Sometimes, the thing that people need is right in front of your face, or young twentysomething Crystalyn Costa's reflection, as it were. Enter Onomea. Named after Costa's hometown, it's New York City's only purely Hawaiian restaurant, a cozy little spot in central Williamsburg with a menu that covers anything you'd need to know about Hawaiian cuisine standards. There's Spam, of course, thrown into an above-par musubi and an exceptional fried rice. And the Kalua Pig, pulled pork cooked for hours, bursting with juicy flavor in every bite, if you even have to chew it (you barely do). And of course, accouterment typical of island plate lunches, the aforementioned rice, macaroni salad (nuanced, as macaroni salad goes) and a few greens. The menu's topped off by one of the most genius drink programs in the city: Pick of one two rums, pick one of these juices (but really, go for the lilikoi), and here's a jar with ice. Have fun. Rounding it out for dessert is haupia, a coconut pudding somewhere between dim sum custard and flan, as close to a tropical vacation as you're gonna get this week, including the daydreams about it.
Brooklyn's a long way from where Costa, who used her family recipes for the food, hails from. It's hard to imagine a Hawaiian not getting homesick here. But that's ultimately why Onomea's so great. Sure, it might fill a desperately needed gap in New York's food culture, while also elevating blue collar Hawaiian cuisine, and do it well enough to withstand the not-so-shaka mainland types here. But critically, and in more than name, it also feels like that thing so many chefs and restauranteurs strive for: A genuine expression of home.- Foster Kamer