Cafe Julia Brings Fine-Dining Flair to DowntownColumns Lite Bites
July 14, 2013
Story By: Yu Shing Ting | Photos by: Nathalie Walker
Tucked in the historic YWCA Laniakea building in Downtown Honolulu is Cafe Julia, a pleasantly welcoming restaurant reminiscent of a European-style cafe where you can enjoy a relaxing meal with good food and good company.
Cafe Julia opened in May 2012, but recently changed its menu and updated some of its original, signature dishes with the help of chef Almar Arcano, who joined the team in April as executive chef consultant. Arcano, whose previous work experience includes executive chef at Hy’s Steak House for nearly 30 years, corporate chef at Good to Grill and Burgers on the Edge, and co-owner of Formaggio, describes the food at Cafe Julia as a flair of Mediterranean with an infusion of Pacific Rim and Eurasia. It’s also fresh and wholesome, with the use of the freshest ingredients from the Islands as much as possible.
“Even before chef Arcano came, we’ve always been fresh, wholesome,” says owner/president Emerson Ribao. “For example, with the fruits and vegetables we use. Also, we use Shizuoka wagyu beef air flown direct from Japan.”
The atmosphere is open, light and calming, but don’t let the casualness of it or even the word ‘cafe’ fool you — it’s fine dining, as is the service.
The lunch menu features a great assortment of salads, sandwiches and entrees, including Chicken Marsala, Loco Moco, Shrimp Linguini, Garlic Ahi, Furikake Salmon and New York Steak & Fries. Among the favorites is “The Emerson” Salad ($13) with spring greens, fresh island corn, balsamic vinegar topped with potato chips, grilled rosemary chicken and garnished with carrots.
For dinner, the menu turns up a notch with gourmet items, such as Smoked Salmon Canapes, Oyster Rockefeller, Escargot and Seafood Crepes for starters; Table Side Salads; and tempting New York Steak, Filet Mignon, Slow Roasted Prime Rib, Osso Buco, Rack of Lamb, Chateaubriand for Two, seafood and more. And be sure to save some room for Table Side Desserts, including Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, Chocolate Lovers, and soon to be added, Julia Crepes.
There also are combination entrees, such as New York Steak & Garlic Ahi ($45) featuring an 8-ounce steak grilled with house seasonings and a 7-ounce ahi marinated with garlic, parsley and olive oil. All entrees are served with vegetable du jour and your choice of garlic mashed potato or rice pilaf. Also highly recommended as an appetizer is Foie Gras ($16) with caramelized onions, poached apple, port wine balsamic reduction and crostini.
Named after YWCA Laniakea architect Julia Morgan, the restaurant has become a hub for business people, nearby residents, locals and tourists. It’s also a popular place for private events. The indoor dining room can accommodate 110 people and the outdoor courtyard 150 people. There also is a ballroom available for use that can hold 200 people.
Breakfast is served on Sundays only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is from Monday through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is available Wednesday through Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. with pau hana from 4 to 5 p.m. featuring a 20 percent discount on its food and $1 off house wines and domestic beers. The restaurant, however, is booked for private functions every Saturday through the end of August, but is expected to reopen its Saturday dinner service in September.
Reservations are recommended, and parking is available at Alii Place (entrance on Alakea Street).
1040 Richards St.
Breakfast: Sundays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: Wednesday-Sunday, 4-9 p.m. *The restaurant is booked for private events on Saturdays through the end of August.