New Honolulu restaurant: Cafe Julia in the Laniakea YWCA

Left: ochazuke risotto balls; right: Vietnamese-inspired salad

The cafe at the downtown YWCA is open again! We've missed eating in one of downtown's most beautiful, yet relaxed lunch spots. In the reopened spot, now named Cafe Julia, Lance Kosaka shows he's great at reinterpreting familiar flavors—the menu includes a garlic chicken and furikake mac salad sandwich ($11), an entire plate lunch stuffed into a roll, for a creamy, crunchy, sweet bite. Kosaka created this dish while chef de cuisine at The Pineapple Room; other menu items he's brought over are the "Five Layer Dip," ($12) refried taro taking the place of beans, layered with goat cheese, lettuce and tomatoes and fried ochazuke risotto balls ($6.50): all the flavors of the Japanese rice soup rolled into a crisp and golden mouthful.

Above: french dip

But Kosaka shows he is more than the sum of his Pineapple Room dishes, with new items like a puttanesca ($12) and achiote shrimp pasta ($16) on the menu. The French dip ($12) has thick slices of roast beef, the horseradish sour cream, caramelized onions and Swiss cheese lending flavor (though the au jus doesn't do the same). 

Above: the Cafe Julia burger

Some will love the Cafe Julia burger ($12.50), but it's a bit too old-fashioned teri-burger for me: the patty somewhat meatloaf-y and glazed in a sweet teriyaki sauce. The Vietnamese-inspired salad ($12) is more my style: basically a traditional Vietnamese vermicelli topped with grilled pork slices, dressed up with greens, fresh cilantro, mint and thinly sliced radishes adding vibrancy and bite.

Cafe Julia is now also open for Sunday brunch; I'm looking forward to enjoying a weekend morning here, in the cafe's open, inviting atmosphere beneath the arches.

1040 Richards St., 533-3334,