Crazy About Coconuts

Columns Ono, You Know

February 4, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Coo coo for coconuts? Well, given that coconuts are the current rage, I can honestly say that, yes, I am coco-crazy! Let us count the ways in which we love coconuts, shall we? First off, there’s the all-natural, super-hydrating and nutrient-packed coconut water that I’m addicted to. Second, for those who abstain from dairy completely, coconut products make a great replacement for creams and butters. And, of course, we have J-Lo’s absolutely adorable 3-year old twins Max and Emme, which she refers to as “The Coconuts.” OK, so that last one may have been somewhat of a stretch, but come on, coconuts just make everything better!

With that said, this week, nuts for coconuts, I did everything in my power to sink my teeth into this fatty pseudo-nut — all but climb the coconut tree in my backyard. Instead, I opted to take my appetite to the following Ono, You Know hot spots, which provided a safe haven for all of my coconut cravings!

Patisserie La Palme D’or

  • La Palme D'or's Tropical Fromage ($4.20)
  • La Palme D'or's Coconut Cake ($2.10 a piece)
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Escaping into a world of sinfully sweet delights, I fall head over heels for Patisserie La Palme D’or time and time again, and this time was no different. As soon as I entered this heavenly eatery, located at Ala Moana Center, I was greeted by the sight of extravagant treats and refreshingly tempting drinks. Where was I to even begin? La Maccha, Kona Chocolate Cake, Framboise Fromage — the list goes on. Difficult decision, but someone’s got to do it. Finally, after much thought, I decided to venture off into the crazy world of coconuts.

“We have two very special items that highlight coconut, Tropical Fromage and Coconut Cake,” says owner Hiromi Tanaka.

A favorite among coconut lovers, Tropical Fromage ($4.20 a piece or $40-$128 for an entire cake) wows your palate with a layer of coconut sponge cake that features a smooth and savory blend of coconut puree and cream cheese mousse. Head pastry chef Akiko Kimura then completes the masterpiece with a layer of tropical fruit mousse (lilikoi flavored) and fresh, vibrant pieces of mango or papaya. Trust me, with the first bite, it really is a taste to behold, encompassing the many exotic flavors of our island home.

Then, Tanaka was thrilled to share with me her personal favorite: Coconut Cake ($2.10 a piece). This onolicious treat is the epitome of perfection as it showcases the exquisite harmonization of French flavor and Japanese craftsmanship. Individually wrapped, this miniature cake tickled my taste buds, no doubt about it. The recipe, you may ask? Well, that’s kept under wraps, but I can tell you that this irresistible butter cake pays tribute to all things coconut with a special mix of coconut liquor and shredded coconut adorned with a dash of powdered sugar to top it off.

It’s a coconut frenzy at Patisserie La Palme D’or — even Coco Chanel would be proud of these exquisitely upscale coconut creations.

Patisserie La Palme D’or
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
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Hee Hing Restaurant

  • Hee Hing's Michael Lee with Curry Seafood with Fried Haupia ($18)
  • Hee Hing's Coconut Jin Dui ($2.60)
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There’s the saying, “never judge a book by its cover.” Well, the same holds true in terms of international cuisine: Never judge a restaurant strictly based on its cultural specialties alone. Sure, Hee Hing Restaurant on Kapahulu Avenue serves up the finest in Chinese fare, but believe it or not, this award-winning restaurant also has a few tricks up its sleeves. For instance, on my most recent visit, restaurant director Michael Lee intrigued my senses with Curry Seafood with Fried Haupia. Instantly, I thought, Thai cuisine at a Chinese restaurant? Interesting. But, of course, there was no second guessing once this sweet and zestful curry hit my palate.

“Craving curry?” Lee asks. “Well, you’ll be happy to know that Curry Seafood with Fried Haupia ($18) is now being offered on our regular menu. Typically, we serve it only for banquets, but because of its popularity we decided to change that. It’s a yellow curry with a coconut milk base.”

Served family style, this alluring entree presents diners with a variety of critters from the sea, including shrimp, scallop, calamari and fish filet doused in a flavorful curry sauce and mixed with a medley of vegetables consisting of potatoes, peas, carrots, mushrooms and bell peppers. Now, only one word can sum up this dish: Deeelicious! And the pieces of fried haupia simply take this culinary favorite to the next level.

“With the addition of the coconut milk the curry is on the sweeter side, and is more mild in terms of spice,” Lee says. So, don’t sweat the small stuff: If you can’t handle the heat, you won’t have to worry.

“Coconut is pretty influential in Chinese cuisine, but I wouldn’t say it’s a main ingredient — it’s typically used as a type of garnish,” he adds. “Here in Hawaii we use the addition of coconut to incorporate an island flair into Chinese cuisine.”

Now, if you choose to end your meal on a sweet note, I would recommend opting for a traditional Chinese dessert of Coconut Jin Dui. ($2.60 for three pieces). Coconut Jin Dui can best be described as a deep-fried sesame ball doughnut, and is a longtime favorite of mine.

“When it comes to jin dui, the exterior is crispy and garnished with sesame seeds, while the interior is soft, airy and hollow,” Lee says. “The coconut is found in the skin itself, and we make this dessert fresh every day.”

Want more? Visit heehinghawaii.com for coupons and daily specials.

Hee Hing Restaurant
449 Kapahulu Ave. Ste. 101
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JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry

  • JJ's Banana Haupia ($4.75)
  • JJ's Double Chocolate Macaroon ($4.75)
  • JJ's Macaroon Tarte ($4.95)
  • The editor presents a few of JJ's Bistro's amazing coconut delights.
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With a strong craving for coconut, I had the urge to dive straight into decadence at JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry. Executive chef and owner JJ Luangkhot’s award-winning cuisine, decked out in a sweet Euro-Asian flair, is enough to make any heart melt. Luangkhot is highly regarded for his famous Chocolate Pyramid creation along with other alluring sweet nothings such as Chocolate Banana Confit, Chocolate Lilikoi and more. But what about the coconut?

“I use a good amount of coconut in many of my desserts,” says Luangkhot, a native of Laos. “Coconut gives a unique and special taste to desserts, but it’s not overwhelmingly rich in flavor. There’s a nice balance to it.”

In a dire need to taste for myself, Luangkhot quickly presented me with a plateful of coconut goodness. The presentation was second to none, but that was just icing on the cake considering the taste was simply heaven sent. Salutations go to Double Chocolate Macaroon ($4.75), Macaroon Tarte ($4.95) and Banana Haupia ($4.75).

“Banana Haupia is one of our top-selling desserts,” Luangkhot says. “Coconut cake is the base, and it’s topped with a creamy coconut and banana mousse, then finally finished off with fresh bananas, strawberries and hints of chocolate. Toasted coconut flakes sit on the exterior of the cake.” Simply to die for!

Now, for those who can’t get enough of coconut, take a big bite into Luangkhot’s Macaroon Tarte ($4.95), comprised of a cookie-like shell filled with a sweet coconut filling, and topped off with fresh slices of banana and bits of chocolate. And if you’re a chocoholic/coconut connoisseur, Double Chocolate Macaroon ($4.75) is your best bet! Imagine a combination of chocolate and coconut cake infused with coconut syrup and double chocolate mousse, complete with chocolate ganache. Let’s just say that double chocolate is definitely double trouble!

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better than this, think again — they do! Ask Luangkhot to recommend the perfect gelato or sherbet to pair with your dessert of choice. I guarantee a smile will be plastered on your face for days.

JJ’s Bistro & French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave.
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