Mornings and I don’t mix. It’s hard enough waking up to my alarm during the week, so when the weekend rolls around, I take full advantage to soak up every last minute of precious sleep. My body clock usually wants to go off at around 10:30 or 11 a.m. Now the dilemma is, do I fuel up with breakfast or lunch? At almost midday, my stomach already is growling. It’s time to brunch it. I call up my friends, who also are barely awake because of a late night out, and we all agree that we’re in need of that happy medium we like to call brunch. As bleary-eyed late-nighters, who feel entitled to sleep in Sunday mornings, there are many like us who feel the same. And brunch seems to have become the trend among the most creative chefs.
Here at the following OYK establishments that cater to the brunch crowd, I learned exactly what makes the concept of brunch so cutting edge. First of all, there are no prejudices to brunch. Everything is pretty much a go. Sweet and savory? Breakfast and lunch favorites? Most definitely! Brunch is the best of both worlds — the total package. Oh, and did I mention that adding eggs to pretty much any dish goes a long way toward making something untraditional seem like breakfast food?
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop owner and executive chef Brian Chan is the quintessential culinary artist. As the restaurant’s name implies, everything is made from scratch. Located on Smith Street in downtown Honolulu, you’ll feel right at home at this Southern-inspired brunch bistro. The open dining room is trendy and relaxing, and the staff is friendly and efficient. Chan is an expert at fusing together intricate flavors to create a delectable masterpiece that’s rustic and delicious.
Brunch is served daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and boasts restaurant specialties such as B.L.T. Benny ($12), traditional eggs Benedict served with house-cured, then braised bacon, smoky barbecue relish, arugula, grilled tomato and soft poached eggs served atop an English muffin doused in peppered hollandaise sauce. I’m one to savor the savory, which leads to my deep affinity for Smothered Biscuit Sandwich. Priced at $12, house-made Mexican chorizo sausage patty and jalapeno and Cheddar scrambled eggs are sandwiched between two buttermilk biscuits smothered in chorizo gravy and served with smashed morning taters.
Finally, a bowl of milk and cereal is mundane. Instead, Chan hits high notes with his “Milk and Cereal” Pancakes ($10), which is almost dessert-like. Frosted Flakes’-infused buttermilk pancakes are drenched in a milk-based syrup and beautified with fresh seasonal berries and banana.
“What separates brunch from lunch and dinner is that it usually offers both savory and sweet items — sometimes both on one plate! For example, we often feature a dish on our menu called The Sivle — Elvis spelled backward — which consists of griddled banana bread, house-smoked praline bacon, peanut butter gelato and caramelized bananas.”
So when you’re itching for brunch, go to Scratch!
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop
1030 Smith St.
Hoku’s at The Kahala Hotel & Resort is the place to be when brunching in style — think casual resort wear. With multiple awards to its name, this fine-dining establishment, usually only open for dinner, hosts a spectacular Sunday brunch buffet that’s a feast for the senses. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekly, guests are treated to an impressive spread of innovative fusion fare, which melds Hawaiian, Asian and European flavors. Reservations are highly recommended, as the dining room fills up fast with kamaaina and visitors from all over the world.
The buffet boasts a myriad of island classics, which executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi takes to the next level. Feel free to start with freshly made juices, salads and appetizers, featuring Pacific lobster, shrimp, ahi sashimi, tako poke, smoked salmon and more — chilled on ice. Or refresh your palate with Waimanalo Greens, Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella or Water-cress and Tofu Salad.
But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll save all of this for the second or third rounds. It’s all about priorities, and the No. 1 priority calls for Butter Poached King Crab Legs, Hoku’s Eggs Benedict with Cheddar cheese biscuit, smoked salmon and bear-naise sauce, and Banana French Toast. Then dedicate another round to Oven Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb and Sunday Rib Roast. Of course, made-to-order eggs and omelets are a must, along with Ahi Poke Musubi.
Because you’re condensing breakfast and lunch into one meal, it’s OK to splurge. Hoku’s dessert buffet offers sweet endings, such as a majestic chocolate fountain with seasonal fruit for dipping. Hoku’s exquisite Sunday brunch buffet is priced at $65 for adults and $32.50 for keiki ages 6 to 12.
Hoku’s Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
What was once slated to be a yogurt bar (hence the name) is now an ever-popular dining destination with a spacious, two level “cafe-esque” atmosphere and mind-boggling good eats, which are perfect for brunch enthusiasts. Take, for example, the restaurant’s famous Ube Pancakes ($12) infused with Okinawan sweet potato and doused with a vibrantly purple, semi-sweet sauce made of fresh ube (Filipino sweet potato) and coconut milk. Unique to YogurStory, these pancakes are a hit with everyone.
Hurricane Rice Bowl ($16) balances out the sweetness from the pancakes with savory. Mouths will water at the sight of bacon kimchee fried rice topped with sesame spinach and cucumber, seasoned carrots, lettuce and shiitake mushrooms. Sliced prime rib and julienne-style eggs are my favorite accents to the dish, which is topped with a poached egg and sesame seeds doused with kochujang sauce. Executive chef Brian Stover says Hurricane Rice Bowl is the restaurant’s local take on Korean-style Bibimbap, and it’s very much patron-approved.
“A good brunch item stems from finding the right balance,” he says. “You have to make sure the dish is not too heavy so that you’d fall asleep, but not too light so that you’re still hungry.”
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., YogurStory is definitely worth telling.
815 Keeaumoku St., Ste. 105