Hawai’i: Plate Lunch Time at Pioneer Saloon

Lunch time in Honolulu.

I have Farida to thank for introducing me to Pioneer Saloon this past December. This order at the counter, pick a seat spot is on the same breezy stretch of Monsarrat Avenue that houses Diamond Head Market (aka home to amazing blueberry scones).

Pioneer Saloon is plate lunch with Japanese sensibilities. Which means more greens and less mac salad. Or at least less mayo when they do have mac salad. It means more fish, more seafood in general (including ahi and tako), and less hamburger steak and loco mocos.

They do however, turn out a mean Chicken Katsu Plate, complete with a lightly battered crust and plenty of fatty, easy-to-love dark meat. No extra change for brown rice, which is rare in Hawai’i. The single side dish changes daily, and I’ve had pasta salad, plain green salad, and potato salad in the past.

If you’re a fish person, they also make a Salmon Katsu Plate using salmon belly. The whole thing just melts in your mouth, all steamy hot and moist on the inside. Your choice of tartar sauce or katsu sauce. Certainly enough for lunch and afternoon snack.

Prices average between $6-$10 a plate, a solid deal for the quantity of food. Daily specials posted on a board outside – enough variety so that everyone leaves satisfied. I enjoyed it here so much on my first visit that I brought my grandparents and parents for separate lunch trips.

Grandma is big on salmon, but doesn’t like fried foods so she comes for the Garlic Salmon Plate. You can get the salmon done with miso, garlic, or shio (simply salted). Be warned, the garlic version is pungent!

This is Farida’s fried Tako Plate Lunch – didn’t get to try it, but it looks mighty ono. They were sold out when I came back the following day…will have to wait for my next trip home. Served with furikake rice and pasta salad.

What I like about their Salmon Flakes and Avocado plate is that they mix a ton of fresh chopped shiso with salmon and diced avocado. Served on a bed of furikake rice. It’s easy enough to make at home, and I’ve replicated it few times, usually replacing the rice with somen noodles. Mixed greens and pasta salad in the back. $8 for this plate. If only I could find such deals in Manhattan…

The interior is all warehouse-like, rustic, mismatched furniture. Almost too cool. Big tables, small tables, even couches. Someone noted, “surfer chic” when describing Pioneer Saloon to a friend. And I think they come pretty darn close.

Pioneer Saloon
3046 Monsarrat Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 732-4001

Hawai’i: Cinnamon’s Restaurant

Breakfast or dessert?

I’ll never know. For now, it suffices as both. Cinnamon’s in Kailua turns out the most creative pancakes on the island with a rooster that includes carrot cake, cinnamon-apple, and daily specials of pumpkin and strawberry cream. The Guava Chiffon Pancakes start with a base of the house hot buttermilk pancakes. Two for $6.25, four for $9.25. It appears to be a sugar fest, but is actually fairly restrained, the sauces not overly gloppy nor sugary. There are two types of sauce. One creamy, borderline fluffy. And the other, thin, glossy with a fruity guava tang. Whipped cream to top. It’s not often I say this, but maple syrup and butter are certainly not needed.

Take a look at these Apple Cinnamon Pancakes. Same tall and fluffy buttermilk pancakes, this time with a tower (literally) of sautéed cinnamon apples and whipped cream.

The Blueberry and Corn Pancakes come with Hawaiian Honey Butter. The butter is the highlight of this dish, a soft golden shade, whipped with a bit of cinnamon. Make sure to order a side of the honey butter if you get the plain pancakes, it makes for a simple, satisfying pairing.

Of all the flavors Cinnamon has to offer, the Carrot Cake is my favourite. It’s the heartiest, the least sweet with generous gratings of fresh carrots and plump black raisins folded into the pancake batter. To the right is whipped cream cheese butter…are there any four words that string together this nicely? Smother on the cakes while hot and let melt, beautiful! Finish with plain butter and you’ll have everyone at the table chasing for a bite. They don’t use the buttermilk pancake base – the carrot cake pancakes are more dense, still moist but not fluffy, and noticeably smaller in diameter. Which means you have room for more.

The eternal breakfast debate is pancake versus French toast. It’s on a case by case basis, but at Cinnamon’s, pancakes win in the end. That’s not to say that you should pass on their French Toast, a reliable affair made with fat slices of Portuguese Sweet Bread (this practice needs to be adopted on the mainland). Have the French toast plain ($6.25), or pick a topping (additional $2.25): Apple-Cinnamon, Guava Chiffon, or the daily special which was Strawberry and Local Fruits shown above.

Should the taste for something savory cross your mind at Cinnamon’s, you’re in good hands. The Egg Benedicts alone are worth a visit, complete with a mound of crisp homefries, liberally salt and pepper-ed with a tangle of chopped green onions. The benedicts come in six styles:

Traditional…Canadian bacon and turkey
Veggie…fresh, raw spinach and tomatoes
Mahi Mahi
Kalua Pig…made in-house

The portion is big – you can have half-orders, but it’s not worth it. $10.25 for a half, $13.25 for a full order, see what I mean? I like to come with one other person, and split the full benedict, and a small pancake order. Ideal balance of sweet and savory.

