19 of the Most Sinful Chocolate Desserts in Hawai‘i
The best chocolate desserts in Hawaii restaurants, alas, bring out the worst in us.
NOT EVERY CHOCOLATE DESSERT HAS TO BE BIG OR HEAVY. JJ BISTRO’S FROU FROU AU CHOCOLAT IS DELICATE AND LIGHTLY SWEET, THANKS TO WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE AND A STRAWBERRY CENTER.
Photos: LINNY MORRIS
The best chocolate desserts, alas, bring out the worst in us. There’s gluttony (I want to order them all!). Greed (I am not sharing with you!). Envy (I want what he’s having!). It seems that virtue flies out the window when confronted with fudge icing. We say, embrace the dark (chocolate) side and give into temptation. Here are some of the best places to order a devilishly good chocolate dessert.
JJ Bistro and French Pastry
JJ’s famous as the “home of the chocolate pyramid”—it says so right in the window and justifiably so—but you won’t be cutting any corners if you stray from this favorite to try the Frou Frou au Chocolat ($4.50). A thin shell of dark chocolate encases a column of white chocolate mousse, fluffy, with a hint of vanilla, and a strawberry hidden in the heart of this small dessert, awaiting excavation. Other chocolate offerings include a chocolate lilikoi concoction, a chocolate fruit basket and chocolate banana confit. JJ’s has also expanded into a neighboring space, with Le Cacao Bistro, offering even more chocolately treats.
3447 Waialae Ave., (808) 739-0993, jjfrenchpastry.com.
OK, you’ve ordered a towering, custom burger, all the fixin’s, with a side of sweet potato fries and crispy onion strings, and you’re going to follow that with a diet soda? No, no, no. A chocolate shake ($4.95) is clearly the answer, and The Counter’s hand-mixed version is the platonic ideal: real Dreyer’s vanilla-bean ice cream blended with that Brooklyn soda-fountain classic, Foxes U-Bet original chocolate syrup. The result is so thick and creamy, you’ll have to eat it with a spoon—just watch out for the inevitable chocolate brain freeze.
4211 Waialae Ave., E-1, (808) 739-5100, thecounterburger.com/honolulu.
The double chocolate fudge cake ($5.95) is a massive slab of chocolate and fudge, stacked on top of even more chocolate and more fudge, making Spinal Tap references irresistible. How much more chocolatey could this be? The answer is none. None more chocolatey. There’s no fruit garnish, no whipped cream to lighten the mood—just dark, dense, chocolate overload. Just the way we like it. An important note: Café’s Laufer’s desserts often arrive at the table slightly chilled from their time in the display case, which inhibits the full chocolate flavor and texture. Let your slice warm up before diving in, and it’ll be approximately 10 million times more decadent.
3565 Waialae Ave., (808) 735-7717, cafelaufer.com.
Morimoto’s chocolate mille feuille. Minimalist design, maximum flavor.
Kudos to Morimoto for having two chocolate desserts the likes of which we’ve never seen or tasted before. Our strongest recommendation, in terms of sheer chocolate intensity, is for the chocolate mille feuille ($12). Your plate arrives with three little treats, all on beds of chocolate in various forms (a thin cake, or sheets of dark, bittersweet chocolate), including brûléed bananas, avocado anglaise and spiced chocolate ice cream. Also good, especially for fans of the beloved peanut butter/chocolate combo, the chocolate peanut bombe ($12), featuring a peanut-buttery cake filled with milk chocolate cremeux and a dollop of salted peanut ice cream. This one comes topped with a flake of edible 24k gold, for decoration.
1775 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 943-5900, morimotowaikiki.com.
The Cheesecake Factory
Chris’ Outrageous Chocolate Cake ($7.95) has something for everyone. This hybrid dessert is layers upon layers of brownie, chocolate cake, toasted coconut, chocolate-chip cheesecake, and pecan and chocolate frosting. It’s so rich that even if you share the dessert among friends, you still might need a to-go box.
2301 Kalakaua Ave., (808) 924-5001, thecheesecakefactory.com.
LONGHI'S HOT CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE.
