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Pau hana at Cafe Julia


Above left: greens on soy milk panna cotta; above right: Thai-inspired tako poke

If you love Cafe Julia for lunch, check it out for pau hana, which the downtown crowd has yet to discover. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, Cafe Julia is open from 4 to 9 p.m. The official statement is that this is pau hana—chef Lance Kosaka says the menu is small plates and pupus meant for sharing, not large dinner entrees—but I'm calling it dinner.

To start: a beautiful salad of MA‘O greens tossed with taegu and ko chu jang dressing on a soy milk panna cotta. The soft, silky panna cotta resembles tofu and is set in a shallow Heath Ceramics bowl. Cafe Julia is the only place I know of on the Islands that uses Heath Ceramics—gorgeous, heavy pottery in earthy shades—which are ubiquitous in San Francisco restaurants.

Left: chicken-fried pork chops in the foreground, escargot in the background; right: baby back ribs

Thai-inspired tako poke is Peruvian ceviche married with Thai spices, resulting in fresh hits of lemongrass and citrus. Heavier items to fill you up are chicken-fried pork chops, in a thin, crispy coating, and escargot, drowning in garlic herb butter and topped with puff pastry. I'm a sucker for ribs, and at Cafe Julia, they're lacquered with a sweet glaze, tender and just lightly charred around the edges.

As of now, dinner—I mean, pau hana—is relatively quiet, giving the chefs time to play with new dishes. Expect some new items—glazed donuts, perhaps, or a cornbread pudding with candied bacon.

Cafe Julia also now has its liquor license—the drink menu is a short list of standard bottled beers, wines by the glass and cocktails such as a chocolate martini and ginger mojito.

Pau hana plates from $6 (musubi) to $20 (grilled ribeye with watercress chimichurri)
Cafe Julia, 1040 Richards Street, 533-3334, cafejuliahawaii.com

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