Pagoda Reopens With a New Look

Columns Foodie Fare

November 11, 2012

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Leah Friel

With its tranquil dining setting against a backdrop of a waterfall and a koi pond, Pagoda Restaurant has got to be one of the best places in town when you’re looking for a little escape. The restaurant has been serving up a mix of Asian and local cuisine since the 1960s, and has long been a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

While there certainly is much history to be admired at Pagoda, there’s also a lot of new things to enjoy. Last week, the restaurant completed a set of renovations — which has culminated in what executive chef and general manager Jason Takemura says is a “complete makeover.” A new layout of the restaurant and brand new bar area are among the renovations.

Pagoda opened its doors again Thursday after being closed for six weeks for construction. It won’t look like the old Pagoda, but it still has its relaxing, welcoming ambiance.

“We wanted to keep the same kind of local feel,” Takemura says. “We want it to be comfortable and fresh — we really brought it up to date. It’s more modern — from the furniture to the carpet to the decor. We changed all of that.”

As a perfect complement to the newly minted bar, Pagoda also has added a pupu menu, which will be available seven nights a week from 3 p.m. to closing. Happy hour will be from 3 to 6 p.m.

Despite these changes, longtime customers will still find Pagoda’s classic dishes on the menu. Breakfast and lunch are served a la carte, daily and Monday-Friday, respectively.

Some tasty a la carte items include Banana Pancakes ($11) and Eggs Benedict ($12), which is served with your choice of potatoes, hash browns, rice or toast. Another must-try a la carte item is Ahi Katsu Salad ($12), which features ahi on a bed of Nalo greens, avocado and tomatoes.

One of the most popular a la carte items is Mr. Park’s Oxtail Ramen ($12), which features braised oxtail with ramen noodles and vegetables. And don’t miss Pastrami Reuben ($12), one of Pagoda’s signature dishes that utilizes Big Island beef. “We brine it in house for about 12-14 days and we smoke it in house as well,” Takemura says.

Pagoda Restaurant also offers a brunch buffet priced at $27.95 Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a buffet dinner for $32.95 Wednesday-Sunday from 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Brunch buffet options include a Waffle Station with Assorted Toppings and Poached Eggs Florentine. Popular dinner buffet choices include Roasted Garlic Rub Prime Rib, Snow Crab Legs and Vegetable Tempura.

Pagoda also offers special buffets on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

On the Side

Pagoda Restaurant has been a go-to hot spot for local food for decades since it first opened in the 1960s. Executive chef and general manager Jason Takemura took the helm at the restaurant less than two years ago, and is already making some bold changes.

Takemura grew up cooking at home, and his love for the restaurant industry was solidified during his first job in the kitchen.

“I fell in love with working in a restaurant immediately — just working through the rush,” he explains.

He worked his way up to kitchen manager before moving to another restaurant where he honed his sushi skills.

“I finally decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my career, and I decided to get up and move to the Mainland and go to culinary school,” Takemura says.

Now at Pagoda, Takemura says it’s been “so far, so good.” “We are trying to make a lot of changes to bring Pagoda back to the status it once had. This used to be the place where all the locals came,” says Takemura, adding that he grew up visiting the restaurant.

That, in part, is why Pagoda has decided to renovate — which Takemura says will add a modern feel.

In addition to the renovations, Pagoda also recently started increasing its use of local products — a practice the Takemura has really tried to stress since taking over. Takemura and other Pagoda staffers go to the farmers market regularly to pick up the freshest fruits and vegetables.

“The quality is better,” he says. “The local products are better, and it’s fresher.

“Now we are using fresh, local fish and fresh, local vegetables. Some of our meats are Big Island beef,” Takemura says. “We are trying to tie in these things to have this be truly more of a local place.”

Pagoda Restaurant

1525 Rycroft St., Honolulu
Breakfast: Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Brunch Buffet: Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner Buffet: Wednesday-Sunday 5-9:30 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96814

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