.
New American / Hawaiian
This is hands down one of the best restaurants in Oahu. Senia was one of the most anticipated restaurants in Honolulu when it opened in 2016. The constantly changing menu serves small bites meant to be shared and fantastic cocktails. (They actually just opened a brunch / cocktail spot called Bar Podmore in 2021.)
It’s upscale without being pretentious. In 2020, only 3 years after opening, original owners Rush and Kajioka became semifinalists for the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Northwest and Pacific. The award was postponed due to Covid. It’s been over a decade since someone from Hawaii was nominated for the award and only 3 chefs in Hawaii have every been awarded with it.
Their 8-seat chef’s counter faces the kitchen and serves their coveted 12-course tasting menu where you get to watch the chef prepare each dish. The tasting menu hasn’t been available since Covid started but they’re bringing it back Fall 2022 after a renovation.
Tip: Let them know if it’s a special occasion. They may bring you a special dessert or a signed card.
Shareable Plates: ~$18 - $30
Larger shareable plates: ~$65 - $80
Tasting Menu: $185
The menu is constantly changing, but here is a sampling of some of their top past dishes:
The tasting menu is supposed to return Fall 2022 and it’s incredible.
Charred Cabbage. (Yes, everyone freaked out about this one.)
Smoked Ahi Cigars
Tako a la Plancha
Beef Cheek Marmalade Rolls
Roasted Bone Marrow
Carrot Cake Butter Mochi
Cool Guy Cocktail
007 (This one’s so cool to look at)
How to get a reservation
Book your table through Resy.
Reservations open 60 days in advance and they fill up fast.
If you can’t get a reservation, put your name on their Resy waitlist for the dates you want. (Just click the “Notify” button.) As you get closer to the date, there are always cancellations, but they go fast so you’ve got to grab it the second you see the notification.
75 N. King St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Here’s everything you want to know about Senia.
Sushi Sho is one of the most sought after omakase restaurants in the world. Chef owner Neji Nakzawa has an international cult following. He is a legend in Tokyo, where he mastered Edomae style sushi (the idea of aging or curing the fish first to bring out umami flavors) and then relentlessly experimented until he reached the status of sushi master in Japan.
Yes, it’s crazy expensive. And yes, it’s worth every penny. Reservations book up 6 months in advance. People come from all over the world to eat at Sushi Sho, in The Ritz Carlton.
The menu is unpredictable and the flavors are unlike anything you’ll find at other sushi restaurants. With only 16 seats, it’s an intimate experience.
$$$$ - $$$$$
The 30+ course omakase meal starts at $300.
You can add courses or reorder your favorites at the end.
It’s omakase, meaning it’s chef’s choice. Just go with it.
Nakazawa is also a sake sommelier and can pair each course perfectly from an impressive collection.
How to get a reservation
It’s been hard to get a reservation ever since they opened in 2016. They only have 16 seats and only do 2 seatings a night so they book up fast.
Make your reservation at least 6 months in advance.
They take reservations daily from 2pm - 10:30pm. Call 808-729-9717 to book. A credit card is required.
If you can’t get a reservation, add your name to the waitlist.
They are located within the Ritz Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
383 Kalaimoku Street, Waikiki Beach, HI 96815
Here’s everything you want to know about Sushi Sho.
Bar Leather Apron
This is where you go for beautifully handcrafted cocktails made by people who look at bartending as an art. One of the owners, Justin Park, travels the world for cocktail competitions (three times winning “World’s Best Mai Tai”). Even the ice is made using reverse osmosis and then chiseled by hand to make a perfectly clear sphere.
It’s not surprising that they were named a James Beard semifinalist in 2018. They also have one of the island’s biggest selections of whisky (about 500 and mostly from Japan). Handcrafted cocktails range from the classics (like 4 different types of Old Fashioned) to an ever changing list of newly imagined ones. Justin’s award winning Mai Tai comes in a smoking tiki-shaped box. The wine and beer lists are also highly curated. The mocktails are also fantastic.
