Over the years I’ve avoided Waikiki. The traffic, crowds, and general vibe of that part of town has never appealed to me. In the past few years, Waikiki has seen a surge of new eateries, many of which are not specifically catered to tourists. One new restaurant, ZIGU, caught my attention when it was recommended by a friend of mine. I literally made reservations at that moment for later in the week, prepared to brave the tourists to see what the hype was about.

ZIGU is north of Kuhio on Seaside avenue. Street parking is often sparse here, but if you plan on spending at least $30 (which you will), the restaurant does provide free validation for parking just a block away at the Hyatt Centric hotel. Seating is both inside and outside on a large covered patio area. The owners of ZIGU are also opening a French restaurant upstairs at some point in the future (called Paris, I think).

Dashimaki tamago

ZIGU is a take on an izakaya, with a wide selection of various dishes. Although not sushi-heavy, the menu does place an emphasis on local ingredients and offers some unique twists. Creativity aside, the successful execution of dashimaki is a hallmark of quality izakaya, which led us to order the simple dish. ZIGU performs well on this test, with a soft, velvety texture and just the right balance of savory and sweet.

Smoked potato salad

The one dish that came highly recommended to us, by both my friend and our server, was the smoked potato salad. Seemingly simple, this iteration packs a lot of flavor. The creamy texture marries well with the purposeful infusion of smoke. Gooey, runny eggs top things off visually. Our water referred to this as “crack potato salad” and I can see why. I’d like to have a tub of this in my fridge for consumption at will.

“Laulau” pork belly with macadamia nut mochi balls

A twist on a local classic, this deconstructed laulau of sorts surprised me. I didn’t think it’d pack the depth of flavor of a traditional laulau, but was pleased to be proven wrong. The broth’s savoriness ties the entire deconstruction together, and the mochi balls add just a hint of sweetness to round out the flavors.

Cold kale udon, fried kale chips, sesame dipping sauce

ZIGU’s emphasis on local ingredients shows up in its most simplistic expression with their house-made kale udon. The udon is available in a variety of preparations, with more dressed-up options like basil peso. We opted to try its most minimalistic form, with nothing more than some kale chips and a light sesame dipping sauce. The udon texture is on point, with just a hint of kale flavor on your palate. This is a light, refreshing dish perfect for a warm evening in Hawaii.

With so many restaurants in town it’s always a pleasure to find somewhere that stands out. The food at ZIGU is thoughtful and delicious. We didn’t love everything we tried (several dishes that aren’t pictured here), but overall left feeling satisfied that we had found a new restaurant to add to our regular rotation.

413 Seaside Avenue #1F
Honolulu, HI 96815