New: Koko Head Cafe in Kaimuki
From left: cornflake French toast; reuben frittata
Back in December, when Lee Anne Wong and I first spoke about her plans for the upcoming Koko Head Cafe, she promised pancakes I wouldn't forget.
I waited four months for the new Kaimuki brunch spot to open so I could try them.
Except, when I finally went, I completely forgot about the pancakes. Confronted by a cornflake French toast, reuben frittata, and a milkshake with bourbon and candied bacon, I can't be the only die-hard pancake lover to be derailed at Koko Head Cafe from a pancake agenda.
It was a happy detour: that French toast ($14), rolled in cornflakes, is as crunchy as Popeye's fried chicken. Served a la mode with frosted flake gelato and sugared bacon, this is dessert for breakfast. And you've never had eggs like this—a pastrami sandwich reincarnated as a reuben frittata ($14) with house made pastrami, kimchi sauerkraut and thousand island sauce. The Don Buri Chen ($16) is a meat fest that surprisingly keeps gluttony in check—the pickles bring the miso smoked pork, five spice pork belly, chicharron and just-barely cooked, creamy eggs back to the edge of reason. The only real letdown that day was the bourbon milkshake ($15), more the consistency of a white Russian than a thick shake.
From left: pancakes with bacon and creamy black pepper maple; breakfast congee
It wasn't until a second visit when I finally tried the pancakes ($12). The bacon version (which I'm guessing most will choose over the fresh fruit option) is pretty similar to the French toast, with crisp strips of bacon and the same sop-it-up-till-it's-gone black pepper maple sauce. The pancakes themselves—tall and tender—certainly command your attention. I'm guessing Wong uses ricotta in her batter, which give the pancakes a slight tang and keeps them extra moist, so much so that a stack of four of them reminds me of the cream-soaked tres leches cake. They are delicious, but in my memories, the French toast still rises to the top.
Wong takes everything comfortable and makes it new again, from eggs to bacon to dumplings (she has a cookbook coming out soon: Dumplings All Day Wong). Sure, throwing three kinds of meat into the congee ($12) makes rice porridge instantly more sexy, but it's the creative touch of cheddar cheese and cinnamon-sugared croutons that makes it truly inventive.
Wong had told me I'd be writing about the pancakes, but clearly, I'd found more than that to talk about.
Koko Head Cafe
1145c 12th Ave., 732-8920, kokoheadcafe.com