A decade ago, I was sad to have moved from Kailua, then the breakfast capital of Oahu, to Honolulu, where it was difficult to find a good morning meal.
In Kailua, no one wanted to cross the mountain on the weekend, so Saturdays and Sundays were made for brunches that included a range of creative pancakes, omelets, veggie sandwiches, blintzes and latkes.
Honolulu had traditional pancake houses, but a dearth of cozy nooks offering anything other than standard omelets and egg-and-meat combos.
How things have changed in a decade. Honolulu now has no shortage of breakfast haunts as restaurateurs have stepped up to fill the void.
Still, there hasn’t been much innovation in the morning because few diners want people messing with the inherent goodness of basic bacon and eggs, or Portuguese sausage and eggs. But mornings are looking a lot more elegant with a handful of new introductions at Arancino di Mare and Tango Contemporary Cafe.
Tango Contemporary Cafe
Tango has been different from the start, with chef/owner Goran Streng drawing on his Scandinavian heritage to offer rich Swedish pancakes ($10) topped with fruit and a berry compote, Bircher muesli ($9.50) soaked overnight in milk to soften the oats, and pytt i panna, Swedish for “stuff in a pan.”
That stuff in a pan starts with sauteed potatoes and onions, to which diners can add a choice from a short roster of ingredients. The original features ham and sausage for $10.50. Other options are vegetarian with grilled vegetables, spinach and tomato ($11.25); a gravlax skillet with red and green peppers ($11); and a popular duck confit hash version ($11.50). All are topped with sunny side up eggs.
What’s new are a couple of breakfast boards that can serve as complete breakfasts or can be shared to give some heft to lighter fare such as yogurt with fresh fruit, muesli and berries ($8); oatmeal ($8.75); or sliced fruit ($6.50).
Meat eaters will be drawn to the breakfast board ($13) featuring chicken liver pate, bacon, sausage, a boiled egg and labneh (Lebanese cream cheese), beautifully presented on a wood plank.
A salmon board ($13.50) features gravlax, house-cured salmon and salmon rillettes (a mousselike spread), toasted bread, labneh, sliced beets and a boiled egg. It’s as beautiful to the eyes as to the palate, and gives me a good reason to get up in the morning.
Tango is on the ground floor of the Hokua Building, 1288 Ala Moana Blvd. Walk-in breakfast is 7 to 10 a.m. weekdays. Brunch is 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends. Six-person minimum required for breakfast, lunch and brunch reservations. Call 593-7288.
Arancino di Mare
Some things need no improvement. The breakfast crepe is one of them, perfect in its simplicity. But you can’t stop creatives from trying, and Arancino’s executive chef Daisuke Hamamoto has succeeded in transforming the crepe from a sloppy, rustic roll into a sophisticated and self-contained masterpiece.
The egg is folded into a boxy frame for such ingredients as rich, creamy Alfredo sauce, and Emmenthal and mozzarella cheeses. His salsiccia crepe ($13.95) is filled with roasted red potatoes, topped with a poached egg and finished with four slices of Italian sausage. I’m a sucker for potatoes anyway, so I loved this dish, as well as another crepe with a classic combination of prosciutto and arugula ($13.95). The difference with the latter is a base of egg salad that adds texture and dimension. This was pure genius. Both crepes elicited nothing but happy noises and sighs from my breakfast companions last week.
A starter of tomato and basil bisque ($4) is the perfect companion to either crepe.
Hamamoto also came up with “breakfast in bread” with four very different options that include focaccia alla carbonara ($11.95), essentially a cabin built with toasted focaccia, a pour of Alfredo sauce, a sprinkling of crumbled pancetta and a poached egg that adds to the oozy factor when the yolk is broken.
He takes a more straightforward approach in panini filled with mortadella, prosciutto, arugula and pesto ($12.95); or smoked Atlantic salmon with cream cheese, red onions and capers ($11.95). Both are served with roasted potatoes.
Those who find comfort in fried-egg sandwiches may find themselves making a switch to Tramezzimo Com Uova ($10.95), a soft white bread sandwich with a center of a fluffy rolled omelet. It’s served with Alfredo and a senape (mustard) sauce reminiscent of tonkatsu sauce. Adult diners look like kids again while nibbling slowly on the sandwich.
Arancino di Mare is in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort, 2552 Kalakaua Ave. Breakfast is 7 to 11 a.m. daily. Call 931-6273.