This spot is very cozy and intimate and only holds a couple dozen people so reservations are a must.
$$ - $$$
Cocktails ~$15 - $20
Matcha Old Fashioned
E Ho’o Pau Mai Tai. It’s not your typical mai tai and it’s won a bunch of awards, including World’s Best Mai Tai” three times.
Red Shiso Smash
Big Boss Highball
Smoked Duck Baos
Nana’s Kim Chee Clam Dip
How to get a reservation
Do not call or email them for reservations. They only book through Resy.
There’s only room for about 20 people so make your reservation early. They tend to book up weeks in advance.
The tiny, 6-seater bar is the best seat in the house, where you can watch the skilled bartenders crafts each drink. You’ll have to reserve far in advance to grab a bar spot.
If you can’t get a reservation click the “Notify” button on their Resy page for the dates you're interested in. They’ll let you know if something opens up. But if there’s a new opening, grab it immediately.
FYI that cancellations within 48 hours of your reservation will be charged $20.
745 Fort St #127a, Honolulu, HI 96813
Vietnamese Comfort Food
Chef and owner Andrew Le takes Asian street food to the next level. Think pho made with brisket that’s been braised for 12 hours and stewed bone marrow or banh mi french dip served with prime rib pho broth. Oh, and they’re known for their weekly soft serve flavors (served at lunch only).
This is where you go for an ever changing menu of comfort food that combines Vietnamese recipes (passed down from the owner’s mom) with Hawaiian ingredients. The Pig & The Lady has an extremely loyal following and they completely live up to all the hype. They started out as a pop up noodle bar and with a stall at farmers markets but opened their brick and mortar restaurant in Chinatown in 2013
The craft cocktails hold their own and match the creativity of the food, with twists on Vietnamese flavors using coconut, sriracha, coffee, tamarind, salted lemon, lime, and chili pepper. You can still find them at meet ups and farmer’s markets a few days a week. They’ve also got a “little brother” restaurant in Kaka’ako called Piggy Smalls.
Lunch: ~$10 - $18
Dinner Entrees: ~$17 - $35
Heads up that the menu changes all the time, so you may not find all of these on the menu.
Pho French Dip
Laotian Fried Chicken (This is crazy popular.)
Five Spice Pork Chop
Soft Serve (The flavors change weekly.)
Caramelized Avocado Cake
Egg Cream Coffee
How to get a reservation
Make dinner reservations well in advance, especially for weekends.
Book your reservation on their website (just scroll down past the header).
Heads up, they keep about 15 spots for lunch walk ins, so if you get there a little before open, you’ll have a good chance of nabbing one for yourself.
If you still can’t get a reservation, find them at one of the local markets, like the KCC Farmers Market.
83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817
Here’s everything you want to know about The Pig & The Lady.
5 course Omakase tasting menu with drink pairings
Bar Maze (pronounced Māh-zēh) is the collaboration of Justin Park (co owner / head bartender / award winning cocktail god of Bar Leather Apron) and Chef Ki Chung. They opened their doors in 2021, serving a 5 course tasting menu, with each dish totally up to the chef. (No joke, there are zero substitutions.) And if it’s connected to Bar Leather Apron, you know the drink pairings that come with the meal are incredible too. You can choose from alcoholic or zero proof, and yes, the mocktails are just as good as their alcoholic counterparts. The food and drinks are really inventive. This is the perfect spot for a one of a kind meal.
Omakase Base Price: $150
You can pay for additional add ons like caviar with certain dishes
It’s all omakase (aka chef’s choice) so you just have to roll with whatever they serve. They make no substitutions, not even for food allergies.
How to get a reservation
Book your spot at least 2-4 weeks in advance (especially for weekends). This is a big improvement from having to wait months to get a reservation when they were newly opened.
Reservations are only made through Resy.
Reservations are released one month in advance on the 1st of each month.
If there’s nothing available for the date you want, click the “Notify” button on their Resy page to get an alert if there is a cancellation. Be sure to grab it for yourself the second you see the notification because it’s first come first serve. (Although, they charge a fee of $50 / guest for cancellations within 48 hrs of reservation, so there aren’t as many cancellations here.
604 Ala Moana Blvd #1B, Honolulu, HI 96813