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Breakfast basics

No-nonsense diner understands the need for morning meals that kick-start a person's day

By Nadine Kam

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:55 a.m. HST, Jun 12, 2010


After moving into Honolulu from Kailua, I mourned the dearth of breakfast places of the casual-fresh sort that I'd enjoyed over 10 years on the Windward side.

But there's no sense lamenting those things out of one's control, so I moved on. Even so, my interest is piqued every time I see a new breakfast joint open up this side of the Pali. Ending up at City Square Shopping Center for other business one day, what could be more intriguing than spying a place whose name suggests that its owner knows exactly what people are looking for?

With no fanfare, frills or evocative moniker necessary, Pancakes & Waffles simply states what's important. As soon as I saw the beckoning sign, I knew I had to be there. The strange thing is, I've always liked the idea of pancakes and waffles more than the reality of dry, carb-laden foodstuffs that usually must be blanketed in butter and some form of sugar/syrup to be palatable. Like risotto, it only takes a few bites to feel sated, then I usually find myself wanting to eat something else.

Luckily, the new breakfast diner at City Square (home of Sugoi and Koolau Farms) delivers on the pancakes and waffles, just as advertised, while offering much more.

PANCAKES & WAFFLES

City Square, 1284 Kalani St. » 847-7770

Food ***1/2
Service ***
Ambience ***
Value ***
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily
Cost: Breakfast about $15 for two; lunch less than $10 per person

Ratings compare similar restaurants:
**** - excellent
*** - very good
** - average
* - below average.

Walking up to the menu posted in their window, I was drawn in by the offering of vinha d'alhos (vinegar-marinated pork), offered in an omelet ($7.95) or as part of a meat-and-eggs plate ($7.50) with a choice of rice, short-stack pancakes, toast or home fries. (For those unfamiliar with the Portuguese dish, it's the equivalent of having pork adobo on your plate.)

Even more curious was the sight of a fried chicken-topped waffle ($7.95), more of a mainland than local phenomenon. So, when I called the restaurant after a visit, I asked owner Jason Sung where he lived before opening Pancakes & Waffle, and he felt the phone call was fortuitous because he was just preparing to launch a honey-buttered fried chicken and waffle.

Turns out the local boy went to school in California, and while working toward his marketing degree, frequented Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. A big fan of eating, he also learned to cook through the Food Network.

He worked in marketing in California before deciding to come home with a desire to start and market a business of his own. It turns out he's no stranger to chicken or breakfast. His family owned Cajun Joe's on Nimitz about 13 years ago, specializing in Cajun chicken, and today represent breakfast royalty with Koa Pancake House. But forget I told you that. Pancakes & Waffles stands on its own philosophies and merits.

SAUCE INFUSES PANCAKES WITH DECADENCE

What got me started on the breakfast kick was a visit to Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen's new location at 151 Hekili St. in Kailua. I was dying to check out the new building, but I'd heard mouthfuls about the lines there, so I knew getting in would be a problem.

It's hard to get away from the office on weekdays, so I called to ask when a long wait in line would be least likely. The response? "7 a.m."

A friend who lives in Kailua confirmed she's seen lines there at 7:30 a.m.

Well, had to get it over with, so I got there at 10 a.m. one Tuesday and was told the wait would be about 45 minutes. Soon afterward, it started raining and I hoped that some of those ahead of me would just leave. But no, there you have it: People (mostly tourists passing through just once) are willing to wait in rain or skin-piercing heat for a bite at Boots & Kimo's. Not me, but this was work.

The wait is usually for "Kimo's Famous Macadamia Nut Sauce on his Onolicious Pancakes" ($7.99). It's not a photogenic dish. The sauce looks like a blob that swallowed your pancakes.

There's not much special about the pancakes themselves, but many crave the thick vanilla cream sauce studded with bits of macadamia nuts. I find most pancakes generally dry and uninteresting, but the cream sauce gives these a more appealing moist texture, like a souffle or turning basic bread into bread pudding. And, because of the sauce's fat content, it has a high satiety factor and is far less cloying for grownups than typical sugar-saturated pancake syrups.

Our waiter suggested a side order of two sweet-and-spicy Hawaiian smoked sausages ($9.95) for heft.

Uninclined to wait in line another day, I tried some of the lunch items as well, but you can find better steak and chicken elsewhere. Here, breakfast reigns.

Boots & Kimo's Homestyle Kitchen is open 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Call 263-7929.

FOR ONE THING, Sung doesn't do anything small, dainty or delicate. His original fried chicken waffle ($7.95) is topped with three pieces of chicken, almost too much for one person. The original comes with brown gravy on the side, because not everyone wants to dampen the golden crispy chicken that's better than the Colonel's, better than most in Hawaii. It's a bit heavy for morning (available after 10:30 a.m.), but if you have a big appetite, this place is for you.

"I get hungry when I'm working, so I make the portions big, the way I like to eat," he said. "I believe in good food, and lots of it. Choke and cheap, that's my motto."

Those home fries mentioned earlier? What you get is just about a whole russet, chopped into big eighths, or thereabout.

Omelets are made with three-and-a-half eggs, and the P&W Special ($8.95) is stuffed with ham, Portuguese sausage, bacon, tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, potato, cheese and a thick hollandaise.

Otherwise, the hollandaise is made to coat eggs benedict selections including the spinach and tomato Florentine ($7.50) and mahi benedict ($7.95), all with a layer of turkey in addition to Canadian bacon. There's also a waffle eggs benedict ($8.50). These, like most of the plates, are enough to feed two, and perhaps expectant mothers have already discovered this. I've never been a mom, so I don't understand the craving thing, but for whatever reason, there's been as many as four pregnant women here at once, in separate parties.

Knowing the portions, think twice before ordering a full stack of pancakes (five pieces, $4.50 to $7.50). A shortstack (three for $3.50 to $6.50) that seems to dwarf the plate is plenty, and flavors range from plain buttermilk to pancakes studded with blueberries, chocolate chips or butterscotch chips. Crepes are just as generous. Each plate comes with three colossal specimens rolled with your choice of banana ($5.95), strawberries and sour cream ($7.75), azuki ($6.75) and more.

For diversity beyond eggs, waffles and pancakes, there is also chili and rice ($4.25), sandwiches, kalbi ($7.95) I have yet to try and other plate lunch offerings.

And don't think the menu is set. Sung plans to introduce a daily specials board soon, and one of the recipes he's working on is guava jelly smoked pork. Can't wait.






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