Mindblown: Legit Oxtail Soup and Soufflé Pancakes at Westman Café
We found ‘ono oxtail soup on the same menu as divine soufflé pancakes—in Waikīkī, of all places.
Mindblown uncovers unexpected finds in unexpected places—dishes so good, they tweak our perspective.
Looking for a spot for a work meeting, we hit upon Westman Café + Lounge in Waikīkī. None of us had been, which always adds thrill to an agenda, though from its previous incarnations (R.I.P. Bills Hawai‘i and Upstairs Waikīkī) we knew tables were luxuriantly spaced out and the high-ceilinged room was open to the outdoors (not today, cold/flu/COVID!).
Westman’s hours are daily until 2 p.m., so a menu heavy on trendy breakfast items wasn’t a surprise: things like avocado toast ($21), a croque monsieur ($22) and souffle pancakes ($26), along with lunch dishes like a wagyu loco moco ($26) and a vegan poke bowl ($21). On Beach Walk right where Kalākaua Avenue starts bustling, with no easy options for free parking, Westman’s one-page menu seems crafted for tourists. And yet, right in the middle, there it was: wagyu oxtail soup ($27).
I came to this meeting fresh off the plane from an overeating trip, intent on ordering vegetables. In an instant I convinced myself the broth of this wagyu oxtail soup would be similarly … well-intentioned. So here it sat, steaming before my eyes. I dipped in my spoon for a taste.
No joke, it was the beefiest oxtail soup I’ve ever had. Completely unexpected. I dipped in again. Caramel-colored, full-bodied, with a faint star anise undertone and deeply beefy, it was cousins with and different from Your Top 5 Oxtail Soups on O‘ahu. Without even digging into the oxtails I pushed the bowl around the table, proffering my spoon so everyone could taste (what cold/flu/COVID?). Everyone was nodding. The oxtails, they delivered too, sizable and generous and fall-off-the-bone. Softly cooked peanuts dotted the soup; freshly grated ginger came on the side. A couple of people noted the saltiness; I noted the soup went with the mixed-grain rice like it was god’s plan, mouthfuls of rice chasing sticky, lip-smacky bites and slurps.
How did legit oxtail soup end up in Waikīkī? The answer is in Westman’s ownership: The new café is part of Diamond Dining, whose Hawai‘i restaurants include Shokudo, Buho Cocina y Cantina and its secret omakase sushi bar, Fukurou. The corporate chef for all is Yuya Yamanaka, formerly of Paris Bistro on Seaside Avenue. Zetton Group recruited Yamanaka out of Paris, France, where he was the opening sous chef at the lauded Clown Bar. Coupling his years in Hawai‘i with his training in French techniques, which include simmering roasted beef bones for stock for anywhere from 4 to 48 hours, he “tweaked” a local recipe, a manager told me.
The price? Par for (non-wagyu) oxtail soup these days: A bowl at Asahi Grill Kaimukī is $24; at Zippy’s it’s $26.75.
There’s more. Katrina Valcourt, HONOLULU’s executive editor and an avowed fan of souffle pancakes, followed up with this report:
With Honolulu the birthplace of the soufflé pancake, we have high expectations when it comes to the fluffy treat. And Westman’s version—made with Big Island honey and served with apple banana, whipped cream cheese, maple syrup and your choice of either pineapple mango or berry sauce—hits. We tried the dish with both sauces and found them fine but unnecessary: The ultra-spongy pancakes didn’t need any more sweetness beyond a traditional drizzle of syrup. These were actual soufflé pancakes, not just fluffy pancakes. My only complaint is that they were so cloudlike, we devoured all three in mere bites, and I’d like something a little more filling for $26.
Parking, as mentioned, is not the easiest. You can park in the Bank of Hawai‘i structure on the same block of Beach Walk, where validation from the restaurant will get you a discount. Finally, Westman is offering a 20% kama‘aina discount through the end of February.