Hawaii Cheese Dishes
Ooey, Gooey Cheese: It stretches, it bubbles, it tantalizes you with warm, salty flavors. You know you can’t deny yourself the melting goodness of cheese. We found the 18 most irresistible cheese dishes in town. Here’s where to indulge.
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If Roy Yamaguchi’s vision for his newest Kauai venture, The Tavern, was to combine comforting pub-style food with his culinary excellence, he achieved it. Consider the Onion Soup Gratin ($10). It’s a delicate broth with wisps of onions hidden beneath a slice of baguette and a lightly browned layer of mozzarella cheese, dusted with parsley from the restaurant’s garden. This is no soup du jour, either; it’s a regular on the starter menu. The Tavern didn’t reinvent this classic soup, it just perfected it. Princeville Golf Course, 5-3900 Kuhio Highway, Princeville, (808) 826-8700.
Like woodland nymphs performing some ancient rite, the fire tenders at Flatbread shovel hot pies from the wood-burning oven. Certainly the Pele Pesto (12-inch, $13.50, or 16-inch, $19.75) is worthy of a Dionysian feast: Its thin, whole-wheat crust is heaped with organic basil and macadamia nut pesto, Roma tomatoes and Kalamata olives beneath melted daubs of mozzarella and Surfing Goat Dairy cheese. Both hedonistic and health-conscious, the indulgence feels justified—especially on Tuesdays, when the restaurant donates 10 percent of the evening’s sales to a local nonprofit. 89 Hana Highway, Paia, 579-8989, flatbreadcompany.com.
La Provence couldn’t be more quaint, and that’s not counting the jaw-dropping views from adjoining Kula Highway. The bakery’s vine-covered trellises and baskets overflowing with fruit tarts and croissants whet the appetite for a hearty French breakfast. On weekends, Benedicts and crêpes are served outside. The classic ham and cheese crêpe ($10.95) comes with a delightful roasted potato and salad greens dressed in aged balsamic. Between the crêpe’s plump folds, an addictive béchamel sauce smothers thick sliced ham and melted mozzarella. (Cash and check only.) 3158 Lower Kula Road, Kula, 878-1313, laprovencekula.com.
Mac & Cheese: The Ultimate Comfort Food
The mac and cheese at the new Shor restaurant in the Hyatt Waikiki comes in a cast-iron mini casserole dish. It’s got truffles, macaroni and a nice breadcrumb crust. But is it cheesy? How about nine cheeses? Yellow sharp cheddar, white extra-sharp cheddar, Muenster, Parmesan, Gruyere, Swiss, Pecorino, Gouda. Plus Velveeta. Really. “We didn’t want to do it,” says Jeff Szombaty, of the Hyatt kitchen, “but it just didn’t taste right without it.” It’s usually served as a side dish to an espalette-rubbed roasted chicken ($28), but you can order it by itself for $7.
Shor, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, 2424 Kalakaua Ave., 237-6145, shorgrill.com.
Chef Mark Ellman’s Adult Mac and Cheese ($14 lunch / $19 dinner) may not leap off the menu at Mala Ocean Tavern, laden as it is with more exotic delights. But one whiff of the oven-baked dish and we were sold. When the elegant platter arrived tableside, we could hardly wait for the bubbling layer of mozzarella, pecorino Romano and Maytag blue cheese to cool down enough to eat. (Perhaps patience is the adult ingredient?) The cheesy crust, delectably crisp on the edges, gave way to juicy alii mushrooms and macaroni aswim in rich sauce. In the shore break just steps away, similarly satisfied turtles munched on seaweed, their tails in the air. 1307 Front St, Lahaina, Maui (808) 667-9394, malaoceantavern.com.
Brown’s Beach House has a Truffled Mac and Cheese that tastes of decadence and luxury (it’s $9 as a side dish or $27 as an entrée, by request only). Even as you are pulling the fork out of the dish, you realize this is more than special, it is spectacular. Cheese oozes and stretches, the fragrance of truffles tickles your nose, a crunchy, fresh edamame is spied, a bit of a Hamakua mushroom peeks out of its cheesy cloak and there is a macaroni noodle in there somewhere. This is a dish that will call your name like a distant lover. Inside the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, 1 N. Kaniku Drive, Big Island. (808) 887-7368.
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