It’s easy to be tempted to stay in the Waikiki Beach area for your meals. After all, traffic in Honolulu is notoriously bad, and the streets around Waikiki Beach are very pedestrian-friendly, lined with all different types of shops and restaurants. It’s a fun area to be in, especially at night.
However, if you were to do that, you would miss out on some of Honolulu’s most interesting and exciting restaurants.
We decided to take the 10-minute Uber ride to check out Kokohead Cafe, a new brunch spot from Chef Lee Ann Wong, most known for being among the top four finalists in Top Chef Season 1.
The restaurant feels like it’s in the middle of a random street surrounded by very ordinary ho-hum shops. The exterior is a bit plain, and the neighborhood – forgettable. You would never guess from the outside that the kitchen inside churns out such a creative, fun, and mouthwatering dishes. Chef Wong has blended her love of Asian food and her French culinary training together with local Hawaiian ingredients to create a funky and pretty awesome fusion cuisine that is entirely her own.
The place serves brunch only from 7:30AM to 2PM daily and does not take reservations. We arrived around 11:30am prepared to wait, but were pleasantly surprised to score a table immediately. The menu consisted of several sections, all of which looked fun to explore: Baked Treats (e.g., kimchi cheddar scones or black sesame yuzu muffins), Sweeter Side (sweet brunch items like pancakes or the signature Cornflake French Toast), Kung Food Fighting (Chef Wong’s interpretation of Asian breakfast classics like congee, a rotating dumpling of the day, and udon), Hand Food (aka, sandwiches), Eggs (several more classic preparations, plus a few with Sriracha and the like), Salads, Skillet (various type of baked eggs as well as the Breakfast Bi Bim Bop), and Plates and Bowls (larger dishes, like rice bowls, that could serve as lunch).
Bryan started with the Mary Mary, Kokohead’s version of a bloody Mary made with vodka, Ho Farms tomatoes, and wasabi yuzu. We ordered some Taro Chips with house made guacamole to start. It was simple but very good, and a nice way to curb our hunger while we waited for the rest of the dishes.
We decided to get one savory dish and one sweeter, “breakfast-like” dish. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the Cornflake French Toast ($14), a cornflake-encrusted, deep fried french toast served with “billionaire’s bacon”, creamy black pepper maple syrup, and topped with a crazy frosted flakes gelato.
It was really good. I loved the sweet and salty combo, especially with the black pepper maple syrup, which was unusual but worked really well with everything else. The French toast was beautifully fried and gorgeously soft and decadent on the inside. Definitely order this!
The Breakfast Bibimbap was a fusion twist on the traditional Korean rice dish. Served in a baby cast iron skillet, the garlic rice underneath was nice and crispy, just like those made in a hot stone bowl in Korean culture. This one included Western ingredients like bacon, Portuguese sausage, and heritage ham. It was also topped with a sunny side up egg, not unlike traditional bi bim bop. Vegetable accompaniments included kimchi, soy-mirin Shiitake mushrooms, ong choy (an Asian vegetable), sesame carrots, and bean sprouts.
This dish was very tasty, and to me, most certainly captured the core essence of traditional Korean bi bim bop. Except for the different meats, I almost felt like I was eating a traditional bi bim bop.
Jen with Chef Lee Ann Wong
I would have loved to revisit over and over again to try all the other interesting dishes on the menu. Alas,we only had one day in Honolulu and wouldn’t have a chance to return this trip. I really enjoyed the dishes we got, with the French Toast being my favorite. I would highly recommend taking a taxi ride out here to try Kokohead’s fun Asian fusion brunch. The prices are quite reasonable and the food is unique, fun, and very enjoyable to eat.
This post is part of a larger series on our two week trip to Hawaii. Other posts in this series!
Koko Head Cafe Honolulu
1145c 12th Ave Honolulu, HI 96816