During one of the two Lunar New Years celebrations in Chinatown, we coincidentally decided to
have brunch at the Grand Café & Bakery on Pauahi Street in downtown Honolulu. The original
Grand Café & Bakery was established in 1923 by the grandfather of one of the current owners.
While the Café hasn’t been in business continuously since 1923, several items on the current
menu reflect actual recipes prepared in the 1920s. And since the chef is a graduate of the
prestigious Culinary Institute of America, other menus selections are prepared perfectly as
expected of a CIA grad.
We started the morning with a simple assortment of mini Danishes and coffee. They were filled
with assorted fruit, spices and cream cheese. They were as flaky as any French croissant and
perfectly piqued our appetites for our entrée courses.
The Islands Banana Foster French Toast was one of the best French Toasts I’ve tried – and I
usually don’t care for French toast. I usually order other breakfast faire because the bread is
either soaked too long or the custard mixture is too watery or the bread hasn’t staled properly
(like making fried rice with newly cooked rice). It was crisp on the outside without the
mushiness of over soaked bread. Of course it didn’t hurt that I always enjoy anything with
The Downtown Quiche was a perfect mixture of bacon, onions, spinach and cheddar and Swiss
cheese. Once again the execution of the dish had more to do with its perfection than ingredient
choice. I’ve made a few quiches in my time (I know, I know, real men don’t eat quiche but I
actually MAKE quiche). The perfect quiche is cooked just past custard but stopped before
scrambled eggs. You don’t want it too soft that the fillings all sink down to the crust but
neither do you want omelet-in-a-crust.
I personally had one of the specials of the morning, a seared Mahi-mahi crusted with olives and
Mediterranean spices and served atop a grape tomato ragout with polenta. I hate to sound like a
stickler for preparation but the mahi-mahi was perfectly seared – a light crust on the outside
with juicy, flaky meat inside. Though mahi-mahi is found on most menus in Hawaii doesn’t
mean it’s always prepared properly. If it’s cooked just a little too long, it begins to dry out since
it doesn’t have a lot of internal fat like tuna or salmon. If the crusting is too fast, it might be
served rare inside and while this is desirable for a tuna or salmon, rare mahi-mahi is not the most
pleasurable fish (have you ever seen mahi-mahi sashimi)? As an aside, one of my personal “rules”
for dining is to order the special if I’m contemplating whether to order a regular menu item or a
special since the regular menu item will still be there on a subsequent visit – unless the special
gets added to regular item. In which case, my choice was confirmed by its subsequent addition
to the menu.
While Grand Café’s menu isn’t very extensive, what they serve is delicious and prepared perfectly.
They also serve lunch on weekdays and dinner on the first Friday each month in line with the
“First Friday” art exhibits in each art gallery in Chinatown. However, our server informed us that
due to popularity and request, they may be opening every Friday for dinner. I can’t wait to go
HASR Wine Co
After brunch, we strolled next door to the HASR Wine Co. HASR is an acronym for Highly
Allocated, Spoiled Rotten which is also the name of a wine club that includes co-owner Terry
Kakazu. Terry started drinking wine while golfing at the University of Hawaii though her
husband Mike started years earlier. After starting Paul & Terry’s Place in the Chinatown Cultural
Plaza, her taste for wine progressed to the point where she now regularly attends Napa Valley
wine auctions and recently outbid the Culinary Institute of America for a lot of Seps Family
Estate 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon securing her place on the Napa Valley Auction scene.
Therefore, HASR specializes in allocated, hard-to-find wines. Other than one of the few wine
shops with Cliff Lede Poetry, Corley Estate, Monticello, Seps Family Estate and hopefully Pride
Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, HASR is also the most attractive wine shop in Hawaii complete
with a small wine tasting bar (they have complimentary wine tastings on Tuesdays and Fridays).
Walking into HASR reminds you of the small boutique wine shops in San Francisco that you
might find in the Marina, Fillmore or Union Street neighborhoods.
Along with their free weekly wine tastings on Tuesdays and Fridays at the shop, they also offer
sit down tastings for a nominal charge at Terry’s other business venture, Paul & Terry’s Place (a
karaoke bar in the Chinese Cultural Plaza that sports a wine list that rivals most restaurants).
They also organize wine dinners at select restaurants in Honolulu. Therefore, during your next
vacation in Hawaii, I encourage you to take a little jaunt to Pauahi Street for some fine food,
fine wines and maybe a little manapua (dim sum) from Char Hung Sut. But that’s another
A Simultaneous Visit to Both Establishments
We also attended a Tour d’Italia Wine seminar sponsored by HASR with food prepared by Chef
Kevin Dee of Grand Café & Bakery. The tasting was led by Lisa Gmur, a Certified Specialist of
Wine and she covered several Italian grape varietals that aren’t featured as prominently as those
found in Chiantis, Barolos and Barbarescos. The sparkling Prosecco was a perfect match for the
Hamachi carpaccio with lemon shallot vinaigrette. The acidity in the Prosecco cut through the
rich hamachi like lemon compliments fish. A Fallanghina and Ansonico/cattaratto blend were
paired with both a Fresh Fettucini with vine ripened tomatoes and a Seared Mahi-mahi with
roasted potatoes. By themselves, these wines weren’t very interesting but once paired with food,
they found complimentary qualities with the tomatoes, olive oil, and parmesan and once again,
the vibrant acidity perfectly complemented a perfectly seared piece of fish! Finally, the quartet
of a Barbera d’Asti, Ripassa (poor man’s Amarone), Masseria and Cannonau (Grenache) all
complimented the Roasted Pork Loin with porcinis and Veal Cheeks with polenta.
As expected, Chef Dee’s dishes were perfectly executed and Lisa Gmur and HASR Wine Co’s
selection of wines was the perfect match. It once again proved that Italian wines were meant to
be paired with food and if you are as lucky as we were, excellent food simply elevates the
experience to another level.
Grand Café & Bakery HASR Wine Co.
31 N. Pauahi Street 31 N. Pauahi St. 1B
Honolulu, Hawaii 96817 Honolulu, Hawaii 96817
Mon-Fri 6:30am - 2:00pm Mon-Fri 10:00am – 8:00pm
Sat 7:30am - 1:00pm Sat-Sun 10:00am – 5:00pm
(808) 531-0001 (808) 535-WINE
Saturday Morning on Pauahi Street