Your Golden Ticket for Chocolate Bliss
Taking inspiration from Roald Dahl’s tale of Willy Wonka and his magical Chocolate Factory, I’m ready to give every chocoholic out there a tour of Honolulu’s most exciting cocoa-filled treats — with some help from the Oompa Loom-pas, of course!
It’s a fabulous adventure to go on because chocolate has developed a special significance here in Hawaii. We are the only state in the U.S. to grow cacao, and so true bean-to-bar chocolate is being rendered by a growing number of craft companies. Desserts made with velvety strands of rich chocolate continue to be staples at all of our favorite restaurants as well, and today we’ll explore some of those heavenly sweet-endings.
So grab your golden ticket and channel your inner Charlie because, as Wonka puts it in his song, it’s time to “come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination … we’ll begin with a spin, travelling in the world of these creations.”
JJ BISTRO & FRENCH PASTRY
Our first stop is JJ Bistro & French Pastry, where owner and head chef JJ Luangkhot tells me that when he was learning the ins and outs of the restaurant industry more than 20 years ago in New York, his mentor and renowned chef Jean-Marc Burillier told him something he’ll never forget: Dessert is the most important part of the meal because it’s the last bite customers will take.
In fact, he’s built an entire business around this concept, as his Kaimuki eatery is known just as much for its display case of 45-plus handcrafted pastries as it is for its signature French-Laotian cuisine.
Chocolate Pyramid ($5.95 individual, $28 for 5-inch cake, $38 for 7-inch, $55 for 8.5 inch, $85 for 10-inch; $6.25 gluten free) is Luangkhot’s most famous dessert prepared with four types of high-quality Belgian dark chocolate that are not overly sweet. Shaped like Egyptian pyramids, the cake offers a luxuriously rich truffle consistency and unadulterated cacao flavor. Chef JJ recommends trying it with raspberry filling for the perfect flavor pairing.
You’ll find tons of other chocolaty bites to try in the display case, including light, airy and colorful Chocolate Hazelnut ($4.95) cake — ideal for after a filling meal. As an avid fan of Nutella, Luangkhot’s daughter was the one who inspired the recipe for this dessert jewel.
And I haven’t forgotten about those of you who adore white chocolate. Frou Frou au Chocolate ($5.25) presents the most dreamy, cloud-like white chocolate mousse complemented with fresh strawberries and a coat of dark chocolate.
JJ Bistro & French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki
3660 ON THE RISE
When in search of my next chocolaty treat, a very wise oompaloompa advised me to go to 3660 on the Rise for some Warm Chocolate Souffle Cake ($9).
Chef de cuisine Lydell Leong explains how the luxurious flourless-style cake features slightly crisp edges and a soft, moist interior with a touch of ganache after it is warmed in the oven. It enters mind-blowing territory when paired with Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream and a wonderfully creamy and coffee-accented mocha anglaise sauce.
And just when you thought you’ve reached chocolate nirvana, 3660 throws Harlequin Creme Brulee ($9) into the mix. This dessert stuns with a layer of vanilla bean creme brulee on the bottom and whipped chocolate mousse on top. The details like utilizing real vanilla bean make all the difference. “We use Tahitian vanilla bean broken up so you’ll see the seeds in there,” says Leong. In essence, this dish is a chocolate lovers’ creme bruelee.
And if you don’t take my word for it, you must try these treasures for yourself — just as customers have done at the haven of upscale island cuisine for more than 20 years.
“Both of these have been on (the menu) since day one,” confirms the chef.
3660 on the Rise
3660 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki