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Cover Story

A “Yogur Story” in the Making

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
January 19, 2014

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With a name like YogurStory, the initial assumption might be that it’s a place dedicated to the frozen yogurt craze — just another establishment to hop on the bandwagon, you may say. However, for this Keeaumoku Street restaurant, that belief only holds true in chapter one. And according to owner Sean Saiki, you should never judge a book by its cover.

The story unfolds in 2011, when YogurStory opened its doors to eager patrons wanting to dine in a modern cafe setting reminiscent of those found in Korean soap operas, where two young lovers enjoy a date over coffee and a sweet delicacy almost too beautiful to eat.

“The previous owner wanted this to be a place to come for yogurt, but it slowly transformed into a cafe. He wanted his customers to feel as if they were part of a Korean drama when they were here … an escape from reality,” says Saiki, who, last October, took ownership of the establishment.

Besides pleasing patrons with its enchanting charm, YogurStory has perfected the art of breakfast, brunch and lunch service. This two-story restaurant comfortably seats at least 100 people and caters to a wide customer demographic.

“We have a lot of locals who dine here, as well as visitors from Asia. Currently, we’re working hard to appeal to the Japanese market and really get our name out there,” explains Saiki.

“Everything on our menu is based on a breakfast theme and is available all day. We serve local and American favorites with an Asian fusion, and there is a lot of Korean influence in our dishes as well.”

House specialties include Prime Rib Loco Moco, Waffle Warrior, and K-Town Chicken and Waffle. YogurStory’s Red Carpet Waffle is also praiseworthy, as a red velvet waffle with taro cream cheese and chocolate sauce steals the show. Saiki adds that you can’t go wrong with the eggs Benedict selection; Crab Cake Benedict, Garden Benedict, Pope Benedict and Classic Benedict all are well received by those who crave savory over sweet.

Executive chef Andy Dalan takes control in the kitchen and has history with the restaurant: He created the majority of the original menu when YogurStory made its debut. After a yearlong hiatus, Dalan returned to the eatery last November.

“It’s exciting to be back,” says the chef, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the restaurant industry. “It’s a fresh start for me, and since I was here from the very beginning, I feel as if it’s my obligation to make this place even better than before. I want our regulars to return.

“I was born and raised in Hawaii, so even though I was trained in the French culinary style at Kapiolani Community College, I’m passionate about including a lot of Asian and local flair into my dishes,” he says.

And the plot thickens with a new and improved menu in the works. Dalan’s YogurStory classics aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and an array of never-before-seen items, as well as a tried and true favorite, are available as specials through the end of the month. “There are many restaurants in the Islands that serve breakfast and brunch, but what sets YogurStory apart is our commitment to Asian fusion — a lot of our menu options are very unique,” Dalan says with a smile.

Diners can look forward to Hurricane Rice Bowl ($15), a menu original, which Dalan decided to reintroduce under the restaurant’s new ownership. Dalan’s version of the traditional Korean entree bibimbap, this dish features a heaping bowl of kimchee bacon fried rice sprinkled with furikake and Japanese rice balls. The chef ups the ante by topping the mouthwatering fried rice with a poached egg, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, sprouts and, of course, tender kabayaki prime rib.

“This was brought back based upon customer request. With this dish it’s all about mixing all the ingredients — the egg especially — into the fried rice. I recommend diners to also mix gochijung sauce in there as well,” he explains.

Dalan lets his creativity run wild in the kitchen, and Ube Pancakes are a prime example of that. Priced at $11, a stack of five mini pancakes (comprised of Okinawan sweet potato, ube puree and ube extract) is doused with a sinfully sweet ube sauce.

“I’ve always wanted to put these pancakes on the menu, and now I’m happy that we have it as a special,” says Dalan. “Ube is a Filipino yam. Ube Pancakes is a tribute to my Filipino roots.”

YogurStory also stays on trend with the latest culinary commodities, and there’s nothing sweeter and more indulgent than Twinkie French Toast ($11).

Dalan describes it as “a French toast, panini style. A Twinkie and cookie butter spread is sandwiched between two slices of local sweet bread. It’s then dipped in French toast batter and placed in the panini press.” Finally, caramel sauce oozes over the Twinkie French Toast, along with a dash of powdered sugar, and sprinkles of corn flakes make for an ideal crunch.

“This is a new idea of mine,” Dalan explains of his French toast creation. “I’m constantly doing research and keeping up-to-date with the newest trends, and a trend nowadays is mini desserts.”

So, it’s only appropriate that a Dessert Sampler ($9) be added to the repertoire, which spotlights Taro Latte Creme Brulee, Macadamia Nut Chocolate Tarte, Orange Lemon Tarte and strawberry garnish.

“Our guests always say they’re stuffed after their meal, but the Dessert Sampler is great for sharing and the best way to try a little of everything,” adds Dalan.

For YogurStory, the story keeps getting better, as Saiki, Dalan and the restaurant staff hope to open the establishment for dinner within the next couple of months.

“We’re still developing the concept for our dinner service, but we want to concentrate on pasta — particularly Asian fusion pasta that incorporates ingredients, such as mushrooms, soy sauce and Thai curry, to name a few,” says Dalan. “Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus Pasta ($13) is an experimental pasta that we’ve added to our lunch specials.”

YogurStory also caters to private events and parties, including baby showers, bridal showers, birthday parties and more. Create your own memories here; ones that center around renowned cuisine and good times among family and friends, because, if you think about it, you are the author of your own story.

Here’s to a happily ever after. The end.

YogurStory

815 Keeaumoku St. Ste. 105, Honolulu
942-0505
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Note: Parking is available on both sides of the restaurant.