Olive Tree Café: Classic, Comfort, Greek

(Sponsored) Twenty-six years, a change in ownership and one pandemic later, the Kāhala restaurant’s food, and philosophy, remain the same.

 

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When I used to live around the Kaimukī/Kāhala area, Olive Tree Café was a staple in my diet. My go-to order was the avgo lemono soup—which I’ve yet to find on any other menu on the island—the lamb souvlaki and, of course, a piece of house-made baklava, flaky layers of phyllo dough saturated with syrup and stuffed with walnuts.

 

Olive Tree Cafe Lamb Souvlaki

Lamb souvlaki. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Now, six years later, I’m back at my old haunt and ordering the same three dishes. One bite into tender lamb and pita and I wonder, “why did I ever let geography get between us?”

 

Olive Tree Cafe Tabbouleh Salad

In Olive Tree Café’s tabbouleh salad, everything but the bulgur wheat comes from a local farm. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Olive Tree Café was opened on Jan. 1, 1995, by Savas Mojarrad, a restaurateur and chef who wanted to bring Greek cuisine to the Island in a way that was authentic, accessible and healthy. “He was very, very passionate about the Greek culture,” says Steven Iida, who took over the restaurant after Mojarrad’s passing in 2016. He has been with the restaurant for nearly as long as it’s been open and saw Mojarrad as a friend and mentor. “When it came to food, Savas wanted it to be as fresh and organic as possible.” That means nearly everything Olive Tree serves is made from scratch and uses local ingredients as much as possible. All but the bulgur wheat in the tabbouleh salad comes from local farms; Ma‘o Farms lettuce and Hau‘ula cherry tomatoes make the side salad for the souvlaki; and the falafel is ground and mixed in-house using the restaurant’s own recipe.

 

Olive Tree Cafe Savas Mojarrad

Savas Mojarrad, who opened the restaurant in 1995, was passionate about Greek culture and sharing it with Hawai‘i. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Olive Tree Café has been virtually the same it’s always been since day one—from the menu offerings to the garden-themed posters on the wall (though, to be fair, sun exposure has rendered them less vibrant over the years). Judging by the small crowd of people waiting patiently outside for the restaurant to open, I don’t think anyone minds. And Iida says he has no plans to change that. “I don’t believe in changing anything, because it will not honor what Savas started here,” he says.

 

Olive Tree Café is currently only available for takeout. For updates, follow @olivetreecafehi on Instagram.

 

 

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