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Cover Story

Perfect Tens Abound at Kissaten

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
May 20 - 26, 2012

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Span Tokyo’s bustling landscape, and coffeehouse chains such as Starbucks appear at every turn, yet the traditional kissaten or Japanese-style coffeehouse is still alive and well, and hold its own as the legitimate coffee connoisseur’s hot spot. Venture more than 3,000 miles from Tokyo to Hawaii, and you’ll also find that the same holds true a world away. Here in the Islands, Kissaten Coffee Bar stands in a league of its own since its inception in December 2010 on Piikoi Street. Enter this invitingly modern 24-hour establishment with statement lighting, eclectic artwork by up-and-coming local artists and vibrant orange hues, and you won’t be bombarded by a mob of insomniac zombies. Instead, you’ll find patrons at ease as Kissaten offers an escape for those taking a breather from their hectic, on-the-go lifestyles.

Kissaten Coffee Bar is owned and operated by senior partners Neysa Taba, Jon Ishimi and Sean Ishizaki, distant cousins who were inspired to open a top-notch eatery that kept up with their night-owl ways.

“Jon, Sean and I were night owls before we founded Kissaten, and we’d always be out late at night and had crazy schedules,” Taba recalls. “We wanted a place where we could go to get coffee or food — we’d always run on coffee and a 24-hour lifestyle — and there’s many people like us who want coffee or crave a certain food at 2 a.m.

“Kissaten is a night-to-day concept as well,” she adds. “It’s a coffee shop during the day and it turns into a hangout at night. We cater to every craving at any time of the day. We have a good business professional following, and it’s a great place for families and seniors.”

With a fusion of cuisine sprawled out on its ever-expanding menu, Kissaten offers comfort food with a gourmet twist, encompassing Japanese, Italian and French culinary influences derived from the creative mind of Ishimi. Depending on the time of day, Kissaten features breakfast (6-11 a.m.), lunch (11 a.m.-9 p.m.), dinner (11 a.m.-9 p.m.) and late-night (9 p.m.-6 a.m.) menu options to satisfy a grumbling stomach.

“We come up with new items every month or two. We usually start off with specials and if they do well, then we add them on to our regular menus,” Taba explains. “Heading into summer, we’re coming up with a lot more specials. For example, our Panko Crusted Dijon Salmon ($9) has been doing very well.”

The eatery’s early morning crowd also has exhibited an affinity for Kissaten’s Frittata ($7) — an open-faced omelette comprised of egg whites, fresh cherry tomatoes, spinach and goat cheese garnished with organic mesculin and Parmesan cheese — and Homemade Granola with Berries ($5, $4 without berries) — served with a glass of milk. Of course, you would lack the complete Kissaten experience without sampling a few of the restaurant’s best coffee and tea concoctions. No refrigerated mocha frappuccinos here — everything is made fresh to order, including Matcha Tea Latte and Caramella ($3.50 small, $4 medium, $4.50 large, served either hot or iced).

“We go through a local vendor for our coffee and we offer a full menu of coffees — anything you would typically find at your usual coffee shop,” Taba says, adding, “We offer coffee specials as well. Currently, we’re working on a bacon-flavored coffee and a new signature latte.”

Always on the edge of innovation, Taba says, Kissaten is the premier choice for diners who wish to attain a quick power lunch, complete with free Wi-Fi with purchase. Wasting no time, the restaurant’s diligent staff can whip up lunchtime favorites, such as Southwest Chicken Salad ($8), which features a brilliant medley of romaine lettuce, diced red onions, corn, cherry tomatoes and baked chicken breast, drizzled with ranch dressing and barbecue sauce, and finished off with a sprinkle of crushed corn chips.

“This is one of our most popular salads,” Taba states. “It started off as a special and then it gained quite a following, so we decided to add it to the regular menu, and it’s actually overtaking some of our older items.”

Then make yourself at home on Kissaten’s comfy couch and cozy up to Tomato Bisque in a Bread Bowl ($7). The eatery’s most famous soup is available during lunch and dinner, and boasts extravagant flavors derived from a tomato onion garlic bisque topped with fresh chives, Parmesan cheese and Brazil oil.

The exemplary cuisine continues on into the night as the restaurant picks up with its late-night crowd. As the rest of the world sleeps, some patrons are instead gravitating toward best-selling options from Kissaten’s late-night menu.

“Our Pho Noodle Soup ($7) is only offered on our late-night menu, and it’s made from our own recipe,” Taba says.

The night gets even sweeter with Homemade Bread Pudding ($3) adorned with cranberries, raisins and a heavenly sugar glaze. Absolutely divine.

“It’s crazy running a 24-hour business, but between Jon, Sean and myself we’ve figured out a good schedule. We hope to expand and continue to bring in new customers,” Taba says.

So, kiss the days of ordinary dining goodbye and experience a culinary revolution that scores a perfect 10 — all right here at Kissaten.

Kissaten Coffee Bar

  • Where
    • 88 Piikoi Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 593-1200
  • Hours
    • Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week