Oahu’s best farm-to-table at Merriman’s

Merriman’s Restaurant at Ward Villages in Kakaako is the latest iteration of visionary chef and restauranteur Peter Merriman’s commitment to locally sourced meats, seafood and produce.

A recent Monday evening at the new restaurant during the holidays was quite busy, with a line at the door and every table and seat at the bar full. Merriman’s is rightly considered fine dining, although the atmosphere is casually elegant. Menu prices skew upscale, but even the most expensive dishes come in under $50.

A small, smiling army of servers in shirtsleeves and blue-jeans shuffled around tables and booths. The open-space layout of the restaurant wasn’t quite noisy. It was just busy. Peals of laughter bubbled up from tables around the room as diners celebrated the holiday season, some of them bedecked in gloriously ugly Christmas sweaters.

A busy holiday season night at Merriman's.

The silky guitar stylings of Grammy Award recipient Jeff Peterson wafted through the room along with the aromas emanating from the kitchen. Merriman’s also features other talented Honolulu musicians like Jessie Savio and Tavana regularly.

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Along with world famous chefs and restauranteurs like Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong and Sam Choy, Peter Merriman is widely regarded as a founder of what has come to be known as Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Born and raised on Maui, the Valley Isle, Merriman now has restaurants on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island. His first (and signature) Merriman’s opened in Waimea on the Big Island in 1988 and continues to attract eager foodies from around the globe.

Grass fed Maui beef filet with fresh sauteed greens.

Peter Merriman has been lauded in foodie magazines and other highly regarded publications as Hawaii’s original “locavore”. His restaurants embody the farm-to-table ethos that has been adopted by chefs all over the world. Most of Merriman’s menu is sourced locally, from grass fed Maui beef to freshly caught fish selections bought daily from Hawaii fishermen.

Merriman’s Kakaako menu features shareable appetizer selections like Shrimp Truck Prawns and Garlic Butter Keahole (Big Island) Clams. The Tako & Country Bread is served escargot style, the octopus meat sublimely tender and flavorful.

The menu also features boldly titled “Dirt Grown Salads”. The entrée selection offers a variety of locally sourced beef and seafood, with options for vegetarians, too. There is a sumptuous 28-Day Dry Aged Ribeye Steak, and a grass-fed beef filet that would impress even the most discerning beef rancher in Texas.

Sustainably-sourced scallops.

Merriman’s Kakaako has an expansive outdoor dining area as well. It even has outdoor space heaters, just in case the temperature drops below, you know, like 70 degrees outside. (That’s extra blanket weather out here in the Aloha State!)

Merriman’s also offers a selection of mostly-Hawaii beers, like Beer Lab HI, Ola Brew, and Big Island Brewhaus. The wine list is extensive and sophisticated, but friendly for casual wine enthusiasts who might not know the subtle differences between a pinot noir and a merlot, or a sauvignon blanc and a pinot grigio.

And Merriman’s Kakaako is also excellent for people watching. The busy commercial district is almost perpetually buzzing with serial shoppers and bargain hunters. There are humans on the move everywhere, and they provide a kind of quasi-entertainment for Merriman’s diners. Merriman’s menu and milieu is quintessentially “Honoluluan”.