Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Cinnamon’sRestaurant Insider
January 5, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with president and owner NORMAN “PUNA” NAM
I recently sat down with Norman Nam, who goes simply by Puna, the president and owner of the award-winning restaurant Cinnamon’s at the Ilikai location.
Nam mentioned an onsite special occasion facility that is available for guests to reserve, as well as customizable menu options. He encourages interested parties to give the restaurant a call for more info. Additionally, the end of the week is a plus at Cinnamon’s as there are fireworks every Friday at 7:45 p.m.
Everyday operations at Cinnamon’s allow guests to select individual dishes from its diverse menu or partake in a lovely weekend dinner buffet on Fridays and Saturdays (all guests at the table must order the buffet).
With the goal of providing quality food in a casual atmosphere, it’s no doubt Cinnamon’s has succeeded in winning the hearts of both kamaaina and visitors across the board. Nam shares more about the restaurant and what guests can expect as we begin a new year.
AL: Can you share a little history on Cinnamon’s? PN: Our first location was Cinnamon’s in Kailua, opened in March 1985. Then Cinnamon’s Ilikai opened in 2014. We also have locations in Japan and Las Vegas. The name of the restaurant came from my wife Cricket. We were originally trying to come up with a Hawaiian name for a small family-type restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we couldn’t think of one that stuck. Then she said, “What about Cinnamon’s?”
The story behind that is, she had read a French fairy tale about a Cinnamon Bear that helps a couple and their bakery — it sounded nice, classy and it stuck.
AL: What type of cuisine does the restaurant specialize in?
PN: We started off specializing in eggs Benedict, as it was my personal favorite. Both chef Carsie Green Jr. (executive chef of the restaurant since 1985) and I had a heck of a time creating the hollandaise sauce, we wanted to make it from scratch. This took a lot of time, practice and patience. We persevered and created our signature hollandaise sauce and now offer 10 different varieties in addition to the traditional.
Our intention was to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but in Kailua customers somehow preferred breakfast, as there weren’t many options for breakfast, so we became the favorite on the Windward side.
Now at the Ilikai location, we offer our popular breakfast and lunch items and also serve dinner, along with a full bar and live music.
AL: What is the most popular item on the menu? PN: Our best selling items are pancakes. At the Ilikai it’s the guava chiffon pancakes ($9.25 short stack and $11.50 full stack). A best-seller in Kailua is the red velvet pancakes ($9.50 short stack and $11.95 full stack). This is one of the very few items that when I first tried it, I was like “OMG!” Additionally in Kailua, we offer a different pancake every day.
The 12-ounce Sizzling Ribeye Poke ($25.95) is pretty popular, too — it’s served on a sizzling plate and the aroma is to die for.
AL: Any specials to watch out for?
PN: We have a very good happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m., daily. We offer $1 off beverages and cocktails as well as any item on the pupu/appetizer menu.
Starting in 2020, we will be offering a complimentary pupu (while it lasts) when guests join us for happy hour and order drinks. We have 12 different draft beers and we will offer one draft beer option for $4 during happy hour, and will rotate daily. The pupu menu is often evolving based on customer suggestions, staff recommendations, etc.
What’s more is that we have a prix fixe Kona Style Mahi-Mahi dinner for dine-in only. It includes dessert and is $10 off, making the final price $16.50 (plus tax and tip). The deal is effective Jan. 6-Jan. 31 from 4 to 9 p.m.
Sizzling Ribeye Poke
8 ounces ribeye steak
2 ounces onions (sliced thin)
2 ounces mushrooms (sliced thin)
1 ounce green onions (sliced)
4 ounces soy sauce
1 ounce vinegar
8 dashes Sriracha hot sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
Mix all sauce ingredients together.
Cook steak to your desired temperature. Cut steak in cubes, toss in skillet with onions, mushrooms, and green onions until tender. Add sauce and serve in a bowl.