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Cover Story

Celebrating 14 Years of Exceptional Fare, JJ Style

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
March 17, 2013

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For JJ Luangkhot, owner and chef of JJ Bistro & French Pastry, his award-winning culinary practices are based on blending the exotic flavors of Laotian and French cuisine, all while impressing guests with the aesthetic appeal of exquisite presentation.

Born and raised in Laos, Luangkhot creates each and every dish through inspiration and experimentation with a wide variety of ingredients. Luangkhot made Hawaii his home about two decades ago and first opened JJ Bistro & French Pastry in Aiea in 1995, prior to relocating his restaurant in 1999 to its current home in Kaimuki.

“JJ Bistro was primarily just a cafe where we were known for our desserts,” says Luangkhot, who has earned a grand reputation thanks to his famous Chocolate Pyramid. “Then in 2001, we added sandwiches, pastas and pizza to the menu because of the downturn in the economy following 9/11.”

A prix-fixe menu soon followed, and in 2007, JJ Bistro underwent a major expansion because of its Four-Course Meal Special that reeled customers in like never before.

Priced at $24.70, this four-course feast begins with a soup or salad, be it Cream of Corn with Crab Soup or House Ginger Sesame Dressing. The meal continues with a Trio Appetizer, which features a Baked Lobster Avocado, Crab Rangoon and Shrimp Kataife. Then, engage your palate with an entree selection of your choice from an extensive list of edible masterpieces.

“I highly recommend Baked Lamb Wellington (rack of lamb with red bell pepper and cheese wrapped in a flaky puff pastry and a side of mashed potatoes complemented by a black pepper cream sauce) or Lobster Pad Thai (stir-fried noodles with eggs and a citrus XO sauce topped with Tristan lobster tail, which is world famous),” Luangkhot says, noting a $5 additional charge for these two dishes, along with Steak Brioche.

For your fourth and final course, take your pick from any dessert in the glass showcase and you’ll also receive a complimentary creme brulee on the side.

Luangkhot says to take the opportunity to fill up on your four-course meal now, as a second dessert is added to the menu free of charge until April 15.

And on the heels of the restaurant’s 14th anniversary, Luangkhot offers up more unbeatable deals, including half off the Seafood Combo ($53.80 for two, $107.60 for four, regular price) from March 18 to 24. Seafood Combo includes one pound of snow crab, mussels, clams and shrimp for two people, and two pounds for four people.

“This special offer is part of our Hot Deals with Honolulu Star-Advertiser and we’d also like to thank our loyal customers for 14 years of support,” Luangkhot explains. “In the past few months since we’ve started to serve an abundance of seafood, business has been great and the restaurant has been packed. Reservations are a must.”

Earlier this year, Luangkhot debuted a Fishermen Feast menu, which plays up his seafood specialties — the main draw being lobster.

“Lobster is one of the most popular seafood choices, and we have a great deal: You can purchase three tails for only $34.95. If you love oysters, you must try our Bake Oyster ($2.95 per piece, $14.95 for half dozen), a side dish, which features oysters with an avocado puree and chili mayonnaise. Melted mozzarella cheese also sits atop each oyster. Bake Oyster is a good choice for those who don’t like raw seafood,” he explains.

Other highlights off the Fishermen Feast menu include Shrimp of De Day ($11.95 per pound), Let it Snow Crab (market price), Clam of De Sea ($12.95 per pound) and more. While the seafood shines on its own, Luangkhot takes pride in the sauces that accompany it. Diners may select from: World Classic (melted butter), Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper and J’Jun Sauce (Cajun sauce made with chili, garlic and basil).

“J’Jun sauce is very interesting and it’s my personal favorite,” Luangkhot says. “Fresh seafood is shipped in twice a week, mainly from Seattle, and we also get our lobster from Maine. We go through about 300 pounds of snow crab a week right now.”

Although Luangkhot is the first to admit that continuity in high-quality cuisine is key, he also believes in the importance of change and variety.

“We don’t want our customers to get bored, so we’re always thinking of new concepts, new dishes and ways to improve the menu here. Offering great deals and specials are ways in which I show my gratitude to my guests,” he says.

In fact, a new special is Grilled Lobster Tails. This decadent dish is offered with the Four-Course menu only and costs $29.95 for one lobster tail and $39.95 for two. A rich and filling entree, grilled lobster tails are presented with a shiitake mushroom and garlic white wine beurre blanc sauce over fettuccine.

“I love presenting new specials, but, of course, I must stay true to what started it all at JJ Bistro — the desserts. So, as another way to say thank you, all desserts will be 15 percent off from now until the end of April. This includes our cakes, too, but they must be ordered a day in advance.”

Never in his wildest dreams did Luangkhot imagine his once petite cafe would now seat 120 patrons, and be at full capacity night after night. So, what’s in the works in the near future?

“We will keep doing our best at JJ Bistro,” Luangkhot says with a smile. “I make every dish as if it was a signature dish. Everything we offer is from the heart — that’s the secret.”

JJ Bistro & French Pastry

3447 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
739-0993
Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sundays, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
jjfrenchpastry.com