Many tourists order the Hawaiian Omelette, which sounds cheesy, but is also my go-to omelette at Cinnamon’s. The ingredients are mixed into beaten eggs (three eggs per omelette) and then cooked in a skillet, making for what they call a “local style” omelette. This one is mixed with shredded Kalua Pig, tomatoes, white and green onions, and Lau-Lau (steamed lu’au leaves, pork, and butterfish). The omelette would benefit from more Lau-Lau – you get mostly lu’au leaves and very little pork and butterfish. But then again more Lau-Lau means price hike, and Cinnamon’s is expensive enough. Comes with hash browns or home fries or buttermilk pancakes. Not the most attractive omelette, but still ono.

Cinnamon’s Restaurant
315 Uluniu St
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 261-8724

GO by AirTran Airways

If you’re flying AirTran Airways this month, take a peek at Page 18 of Go, their in-flight magazine. Natalie Portman is on the cover of this January 2011 issue, and I’m featured in the “blog feed” section with Five Picks for NYC Hot Chocolate. Hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Fix!

La Maison du Chocolate – “The signature Caracas hot chocolate here is a sublimely dark and sophisticated number, silky with bold flavors, and has the most elegant presentation in town.”

City Bakery – This decadently creamy classic is superbly thick with a consistency near pudding. Don’t forget to top off your cup with a plush homemade marshmallow.”

Jacques Torres – You can’t go wrong with the Wicked hot cocoa, infused with ancho and chipotle chili peppers, cinnamon and allspice.”

Otto – “Hazelnut-steeped milk is the foundation for the gianduja calda, a thick drink made with a duo of milk chocolates. It comes with buttery shortbread, perfectly suited for dunking.”

Tarallucci E Vino – “This excellent everyday hot chocolate is not too thick or too thing. For the purist, it comes completely unsweetened and explodes with pure, heady dark chocolate.”

Wanted to share this photo that Robyn posted on Flickr. There’s a definite slope to the shot that makes it look like we’re sinking, but I love it anyways. It was taken in the lounge of Blue Hill at Stone Barns prior to lunch. Right to left: Greg, Robyn, Diana and myself. View the whole set, Robyn’s photos are pretty awesome.

Recipe: Baking: Pâté So / Pâté Chaud

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a good weekend. Remember when I posted about the Pâté So (also goes by the name Pâté Chaud) from JJ’s French Pastry in Honolulu?

We ate a lot of those during my last trip home. Breakfast, lunch, snack…I ate two a day over the course of my ten-day stay, and soon realized that my daily Pâté So expenditure bordered on ridiculous.

Why not learn to make my own right?

Pâté So is essentially puff pastry filled with ground pork. The pork is mixed with celery, vermicelli noodles, onions, salt and pepper. It’s a forgiving recipe, just don’t leave out the nuoc nam, which is an essential component! I made a big batch because we had family over for Grandpa’s birthday dinner, and dad thought it would be fun to serve them hot out of the oven as pupus. We replaced pork with chicken because Grandpa’s doctor suggested that he lay off pork for health reasons ;)

Pâté So / Pâté Chaud

1 package puff pastry sheets, defrosted (I used Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets – but it’s worth making your own puff pastry if you have time)

1 pound ground pork (or chicken, but I prefer pork)

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup vermicelli noodles (soak in warm water until softened, then cut into 1-inch long pieces)

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon nuoc nam

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F. In a big bowl, mix together the ground pork, celery, chopped vermicelli noodles, onions, nuoc nam, salt and pepper.

2. Roll out the puff pastry sheet to a rectangle, about 16″ x 12″. Cut in half to make two 16″ x 6″ rectangles. Put a quarter of the ground pork mixture on one of the rectangles, spreading across the bottom half of the 16″ side. Lift the unfilled side, fold over and close. Use fork tines to press along the edges, making sure it’s securely sealed.

3. Do the same for the other puff pastry sheets, making for a total of four Pâté So “logs.” (If you use the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets, note that the package comes with two sheets, which makes for a total of four rectangles).

4. Make deep cuts along the log, 1″ apart. This will make it easier for you to cut and serve once done baking. Brush with a beaten egg wash, and slide in the oven.

5. Bake for 25 minutes at 400F, until it has a deep golden brown shade. Cut and serve while hot!


– Leftovers keep well, just pop in the toaster oven for a few minutes to warm up.

– This makes a killer late night snack with beer.

– Inside of a log, you can do individual rectangles (like they do at JJ’s French Pastry). You’ll want to cut the pork mixture down by half because you won’t have as much puff pastry “space” to work with if you’re making individual rectangles.


Sugar Rush’ed…

…for the week at Serious Eats New York. Plus, ‘Lunch for One’ at El Beit and Gramercy Tavern. Hope everyone is staying warm this week!

5 Warming Winter Soups

Lunch for One: Soup and Sandwich at Gramercy Tavern

Sugar Rush: Dufflet Bittersweet Chocolate Crackle

Sugar Rush: Poached Pear Tart at Osteria Morini

Lunch for One: El Beit

Sugar Rush: Loaf Cakes and Cookies at Blue Bottle Coffee. Take a look at the Gingerbread and Arborio Rice Cake.

Sugar Rush: Luminous Kitchens Bum Bars

Sugar Rush: Honeybush and Rooibos by teapigs