All Treats—and a Few Tricks

Just reading this column may make you gain a few pounds. This month, it’s sweets and more sweets.


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Instead of ice cream, Le Bistro's almond berry tart is graced with a crescent of lemon mascarpone. Yum.

Photo: Olivier Koning

I have a confession. When I’m not working—and sometimes when I am—I skip dessert.

It’s not restraint. It’s greed. Confronted with an appetizer menu at the top of the meal, I want all the small plates. They crowd the table, and, unfortunately, fill me up so I can sometimes barely finish my entrée, much less dessert.

However, this month my assignment was to write up a collection of the best desserts I could find.

The trick, as far as I could tell, was to eat an appetizer or, at most, two, then go directly to dessert, a strategy recommended by members of my own family, who often ask for the dessert menu first and plan accordingly.

If you think that dinner is merely a prelude to the sweet course, this column’s for you.


Roy's Hawaii Kai
600 Kalanianaole Hwy.  // 396-7697 // Dinner Monday to Thursday 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday to Saturday until 10 p.m., Sunday 5 to 9:30 p.m.  // Free parking, major credit cards //

I’ve always suspected superchef Roy Yamaguchi doesn’t eat dessert. When Roy’s Hawaii Kai opened 20 years ago, the desserts were weird fusion things. You might as well, I thought, fill up on the “canoe” of appetizers.

However, some genius in Roy’s pastry shop came up with a melting chocolate cake, a dessert that has been much imitated. Somewhere between a cake and a soufflé, it’s made with lots of eggs, no flour, just cornstarch. You have to refrigerate the dough overnight to firm it enough that it will hold its shape.

But, oh, the results. When you take a fork to the finished product, a lava flow of molten dark chocolate oozes onto the plate, where the vanilla ice cream awaits.
Unfortunately, someone at Roy’s has taken to isolating the ice cream in a tuile, one of those elegant little molded cookies. This is, I submit, a mistake. You want the warm chocolate to hit the cold ice cream, in a gustatory explosion.

No matter. Corporate pastry chef Noah French has come up with yet another classic—a pineapple upside down cake. Don’t frown. I admit that most pineapple upside down cake is lame—too heavy, made with canned pineapple.

This, however, is a small biscuitlike cake of infinite lightness, topped with fresh fingers of Big Island pineapple. If that’s not enough, there’s a sauce adapted from Bananas Foster—crucial ingredients: rum, brown sugar, butter.

Both the chocolate and the pineapple upside down cakes take 20 minutes to prepare—a perfect argument for thinking about dessert at the top of the meal.


Ala Moana Center  // 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. // 947-9899  // Breakfast Monday to Friday 8 to 10:45 a.m., Saturday to Sunday begins 7:45 a.m.; Lunch daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; dinner nightly 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.  //  Free parking, major credit cards //

I’ve often visited Longhi’s just for dessert. Waiting until after dinner is problematic, given the size of Longhi’s portions. But this time I ordered just the antipasto salad with chopped endive—it might as well be dinner, it costs $14. I wanted to save lots of room.

Longhi’s serves a variation of a dessert created by chef Mark Ellman in the late, lamented Lahaina restaurant, Avalon, and still served in Ellman’s new Lahaina eatery, Mala Ocean Tavern.

 It’s vanilla ice cream, three scoops of it in the Longhi’s version, slathered in housemade caramel sauce, sprinkled with macadamia nuts, and surrounded by a vast portion of fresh fruits in season: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, papaya, pineapple, banana,  and grapes.

Ellman called this Caramel Miranda, the fruits reminding him of Carmen Miranda’s headdress.

Longhi’s calls it Caramel Knowledge—to reflect both its sensuous nature and that eat ing it has to be a shared experience. One person cannot eat the whole thing, which is probably good, since it costs $16.50. You need at least two or three.

I’ve eaten this dessert with groups of friends who insisted on ordering a side of Longhi’s housemade whipped cream to top it off. Have mercy, people.


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