Though an illuminated outline of the 50th state features prominently on its back wall, no map is necessary to guide you to the understanding that the food at this restaurant, Onomea, is from a distant land, unfamiliar even in New York City, where you can find most anything.
The Williamsburg newcomer, located down the street from perennially packed Fette Sau and St. Anselm, offers diners a chance to grab a chair and chat over the comforting sound of ukuleles. Much like the cluster of islands it showcases, Onomea is a place you go to experience things you cannot find nearby.
The restaurant debuted nearly a month ago with a focus on traditional Hawaiian dishes; the menu is limited to a few core items at the moment, but options like poke and Spam musubi provide good insight into the direction the list is going.
Owner Crystalyn Costa, whose family recipes you’ll find on the menu, wanted to provide Hawaiian ex-pats like herself a place that captures the “Aloha spirit,” she says, since she couldn’t think of a restaurant serving fare she missed from the big island. Living in Greenpoint, she was aware that the surrounding neighborhood was receptive to adventurous cuisine, she took matters into her own hands. And she says that while finding distributors in New York has been the biggest challenge of running an authentic Hawaiian joint, she is committed to maintaining the restaurant’s integrity. The venture has helped her meet other Hawaiians living in New York, something she did not experience until opening Onomea.
We popped in for a bite, and we’re particularly enamored of one item (which should be particularly popular with the late night crowd): the loco moco burger. Smothered in gravy and topped with an egg, the teriyaki-style burger is served over a rice of your choice; we suggest the Spam fried rice. Costa says one customer had this compliment for her about that dish: “Oh my God, I forgot to breathe.”
Additional menu items that are slated to debut soon include lomi-lomi salmon, poi, and lau-lau, a dish that features pork, chicken, or vegetables steamed inside taro leaves. And though Costa and her team are keeping the menu concise for now, expect them to feature a seasonal menu in time.
Also: The restaurant is in the process of applying for a liquor license, but you can quench your thirst now with coconut water and juices. Yes, that means options like Pass-O-Guava Nectar straight from Hawaii. Kona Coffee, another Hawaiian export, will also be available shortly.
Onomea, which translates to delicious, is currently open from Tuesday through Sunday for dinner service with expanded hours — including weekend brunch — in the works.
Page through for a few photos of food.