The molten chocolate cake was the dessert of the late 1990s, and we have Hawaii’s own Roy Yamaguchi to praise for starting the trend. His chocolate soufflé is so good, it’s been copied by restaurants the world over. The dessert still clearly has a hold over restaurant-goers; we found a molten chocolate cake on just about every dessert menu we encountered, and have listed some of the variations. Whichever molten cake you choose, remember that this style of dessert usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to prepare.
Lava Near the Lava
On your way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, stop first at the Hilo Bay Café for chef Joshua Ketner’s Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with raspberry coulis, vanilla Anglaise and Kona coffee ice cream ($8). The restaurant is tucked into a strip mall near the local Walmart, but do not let that dissuade you. The cake looks like a volcano and oozes flavors of chocolate and coffee.
315 Makaala St., Hilo, The Big Island, (808) 935-4939, www.hilobaycafe.com.
While some desserts whisper chocolate to you softly, others grab you by the throat and scream CHOCOLATE! So it is with Longhi’s Hot Chocolate Soufflé ($13). The chocolate is extremely dark and rich, the side of vanilla Häagen-Dazs adds a chilly sweet contrast, and the finishing touch of vividly fresh blueberries and raspberries takes it to the next level.
Longhi’s Ala Moana, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 947-9899. Longhi’s Lahaina, 888 Front St., Lahaina, Maui, (808) 667-2288. Longhi’s Wailea, The Shops at Wailea, 3750 Wailea Ala Nui, Wailea, Maui, (808) 891-8883, longhis.com.
The moist chocolate cake at Restaurant Epic ($8) oozes a warm, chocolate-peanut butter, pudding-like center that will make you wish you hadn’t promised your dinner companions a share. Go for dinner, but plan to save room for dessert.
1131 Nuuanu Ave., (808) 587-7877, restaurantepichawaii.com.
The Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Cake ($8) at 22 North comes with a tiny, stainless steel pitcher of cream; you pour it in to create a rich, lovely concoction. The cream fits nicely with this farm-to-fork restaurant sitting on 70 acres of agricultural land.
Kilohana Plantation, 3-2087 Kaumualii Highway., Lihue, (808) 245-9593, 22northkauai.com.
Papalani Gelato's Belgian Chocolate
Photo: Kicka Witte
Tucked among the bustling restaurants in Poipu is a tiny chocolate and gelato shop big on taste and originality. All of the gelatos are churned by hand in the shop, as well as the treats and toppings; even the marshmallows are made from scratch. The Belgian Chocolate Gelato ($8.50) is served in a chocolate-dipped waffle bowl topped with fudge sauce.
Poipu Shopping Center, 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Road, Koloa, (808) 742-2663, email@example.com.
A trip to Ono Gelato presents an epic challenge: Which of the 30-plus mouthwatering flavors should you fill your waffle cone with? The creamy confections are made fresh every day, using organic whole milk and locally sourced, seasonal fruit. Whether you choose chocolate raspberry gelato or vegan chocolate sorbet ($4.95), a pure, unadulterated dose of cocoa is your reward. We went halfsies, pairing the Old World elegance of bittersweet chocolate with the sweet tang of lilikoi.
115 Hana Highway, Paia, (808) 579-9201; 1280 S. Kihei Road, Kihei, (808) 879-2910; 815 Front St., Lahaina, (808) 667-1984. onogelatocompany.com.
C’mon, it’s got “sin” in the title; what’s not to love about Ruth’s Chris’ Chocolate Sin Cake ($9.50)? The porous chocolate espresso cake is sealed in a layer of rich chocolate fudge and topped with tangy cherry-strawberry sauce. The fruity drizzle is what makes the dish special: it accentuates the strong chocolate flavor and adds the just the right amount of moistness.
500 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 599-3860, ruthschris.com.
MAMA'S FISH HOUSE STICKS WITH ITS SEASIDE THEME. THAT'S GLOSSY GANACHE IN THE POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARL.
