New French-Latin Bistro, Grondin Opens in Honolulu’s Chinatown

Grondin French Latin Kitchen: A new but surprisingly familiar restaurant opens at the sketchy end of Chinatown.


Published:

Charcuterie at Grondin. 
Photos: Steve Czerniak

 

Two of Honolulu’s most underrepresented cuisines—French and Latin—come together at Grondin. And yet what sounds like an uncommon mash-up feels surprisingly familiar.

That’s because the menu here is less fusion than a presentation of classic French and Ecuadorian food, so classic it reads more like a universal language than Esperanto could ever aspire to. You’ll recognize charcuterie and ceviche, steak frites and pork chops.

The interior, too, speaks adorable in every tongue—classic Thonet-style wooden bistro chairs, black-and-white tile floors, brick walls and tall ceilings that tip the ambiance from cramped to intimate.

Grondin tells the story of its owners—Jenny Grondin (whose father was a French chef) and David Segarra (originally from Ecuador). In the past seven years, they helped open and manage four Fatty Crab and Fatty ’Cue restaurants—the uber-popular, Malaysian-inspired concepts based in New York. Grondin is the first restaurant that’s their own, and it’s a love letter to the foods of their childhoods.

So the ceviche is made with ketchup, Ecuador-style, and the steak accompanied by frites is served sliced, as is often the case in Paris. The most unfamiliar dish, muchines, isn’t so exotic once you realize it resembles mochi—steamed, grated yucca has that same chewy texture, only here it’s topped with queso fresco and honey. And, like mochi, I can’t get enough.

Big hunks of meat are not usually my thing at restaurants—I get bored halfway through—but they are stunning at Grondin. The chuleta, a thick-cut pork chop, arrives as bronze and naked as a Waikiki sunbather, making me fear it will be equally leathery. But no—it’s perfectly juicy and deeply flavorful. It comes on saffron rice, a refined take on the Latin yellow rice, studded with raisins and pine nuts and emboldened with pork fat. There’s nothing technically wrong with Grondin’s cassoulet or white bean ragu, but they just can’t compare.

The flavors don’t let up at lunch. The excellent charcuterie offered at dinner is served in a killer sandwich of pate and house-cured ham infused with chili and cumin. A chicken-salad sandwich is made over with a vinegary mix of veggies and sliced, fresh jalapenos. This kitchen is not shy with seasoning, from salads to steaks, and I love it for that.
 

Chuleta, pork chop with saffron rice. 
 

Recommended dishes: 
Muchines, charcuterie, chuleta.

Price range:
Lunch: Sandwiches $12 to $14.
Dinner: Small plates $7 to $15, large plates $18 to $32.

62 N. Hotel St., 566-6768, grondinhi.com
 

 

Read More Stories by Martha Cheng

 

Subscribe to Honolulu