Thursday, February 12, 2015

On the menu: Soufflé pancakes star at Aloha Kitchen

Nadine Kam photos
The fruit soufflé pancake is a top seller at Aloha Kitchen. As of this writing, $17.

If not for some intrepid chefs’ obsessions, we would not have the innovations in cuisine we have seen over time.

On one trajectory are global culinary movements flowing from nouvelle to fusion to molecular gastronomy. On the other is the simple joy of seeing just how far experimentation can push one particular dish to exalted heights.

Americans are accustomed to seeing pancakes and flapjacks in familiar stackable form because we’re comfortable with the homey sight. Not everyone has the same upbringing, but I associate pancakes with leisurely weekends at home, waking up to the sizzle of the griddle and sitting down with the family and a nice big bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. Depending on your family tradition, that stack might have been accompanied by marmalade, jam or jelly, a tradition in no need of a remake.

A side view of this chocolate-banana soufflé pancake ($15) gives you an idea of the height of these babies.

But for people from Japan, raised on breakfasts of rice, miso soup, fish and natto, a pancake is something foreign that could use improvement. And so the tweaking began. How could they make these flat, flabby, chewy and somewhat leaden discs more exciting?

Enter the new, inflated eggy soufflé pancake. It has reached epic proportion at Aloha Kitchen in Waikiki, owned by Japanese Olympic trainer Toshi­yuki Yamamoto, who also owns a chain of restaurants in Japan.

Just because he trains elite athletes, don’t assume he’s aiming to impose diet restrictions on the rest of us. The proof is in the soufflé pancakes that are equivalent to eating cake for breakfast. These are as big as a cheesecake. Outside, the texture is like a light chiffon cake. Inside, it has a silky, custardy meringue texture that is easy to devour, but much more substantial and satisfying than an egg-white soufflé.

The soufflé pancake is the highlight of the breakfast menu, topped with various fruit combinations. Considering the size and probable calories involved, I assume it’s meant to be shared, though I have no doubt I could eat the whole thing myself.
Aloha Kitchen is at 432 Ena Road. Call (808) 943-6105.

They do savory breakfasts as well, such as this eggs Benedict with succulent marinated ham.

If you have the stomach for rich foods, the lobster risotto is not to be missed, made with 18-month aged Parmesan and a satisfying helping of lobster; currently $18 and available day and night.

A loco moco paled in comparison to the other dishes, but is there for those who enjoy comfort food. I believe they are working on improving the burger patty to make it more Japanese-style tender.

In the evening, a strawberry, goat cheese and macadamia nut tossed salad is a refreshing light starter.

Spicy garlic edamame could have used more spice and salt.

The pulled pork sandwich is described as being house-smoked, but it’s prepared more like rafute, with strong soy-sugar flavor.

Salmon was flavorless, but I suppose some of that can be attributed to nature’s doing.

Big Island Beef ribeye is diminished when frites don’t measure up. For $26, they can do better.

A vanilla-filled chocolate crepe with little choco flavor paled when compared to the soufflé pancakes, which are a better dessert option in the evening.

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