Pagoda keeps it nice and local
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A few years ago, Pagoda Floating Restaurant expanded its hours and started offering sit-down service for breakfast, lunch and dinner, giving kamaaina and visitors even more reason to visit this landmark restaurant, known for its dinner and Sunday brunch buffets that have been a family-favorite, local tradition for the past 50 years.
On the menu is a variety of tasty, local-style comfort food created by executive chef Jason Takemura. Among the newer dishes is Big Island Beef Pastrami Benedict ($13, available for breakfast and lunch), featuring Big Island grass-fed beef brisket brined in-house for about 10 to 12 days, and then smoked for 8 hours. Served on an English muffin with poached egg and hollandaise; it also comes with your choice of hash browns, paniolo potatoes, rice or toast.
“I made it one day, and ran it as a benedict special, and it did well, so we’ve been running it as a special, and now we’re adding it to the menu,” says Takemura.
For those looking for a lighter meal, Poke Salad ($12, available for lunch only) is a popular choice. It consists of fresh ‘Nalo greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, Maui onions, ahi poke and hasu (taro root) chips, along with a ponzu vinaigrette.
For something more filling, try Mr. Park’s Oxtail Ramen ($14), which is named after one of Pagoda’s regular customers, Wesley Park. Local-style oxtail is braised until tender, and shrimp, shiitake mushroom dump-lings, fresh ramen from Sun Noodles, baby bok choy and won bok are added to this mouthwatering specialty. Takemura also mixes a bit of ramen broth to the oxtail broth, which is left to simmer for about three-and-a-half hours.
“Mr. Park comes in a few times a week, and one day he said, ‘I like something else. Why don’t you put noodles inside (the Oxtail Soup) and make me a ramen dish?’,” explains Take-mura. “We’ve always had Oxtail Soup, it’s one of our most popular items. Now, Mr. Park brings people in to try his Oxtail Ramen.”
Of course, Pagoda still offers its famous dinner buffet ($38.95, $18.95 for children ages 5 to 8) Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday brunch buffet ($35.95, $16.95 for children ages 5 to 8). Seniors age 60 and above receive a 15 percent discount for the dinner buffet, and a 10 percent discount for the Sunday brunch buffet.
“When we came in to Pagoda, it was only open for dinner and Sunday brunch, so we brought in an a la carte menu, and added breakfast and lunch,” says Takemura, who also is executive chef at Hukilau. “It’s been good. We’ve gotten a good response. The menu is a local twist on classic dishes, such as Kalua Hash Benedict. You’ll also find smoked meat, kalua pig and kimchee at our omelette station (buffet). We’ve tried to add more fresh and local ingredients.
“We also made a lot of changes to the buffet — instead of frozen snappers, we serve local Kona kampachi. We have a full poke bar as well, along with fresh oysters and a sushi hand-roll station.”
Parking is free in the lot next to the restaurant on Rycroft Street from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., and $1 per hour in the evening.
Pagoda Floating Restaurant
1525 Rycroft St.
Breakfast: 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily; Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Saturday; Sunday Brunch Buffet: 10 a.m.2 p.m. ; Dinner: 5-9 p.m. daily; Dinner Buffet: 5-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday