Pai Honolulu Ups the Lunch Game in Downtown
Because sometimes you just want foie gras in your 90-day dry-aged burger.
The smoked brisket sandwich, one of the dishes on the new lunch menu at Pai Honolulu in Downtown.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
Sometimes a plate lunch or Spam musubi just isn’t enough for lunch.
Maybe you want a languid break from work or you need a place to celebrate a birthday or new hire. Or maybe you just want a gluttonous spread of food for no other reason than you just do. We get it.
Enter Pai Honolulu’s new lunch menu—a combination of refined dishes that have come to define the newish restaurant at Harbor Court but with a grab-and-go option. (You’ll even be able to order online.)
Starting Aug. 1, the restaurant helmed by chef Kevin Lee, is launching a lunch menu with dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Downtown: house-baked sourdough soup bowl filled with a gorgeous green cream of broccoli soup ($15); a bright bowl of risotto with roasted seasonal veggies, maitake mushrooms and pecorino cheese ($17); a spicy cioppino with an assortment of seafood in a multidimensional fennel and saffron broth ($19).
This house-baked sourdough soup bowl is filled with cream of broccoli soup. The soups will rotate seasonally.
The creamy risotto, with roasted seasonal veggies and maitake mushrooms, is a nice light option for lunch.
The inspiration for many of the lunch dishes comes from Lee’s personal cravings. He crafted a charcuterie sandwich ($16)—soon to be with meats cured in-house—because he misses the deli sandwiches of New York City, where he attended culinary school and worked for years. “I figured if you can’t get it here, I’d make it,” Lee says. House-baked ciabatta is stuffed with layers of soppressata, mortadella, salami, provolone and cheddar cheeses, locally grown Mānoa lettuce, roasted shallot mayo and a spicy tomato jam that could be spread on anything (and should be).
Another signature item—and my personal favorite—is the 90-day dry-aged beef burger ($19) featuring a juicy beef patty, dry-aged in house, and served with cheese, red onion, cucumber pickles, roasted shallot mayo and garlic butter on a house-baked potato bun. If those toppings aren’t enough, you can add, if available, a slab of foie gras ($10 extra) or winter truffles ($40 more)—or both and turn this into a $49 burger, the most expensive in Downtown. “It’s been called the Bougie Burger,” says Justine Kadokawa Lee, Pai’s general manager, laughing.
The kiawe-smoked brisket sandwich ($18) is stuffed with a Southern spice-rubbed brisket that’s slow-cooked for 12 hours. The tender meat is shredded then combined with cabbage slaw, green papaya and mayo vinegar on house-baked ciabatta.
The 90-day dry-aged burger is the star of the lunch menu—and you can get it with foie gras and winter truffles, too. All sandwiches are served with a spicy green salad and house-made potato chips.
This sandwich is stuffed with a super tender brisket slow-cooked for 12 hours and served on house-baked ciabatta.
All of the bread, served at both lunch and dinner, are now made in-house. For the past eight months, Lee has been perfecting bread-making, learning methods from books and videos. Now, everything from the toasted baguette topped with beef tartare on the dinner menu to the sourdough bread bowls at lunch is made fresh in the kitchen here.
“If we were going to have bread in the restaurant, I was going to do it myself,” Lee says.
Pai serves beers, cocktails and wine, too. Not that we drink on our lunch break.
Lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Service can be as quick or as drawn out as you want; just let the server know. All lunch items are under $20. Harbor Court, 55 Merchant St., Suite 110, (808) 744-2531, paihonolulu.com