New: OEC Cafe in downtown Honolulu




Left: beef sukiyaki; right: cheesecake

At the bottom of an imposing, concrete building on Queen Street, two former Morimoto Waikiki sous chefs are turning out homey lunches and sweets baked from scratch. In the few months since it opened, OEC Cafe (a play on oishii, Japanese for delicious) has served international comfort foods like beef sukiyaki, Thai-style chicken green curry, beef stroganoff and even Swedish meatballs. I've only ever seen Swedish meatballs in Ikea cafeterias, but Mieko Sasaki says they were popular in New York when she and her husband, Hitoshi Aita, used to live there. The two worked at Morimoto New York and moved to Hawaii to open the Morimoto Waikiki outpost a few years ago.

Now, they've put aside the whimsical stylings of Morimoto's kitchen and brightened up the space that used to house the chaotic Caffe Grazie and its flamboyant mannequins. At OEC Cafe, the menu is only three items long, usually including one vegetarian option, but each plate is impeccably prepared. A simple beef sukiyaki is tender with just the right amount of sweetness and comes with a side of quinoa salad. Thai green curry is flavorful and not too coconut heavy. I wish the vegetarian options (so far, I've seen cold soba or udon as the options) were more vegetable than starch-based, but that's my only complaint. The baked goods—cookies, cheesecake and fluffy, not crumbly, muffins—are perfect.

OEC opens at 7 a.m., so you can stop by for a quick breakfast treat; the lunch menu is available from 10:30 a.m. Check its Facebook page for the daily/weekly specials.

Plates around $8
OEC Cafe, 345 Queen St., 888-9328, oeccafe.com

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