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JJ Bistro expands its reach

By Yu Shing Ting Photos By Bodie Collins
January 11, 2015

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JJ Bistro & French Pastry in Kaimuki is expanding near and far. Owner and chef JJ Luangkhot shares with Dining Out that three new locations are opening in Tokyo, Japan, this month, including one in the famous shopping district of Harajuku. In Japan, the restaurants will be called JJ Bistro & Hawaiian Dessert, and operated as franchises.

Closer to home, Luangkhot introduces a new concept: Jean-Marc Honolulu, opening in the next few months on Sheridan Street near Ala Moana. The new eatery serves as a tribute to the late chef Jean-Marc Burillier, who Luangkhot credits for helping him to become the chef he is today.

Originally from Laos, Luangkhot moved to New York City in 1985 and met Burillier when he worked at Maxim’s de Paris in 1987, starting as an ice cream scooper and moving up to pastry assistant. He eventually moved to Hawaii in 1995, and opened a dessert shop in Aiea before moving to Kaimuki in 1999, and then adding the bistro component a few years later.

“I’m here today because of him,” says Luangkhot. “He gave me a chance and taught me about becoming a chef. He introduced me to the culinary industry. Back then, I had no idea what I would be doing in the future. That’s why I always have him in my mind. So, I want to introduce the man behind my training as a chef. He passed away 21 years ago, and I feel it’s time to honor him.”

Luangkhot says the menu at Jean-Marc Honolulu will be similar to that of JJ Bistro, with many of the same dishes available. However, the atmosphere will be very different. Jean-Marc Honolulu will be two stories — pastries and coffee will be served on the first floor, and the dining room will be located on the second floor.

Also happening in March is JJ Bistro & French Pastry’s 16th anniversary. In celebration of its “Sweet 16” on March 19, Luangkhot plans to celebrate with free dessert. In addition to its signature desserts, the restaurant is known for its French-inspired cuisine with an Asian flair. Among the top sellers is Fisherman’s Pot Pie ($14.95), which was introduced 8 years ago, and features an assortment of salmon, scallops, shrimp, bamboo, eggplant, red bell peppers and zucchini with a green curry sauce, and served over a puff pastry shell. Every dish is made to order, so customers can easily choose the level of spiciness and substitute sauces if they prefer.

Customers also frequently return for Lobster Pad Thai ($20.95), which is made with stir-fried rice noodles and egg in citrus XO sauce, and topped with Maine lobster tail. More recently, Luangkhot began offering Deep-Fried Softshell Crab ($10.95), and customers seem to love it, so he plans to include it on his new menu, which he hopes to have ready by March.

This month, JJ Bistro & French Pastry also features Galette Des Rois or King Cake ($35 to $45), traditionally eaten in France during the beginning of January to celebrate Epiphany. The cake usually has a small ceramic figure or baby in it, and the person with the slice of cake that has the item is declared king (or queen) for the evening. For JJ’s version of the French Cake, an almond or pistachio is used instead of the tiny unedible object. “I don’t want anyone to break their teeth when they bite into it,” Luangkhot says.

JJ Bistro & French Pastry

3447 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
739-0993
Daily, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
jjfrenchpastry.com