A Floating Haven for Local Comfort Food

Columns What's for Lunch?

July 28, 2013

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Charcuterie is a buzzword you should get to know. Though foreign in origin, the word is used to describe something that is probably already near and dear to your heart. We’re talking about the craft of preserving meat: cooking, curing or smoking it. And at Pagoda Restaurant, it’s only a sandwich away.

Inspired by visits to New York City delis and his own hobby of smoking meat, Pagoda’s executive chef Jason Takemura puts his own spin on the classic, loveable Reuben ($12). While a Reuben sandwich may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of local comfort food, it’s the local ingredients, down to the grass-fed Big Island beef briskets, that make this sandwich crave-worthy.

Takemura brines the briskets in house for 10 to 12 days, then smokes and slices them thinly — his own take on old-school pastrami. The sauerkraut, Russian dressing and horseradish aioli are also made in house, and the marbled rye is sourced locally. The sandwich is grilled till the Swiss cheese melts, and served with your choice of sides such as sweet potato fries, onion rings or ‘Nalo Farms salad. It’s a bite of the Big Apple at home.

From the sea comes another taste of local comfort: Furikake Opah with Sizzling Garlic ginger Sauce ($12). The furikake-encrusted fresh catch is served on a bed of Asian stir-fried vegetables (baby bok choi, won bok and red bell pepper) and topped with sizzling sauce. The sesame oil-based sauce and furikake combine and take the fresh fish to new heights, without weighing it down.

“We always try to center our menu around fresh fish,” explains Takemura.

Those with a large lunchtime appetite can thank Mr. Park for his contribution to the menu. Mr. Park’s Oxtail Ramen ($14) is a steaming bowl of Pagoda’s famous oxtail soup with the addition of ramen and shrimp-shiitake dumplings. Mr. Park, a loyal regular at the eatery (“He was here this morning,” says Takemura), wanted a way to get the most out of the star anise and ginger-spiced soup broth. With the addition of fresh ramen noodles, the dish was born. To achieve the rich flavor of the soup, Takemura cooks the oxtails twice, slow braising them for hours. “We have the best trim on the island,” he says. It’s a leaner trim that’s still tender, so you get the flavor without the fat.

If you’re in a rush on your lunch break, Pagoda is happy to take pre-orders and takeout orders. Call and place your order so

Pagoda Restaurant

1525 Rycroft St., Honolulu
Breakfast: Daily, 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m-2 p.m.
Happy Hour: Daily, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Dinner: A la carte 5-9:30 p.m., nightly
Buffet 5-9:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best