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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Ruth's Chris Steak House
Waikiki Beach Walk // 226 Lewers St. // 440-7910 // Dinner nightly 5 to 10 p.m. // Validated parking at Embassy Suites, major credit cards // www.ruthschris.com
Say, however, that you are at the new Beach Walk, and you don’t want just an affogado. You want something huge, sticky, gooey, over the top.
Many people don’t know that Ruth’s Chris has a fabulous dessert menu. After polishing off, say, a 20-ounce Cowboy Ribeye, you may not want to move, much less order a banana cream tart.
Our trick was to eat little sandwiches at a cocktail party and then drop by Ruth’s Chris for the tarts—both the cream tart with its overhanging roof of carmelized bananas and the warm apple tart with its streusel crust and scoop of vanilla ice cream.
There’s only possible thing wrong with these fresh fruit, freshly baked, six-inches-in-diameter, $9.25 pies. They’re so big, you’re likely to feel defeated.
Ruth’s Chris’ signature dessert is actually bread pudding. My mother used to make it to use up stale bread, so I have a hard time getting excited about bread pudding. But at least Ruth’s Chris version is topped with a whiskey sauce. Plenty of whiskey.
12th Avenue Grill
1145 12th Ave. // 732-9469 // Dinner Monday to Thursday 5:30 to 9 p.m., Friday through Saturday until 10 p.m. // Meter parking lot, major credit cards // www.12thavegrill.com
I thought I’d learned to eat light, but for some reason I can never resist the appetizer menu at 12th Avenue Grill—roasted tomato soup, smoked ahi bruschetta, beet salad with goat cheese mousse, gnocci with abalone, soft-shell crab on diced watermelon, on and on.
I’d gone there with the best intentions. It was—according to a poll I conducted inside my own house, among my wife and daughters—the restaurant with the absolute best desserts ever.
Here are some things John Heckathorn had to say in past months. Visit our Dining page to read more reviews!
• Downtown @ the HiSamHawaii State Art Museum
250 S. Hotel St.
Downtown is unpretentious,” writes Heckathorn. “It’s actually two restaurants in one—a ‘grab-and-go’ counter and a sit-down restaurant.” The side dishes here make the plate, such as the haricot vert and wax beans dressed in a tasty vinaigrette. For dessert, skip Downtown’s signature churros and chocolate and opt for the olive oil wedge cake instead, topped with roasted fruit, where “every bite is worth savoring.”
• Hoku's, The Kahala Hotel and Resort5000 Kahala Ave.
“Drinking at breakfast usually raises eyebrows. Hardly anyone even drinks at lunch anymore,” writes Heckathorn. “But brunch? Whoa, bring on the champagne and orange juice.” This brunch also boasts an array of seafood, including New Zealand oysters, lobster, crab claws and mussels. Polish it all off with cookies and fruit dipped in chocolate—from the chocolate fountain, of course. Reviewed in our April 2007 issue.
Reviewed in our April 2007 issue.
Unfortunately, even skipping an entrée, I was full by the time we got to the dessert menu, $7 a dessert. The girls ordered the classic apple crisp with ice cream, the banana cream pie … and, hold your horses, the black-bottom crème brûlée.
At the bottom of the custard was a thin, but powerful layer of coffee-toffee-chocolate sticky goodness. I sampled, and sampled again. I finally commandeered the rich little bowlful and ate every bite.
I was unrepentant, though for an hour or so afterwards I thought I might lapse into a food coma.
Hawaiian Monarch Hotel // 444 Niu St. // 429-0945 // Breakfast and Brunch 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. // Validated parking, cash only // www.creampotrestaurant.com
Halfway through this project, it occurred to me that you didn’t have to wait until after dinner to eat dessert. People don’t typically have dessert after breakfast, but they often eat dessert for breakfast.
There was no better place to do that, I reckoned, than the new little eatery called Cream Pot, which promised cream in everything.
Cream Pot occupies a streetside corner in an aging condo-hotel called the Hawaiian Monarch. You can park in the hotel and walk downstairs to … fairy land.
The restaurant’s all faux stone and stucco walls, fake castle turrets, little fairytale cottage doors, lace, baroque geegaws. Both the décor and staff seem aimed at Japanese tourists, though the service is bilingual.
The menu has some sensible breakfast items. In fact, I will return someday for the maguro benedict—raw ahi on rice with avocado and miso sauce.
But I wasn’t here to eat sensibly. I was here to have fresh blueberry crêpes, as fine a dessert as I’ve eaten before 10 a.m. The crepes were nearly weightless, filled with a vanilla custard cream that was almost perfumey in its delicacy. This was topped with whipped cream, dotted with a mint leaf.
The $10 crêpe was, in fact, fabulous, though I felt compelled to supplement it with a $7 side order of bacon—very Japanese, thin half slices arranged in a star on the plate.
If you don’t like crêpes, there’s also a banana waffle with salted caramel sauce and, of course, whipped cream. Top of the mornin’ to ya.
Niu Valley Shopping Center // 5730 Kalanianaole Hwy. // 373-7990 // Dinner nightly except Tuesday, 5 to 9 p.m. // Free parking, major credit cards
At Alan Takasaki’s Niu bistro, I was trying not to fill up, though the sliders almost did me in.
Takasaki makes small Kobe beef hamburgers with slices of foie gras and melted Stilton cheese in the middle. Should you need a secret sauce on your burger, there’s a port wine reduction.
These are the best hamburgers I have ever eaten. I know I am supposed to be writing about dessert, but I mention them as a public service. Takasaki created the sliders as part of an elaborate, beef-three-ways special. I had to beg to get them by themselves. I suggest you also beg Takasaki to make them a permanent feature on his menu, though he’ll probably wait until he comes up with some elegant variation of pommes de terre frites.
Anyway, I had only two sliders, and not three as the waiter suggested. Which left room for the French apple tart.
A classic French apple tart differs from an American apple pie in that it’s both thin and open-faced. It’s a layer of pâte sucrée, a layer of paperthin apple slices and sugar, which caramelizes while baking. Not too sweet, not too tart, not too heavy, not too light—and, hey, it comes with ice cream.
I thought nothing could be better, but Takasaki insisted I also try his almond berry tart—a thin wrap of almond puff pastry, filled with raspberries, blueberries, white pears and pluots (a cross between plums and apricots).
Instead of ice cream, this comes with a white crescent of lemon mascarpone, the citrus cutting the richness of the cheese.
Although this is difficult for me to credit, it’s the equal of—perhaps even slightly better than—the apple tart. I hate being confused, but then again, everyone should have two favorite desserts. Maybe a dozen.
John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.
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