PHOTO: NINA LEE
If you’re one of those people who bakes a pan of brownies and then eats half before you can stop yourself, you’ll love the warm, gooey brownies at Gordon Biersch. The Triple Chocolate Brownie ($6.50) comes filled with just the right amount of peanuts, is drizzled with caramel and chocolate, and then topped off with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Order a glass of cold milk to go with this.
1 Aloha Tower Dr., Suite 1123, (808) 599-4877, gordonbiersch.com.
Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas
We fell in love with Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas’ offering, Chocolate Chocolate ($7.75). It’s a creamy-textured, flourless cake that seems to be more chocolate than cake, and is exquisitely paired with an addicting scoop of raspberry sorbet, pieces of strawberry and orange, and a smidgeon of mint-flavored whipped cream.
500 Ala Moana Blvd., Restaurant Row, (808) 533-4476, hiroshihawaii.com.
Manta Restaurant at Mauna Kea
Who knew beets and corn could taste so good? Chef George Gomes serves an Organic Beet-Chocolate Cake ($12), with a Jack-and-Coke sauce, ice cream and candied corn made from Nakano Farms’ corn, beet purée and edible flowers. Gomes is a local boy who went to a Mainland culinary school and came back to the Islands to create dishes with as many local ingredients as possible. The chocolate beet cake is dense and studded with mini chocolate chips, but it’s the Jack-and-Coke sauce that really makes the flavors pop.
62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Drive, (808) 882-7222.
Luana Lounge at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii
We snuggled onto Luana Lounge’s lanai to watch the stars and sea while listening to some music. Oh, who are we kidding? We came for the new Dessert Tapas menu. Eleven small plates are offered; we chose the Chocolate-Caramel Tart with Kau Orange and Chantilly Cream ($5). It’s dark chocolate and caramel on a crust of chocolate and macadamia nuts, laying on a bed of sweet Kau oranges, topped with a bit of gold leaf. Wait, we’re not done. And a spoonful of Chantilly Cream studded with micro arugula and edible flowers. Every bite was a little explosion of flavors.
1 N. Kaniku Drive, (808) 885-2000, fairmont.com.
Although known for its fresh-fruit martinis and ahi ceviche, those who stay on for sweets will experience the yin and yang of desserts at The Eastside: the Flourless Chocolate Decadence Cake ($8). On the plate lies a dark, dense slice of cake, the foundation for the whispery, light, white chocolate mousse cloud delicately resting on top, accessorized with a sprig of mint. It’s a taste of opposing textures that attract each other perfectly, surrounded by fresh berries and a chocolate truffle sauce.
4-1380 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa, (808) 823-9500, theeastsidekauai.com.
The Melting Pot
Move over, Harry Potter, magic is afoot at The Melting Pot. Order the bananas Foster (small $20 /regular $38) at Hawaii’s only fondue restaurant and blue flames will leap from your monk-like kettle. Our server conjured magical sparks with a sprinkling of cinnamon. At his suggestion, we swapped out white chocolate for dark. Wise choice. Once it was molten, we dunked in an array of treats. The fresh fruit—Maui Gold pineapple and strawberries—prevailed over the cheesecake and brownies, but the Rice Krispies treats proved irresistible. “There’s no wrong way to fondue,” our server assured us, though food fights “are a fon-don’t.”
325 Keawe St., Suite A202, Lahaina Gateway Shopping Center, Lahaina, (808) 661-6181, meltingpot.com.
Mama’s Fish House
Chocolate pirates: find your heart’s desire. The Polynesian Black Pearl ($14) is almost too stunning to eat, nestled in its wafer clamshell, amid a fan of chocolate, Tahitian vanilla and lilikoi sauce. The glossy ganache begs to be bitten into—otherwise hypnotized diners might stare all evening, without daring to disturb their dessert’s loveliness. Once punctured, the shimmering orb of dark chocolate mousse reveals a sweetly tart lilikoi cream center and good manners go by the wayside. We confess: We came close to licking the plate, scooping up every last smear of sauce with our delicate, coconut-y wafer.
799 Poho Place., Paia, (808) 579-8488, mamasfishhouse.com.