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Foodie Fare
Foodie Fare

Local Faves with a New Twist

By Christina O Connor Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
February 23, 2014

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Growing up, when Jason Takemura’s family had a special occasion to celebrate, Pagoda Floating Restaurant was their go-to spot. In 2010, When Takemura took over as executive chef and partner of the restaurant, he sought to bring it back to its roots, serving local-style favorites from his youth.

Serving up what he calls “local comfort food,” Takemura says Pagoda “will bring back flavors of things people used to eat.” He also aims to put his own spin on the dishes.

For example, Pagoda has created the popular Kalua Hash Benedict ($13), comprised of kalua pig hash and poached eggs on top of an English muffin drizzled with Hollandaise sauce. It’s then garnished with fresh, local tomato and onion lomi, and comes with choice of paniolo potatoes, rice, hash browns or fried rice.

“Most people grew up in Hawaii eating kalua pig, and this is our take on the traditional eggs benedict,” Takemura explains.

Another breakfast treat includes Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast ($11.50). The dish features peanut butter and bananas sandwiched between slices of sweet French toast, served with a decadent butterscotch banana sauce. It is presented with whipped cream and strawberries, and comes with choice of meat.

Pagoda recently introduced a few tasty appetizer items as well, such as Braised Pork Belly with Fuji Apple and Kim Chee Slaw ($10).

“We took the concept of shoyu pork, which is a local favorite, and added some Asian spices to it,” Takemura says. “It has a nice balance of sweet, salty and spicy. It’s also kind of like a manapua with the bun.”

For a creative approach on a classic appetizer, check out Pagoda’s version of Oysters Rockefeller — Baked Oysters with Bacon Cream Spinach and Truffle Hollandaise ($13).

For a hearty lunch, Take-mura recommends Grass-fed Big Island Beef Pastrami Reuben ($12), which is served on marbled rye. It comes with a choice of fries, ‘Nalo greens, or sweet potatoes fries.

“We brine it in-house for two weeks. We smoke it, and then we turn that into our pastrami,” he explains.

“We try to source locally as much as possible,” he adds, explaining that Pagoda also utilizes Kona kampachi and other fresh island fishes.

“For a lot of people, Pagoda was always the place to come to growing up,” Takemura says. “For me, it was important to make sure that it got back to being locally oriented. Previously, we didn’t use a lot of local goods. Now, we really try to emphasize local.”

On the Side

Pagoda Floating Restaurant has been a mainstay for many local families for the last 50 years. But if you haven’t been to Pagoda in recent years, you’re missing out on some big changes.

For starters, three years ago, the restaurant expanded its hours, opening daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Most people know Pagoda as just a buffet place, but we also offer a la carte menu items,” says executive chef and partner Jason Takemura, who attended culinary school in Portland, Ore. before working in a number of restaurants in California. He then returned to the Islands to work with chef Chai Chaowasaree before becoming a partner at Pagoda.

Buffet lovers need not to worry though — the restaurant still features a prime rib and seafood buffet Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. A brunch buffet also is available on Sundays.

More recently, the restaurant has completed a number of renovations to give the dining room a more open and modern feel.

If you’re looking to recreate your favorite Pagoda dishes at home, check out From Kau Kau to Cuisine, a book Pagoda recently released in partnership with author Arnold Hiura.

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Pagoda Floating Restaurant

1525 Rycroft St.
948-8356
Open daily, Breakfast: 6:30 am.-1 pm. Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Weekend Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: 5-9:30 p.m. Dinner Buffet: Friday-Sunday, 5-9:30 p.m.