Out on Waialae Ave: Dinner at Town & Dessert at JJ’s French Pastry

Oh man, why didn’t anyone ever tell me dinner at Town was this good? They’ve gotten positive reviews from everyone I know, but no one said it was a must go, like a super must go! The motto here is, “local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always.” Now that’s my type of restaurant :) Town styles itself to be a casual, neighborhood restaurant (though by ‘causal’, they’re looking for clientele willing to pour over $30 for a drop by weeknight dinner), in a chic urban setting. I’ve visited for lunch on a few occasions, but it’s during the dinner hours where this place gets packed.

The restaurant was half full when we arrived for a 6:30pm dinner, and was just getting more and more crowded as the night wore on. They start you off with a plate of bread, butter, and olives. On the left are slices of roasted tomato focaccia, and on the right are simple slices of French bread. Butter the French, or butter both, up to you…but make sure you eat those olives, good stuff! Maybe this is nothing out of the ordinary in a big city restaurant, but we’re in Hawaii here, and the most interesting bread plate yet to be offered is the addictive hot melting cheese bread at Hy’s. Put short: we don’t usually get more than one type of bread at a casual neighborhood restaurant, and we never ever get olives with the bread plate. So kudos to Town for setting higher standards.

(Sorry the photo is so blurry!)

Hannah had the apple risotto with salmon, of which she generously offered nearly half of her salmon. I’ve had plenty of salmon in my life, and more often than not, it comes overcooked. But here, the skin was sinfully crisp and savory while the salmon meat itself retained a moist pink sheen, tender cooked just right, nearly melting into the risotto. Tiny cuts of apples were cooked right into the buttery risotto with just enough cheese to appreciate but not overwhelm. To finish the dish was a sprinkle of fried capers so good that I found myself stopping by the market on the way home to buy a bottle of capers. Fried capers and eggs for breakfast tomorrow!

My gnocchi was the easily the best I’ve had in Hawaii. You know how people always describe gnocchi as ‘pillowy soft’? But most times it’s overly chewy, or heavy and gummy? Well this was beeeyooond pillowy soft – it was like little buttons of savory marshmallow with cuts of baby corn and local baby tomatoes. A sage butter base tied in all together, the only (slight) downside to this dish may have been the excess of butter swimming at the bottom of the bowl. However, it was the perfect portion, leaving me very satisfied, but with more than enough room for dessert.

Here’s a photo of my mom’s mahi mahi sandwich she had for lunch a while back. Sautéed mahi fillet with tartar sauce on a ciabatta bun. I had a bit but can’t remember enough to give you a reliable description, so I’d rather not say than report incorrectly!

I opted for fries with my prosciutto panini. All I recall was the sandwich being exceptionally salty, but the thin crisp fries tossed with fried sage and served hot enough to burn the tips of my fingers more than made up for a standard sandwich I could have easily created at home.

Next on my agenda is Town’s new location downtown, which is appropriately named Downtown (inside the Hawaii State Art Museum).

We decided to pass on dessert at Town in place of dessert at JJ’s just up the street. I have been a fan of JJ’s since he first opened a when I was back in high school. My mom’s office used to be next door and I’d often pop in for a slice of cake after school.

Nothing has changed much here in the past few years, save for rearrangement of the dessert case and an addition of a few tables. I’ve never seen JJ’s crowded, but I suppose the steady stream of cake orders and faithful customers have kept him well in business.

His specialty is the Chocolate Pyramid, and Hannah had the chocolate raspberry version of it tonight. It was every bit as rich and decadent as I remember, the raspberry coming in as a subtle afterthought. In the original chocolate pyramid he layers thin slices of a dark chocolate sponge with bittersweet mousse, buttery smooth and rich almost to the point of ganache. They come in all sizes from a single bite pyramid to a towering cake.

I had the round of currant cassis, which was attractive in appearance but just decent in taste. The vanilla cake base was very dry and contributed little in flavor or texture, but the tangy sweet currant mousse was oh so velvety, a deep pinkish-purple shade. I think it would have been better to simply omit the cake base and just do a tower of currant mousse.


3435 Wai’alae Ave

Honolulu, Hawaii 96816

(808) 735-5900

JJ’s French Pastry

3447 Waialae Avenue

Honolulu, Hawaii 96816

(8080 739-0993

  • da weekend foodie
    July 10, 2007

    Town looks and sounds good. I’ve passed by several times recently and have wondered how it was. From the outside, it looks kind of deceiving…at first glance, I thought it was just another hole in the wall that Kaimuki is famous for. Is the lunch menu much different from dinner?

  • rowena
    July 10, 2007

    JJ’s French Pastry…that must be the guy that showed up when I googled pyramid cakes in Honolulu!Smiles on the part about bread plate — in Hawaii. I empathize with first time italian visitors who probably wonder at dinner, “Well where’s the bread?” :-)

  • KirkK
    July 10, 2007

    Oh my, you’ve sold me! I’m adding this to my list for grindz, for my next visit home. And fried capers!!! I would have never thought of that.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    July 11, 2007

    Hey Da Weekend Foodie!I love your post on Teds – am craving one SO BADLY right now! :) The lunch menu at Town is definitely a lot less than dinner. I recall the sandwiches running from about $8-10 at lunch. No sandwiches at dinner, only entrees running from about $16-20 for pastas and $20-26 for items such as steak/roasted chicken, etc… Kinda pricey at dinner, but definitely worth a visit! :)Hey Rowena!It must be! He’s the only guy I know of who “specializes” in the pyraminds – they’re insanely good! It’s real family business with wife working at the register and a bunch of kitchen running around in the kitchen, but the scent of baked goods in there is enough to drive you crazy! lol! :)Hey Kirk!ooooh, I’m glad I convinced you! There’s so many new restaurants opening this summer…you’ll have a bazillion places to eat the next time you visit! =)

  • Ryan
    July 11, 2007

    Town is great. Classy, creative. Cute portions. A good spot for star sightings.Their new ‘Downtown’ offshoot downtown, not as impressive.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    July 21, 2007

    Hey Ryan!I wish I had enough money to dine at Town every night! I haven’t heard too much on Downtoan…but what I have heard is more positive than negative, I think I have to go check it out for myself! :)

  • Rachel
    February 25, 2008

    I went to Town last night and got a chicken dish over some braised tat soi and it was absolutely fabulous! The chicken was so moist and tender I wanted to keep eating it forever. The service on the other hand… it was horrendous. Hopefully it was just an isolated incident. I plan on going back during lunch to hopefully grab one of their burgers.

  • anonymous
    May 24, 2008

    Visit both downtown and town restaurants regularly, and while I absolutely love, love, love the appetizers and entrees–the quality of the wait service is not reflected in the final tab. Neither restaurant ever seems staffed well enough for the lunch or dinner hours, and although servers do their best to be courteous, they do not handle the rush very well. All this affects what could be a very enjoyable (and certainly unique for Hawaii) dining experience.

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