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Ono, You Know

The Ultimate Mac Attack

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
May 12, 2013

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Raised in a family with food-forward parents such as mine, who served dinners comprised of Caprese salad, ravioli, gnocchi, rack of lamb with rosemary and watercress soup, dishes such as macaroni and cheese seemed surprisingly exotic. I probably can count on one hand how many times my mom served this old-fashioned American classic. To be honest, as a kid, macaroni and cheese made its rare appearance out of a box when, for some reason, my mom was on a business trip, and my dad and I were left to fend for ourselves (my dad possesses very few cooking skills, but I love him regardless).

Yet, over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to this “comfort food,” especially during college. When dorming, Easy Mac kind of became a staple. However, other than Easy Mac and macaroni and cheese out of a box, my palate knew no trace of authentic macaroni and cheese — that is, until recently.

This week, forget the mac and cheese that includes powdered cheese and margarine. Instead, bring on dishes affluent with several beautiful cheeses, 100 percent real butter and even truffle oil and braised short ribs! Here at the following Ono, You Know locations, we have the Chanel and Prada of macaroni and cheese. My taste buds are in heaven … and I can get used to this! It’s a full-fledged “mac attack”!

Kissaten Coffee Bar

The name says it all, for those addicted to coffee, Kissaten Coffee Bar, a contemporary 24-hour establishment located on Piikoi Street, can offer you your caffeine fix. It also presents its patrons with a chill spot — an escape from the hectic, on-the-go lifestyle.

Vibrant orange hues plaster the walls and countertops, yet it’s the gorgeous array of fusion cuisine which permeates the menu that awakens my senses and excites my palate.

According to the eatery’s senior partner Neysa Taba, Kissaten showcases comfort food with a gourmet twist, encompassing Japanese, Italian and French culinary influences. Open for breakfast (6-11 a.m.), lunch (11a.m.-10 p.m.), dinner (11 a.m.-10 p.m. and late-night dining (9 p.m.-6 a.m.), Kissaten is an early bird’s and night owl’s dream come true.

My top-pick at Kissaten is easy! I’m all about Truffle Mac n Cheese ($10.75). Me, oh my! Who wouldn’t go absolutely crazy for this classically macaroni and feistily cheesy dish? Imagine a bowl full of al dente penne pasta covered in a homemade cheese sauce, which perfectly highlights the hearty taste of aged white Cheddar cheese. Pieces of tender chicken breast also complement the dish, which is topped with bread crumbs, bacon lardons and Parmesan cheese. A crispy exterior and gooey interior is the ultimate pairing! The subtle hint of smokiness is an added bonus. Delish!

A Kissaten original, this tried-and-true comfort food is available for lunch and dinner. Taba says the macaroni and cheese is big enough to share, and although it is a hefty portion size, experience the cheesy goodness in the first bite before opting to make it a meal for two. You may just want to blurt out “get your own,” as you devour every last bite!

Kissaten Coffee Bar
88 Piikoi St.
593-1200

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

What’s one of the first things that come to mind when you think Romano’s Macaroni Grill? Well, if you’re anything like me, it’s pasta, pasta and more pasta, but most specifically, luxurious macaroni and cheese!

You’ll find this all-American classic on the keiki menu (for ages 12 and under), and on the regular menu listed under Italian Tapas as an appetizer that is totally entree worthy.

Here at Macaroni Grill, kids’ Macaroni and Cheese ($7) features penne pasta mixed with the restaurant’s special cheese sauce. It’s simply satisfying. You can never get too old for macaroni and cheese. Along with the irresistible macaroni and cheese, children also receive a soft drink.

Don’t worry, mac and cheese lovers above the age of 12 — and there are many out there — Macaroni Grill has you covered with its Mac & Cheese Bites ($7).

These cheesy bites will come right at ya with macaroni and cheese composed of homemade Velveeta, Parmesan, mozzarella and Romano cheeses formed into balls and coated with deep-fried panko Italian bread crumbs. Six to seven pieces are included in one serving, and you’ll want to dip each one into Macaroni Grill’s famous side of truffle oil, which is a blend of melted Velveeta, Parmesan, mozzarella and Romano cheeses topped with truffle oil.

Macaroni never tasted so good!

Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Ala Moana Center — Hookipa Terrace
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 4240
356-8300

Restaurant Epic

Epic proportions of macaroni and cheese are to be expected at Restaurant Epic! And that’s because, owner and chef Brian Chan has a devout love for this soulful dish.

“I’ve always loved macaroni and cheese, and I’m so passionate about it,” says Chan, who hand-picked every item on the menu.

Peruse the menu and you’ll find three varieties of mac and cheese, and trust me, these are nowhere near the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that you get out of a box. Not even close! In fact, these dishes are so decadent, they are full on “mac attacks”!

For starters, Epic’s Pocho Mac N’ Cheese Balls ($7) definitely have that wow factor. Here you have balls of macaroni and cheese, along with morsels of Portuguese sausage, that are breaded and deep-fried, sitting in a bowl of savory marinara sauce and topped with scallions and melted Cheddar cheese. You’ll be popping them into your mouth like nobody’s business — I know this from personal experience.

The lunch crowd will go bonkers for “Epic” Mac N’ Cheese ($12), a cheesy blend of Cheddar and pepper jack cheeses with rotelle pasta and sun-dried tomatoes, sprinkled with panko. This is a zesty tribute to the traditional version of mac and cheese.

Finally, dinner patrons will gravitate to the most popular of the restaurant’s mac and cheese options. Enter Short Rib ‘n’ Mac ($16), a dish Chan says was inspired by a loyal customer.

The ideal choice for the heartiest of appetites, Short Rib ‘n’ Mac features a base of Cheddar, pepper jack, Parmesan and Mascarpone cheeses intertwined with macaroni and poblano peppers. Shredded braised short ribs and a mound of crispy onions sit atop the mac and cheese to complete the meal.

Intense and robust flavors are what it’s all about at Restaurant Epic!

Restaurant Epic
1131 Nuuanu Ave.
587-7877