THE CAFÉ BY ETHEL’S GRILL
6800 Hawaii Kai Drive
Phone number (808) 394-2233
If there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s fanciful food. It’s why, when I go to Japan later this year, I plan on making a concerted effort to stop at as many themed cafés and restaurants as I possibly can.
So when I found something called Fairy Toast and discovered that I could get it right here in Hawaii, well, you can guess how fast I took to finding it. The best part: Serving it up is The Café by Ethel’s Grill — yes, that Ethel’s Grill.
By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the eponymous Kalihi hole-in-the-wall that offers Japanese-inspired local-style plates. Or, as I’ve come to know it: That place that has the really good Tataki Sashimi.
The Café by Ethel’s Grill opened not long ago. Run by some of the family members behind its namesake, its latest location may be found in Oahu Club off Hawaii Kai Drive. Sure, it’s a bit further from Kalihi or downtown Honolulu, but well worth the journey.
Unlike Ethel’s Grill in Kalihi, parking is no problem here, with a large lot out front. It’s a small but comfortable space, with seating for about 15, right across the swimming pool — just be sure to check in with the front desk first, since the facilities are open to members only.
The food here is no frills.
Dishes are served simply in plate lunch takeout containers or on paper plates, which ultimately makes for a very relaxed and laidback environment. Plus, it does nothing to take away from the flavors of each dish — and, oh, they are such grand flavors.
I stopped in one recent morning for breakfast. (The Café by Ethel’s Grill offers lunch and dinner as well.) Among the items served were standard fare, such as The Island Breakfast, which came with two eggs, rice, meat and a side salad.
There also were popular Ethel’s Grill dishes — like that Tataki Sashimi I mentioned. If you’ve somehow never had it before, expect supple slices of slightly seared ahi with a rich soy and garlic sauce to punctuate each bite.
My eyes, though, immediately were drawn to blue and pink sugar cookies in a case labeled “Unicorn Poop.” It was shaped like the horn of a unicorn (or perhaps, more aptly, its poop?) and eye-catchingly colorful. Suddenly, I heard myself asking for one.
But I didn’t stop there. I had come for the Fairy Toast, and there was no way I wasn’t going to sample that as well. So I gave in and got that, too.
The Unicorn Poop was pleasantly light but not crumbly. With a bubblegum icing that added just the right amount of subtle sweetness, it was far too easy to eat.
You know what wasn’t subtle? A rather large slice of Fairy Toast that came out moments later. But, oh — OH, was it indulgent.
It’s definitely impossible to finish all at once, at least it was for me. Layered onto a slice of bread are strawberry jam, Nutella, rainbow marshmallows and sprinkles. It was crunchy and chewy and gooey and so, so sweet — also, impossible to put down.
I’m torn because I want to return sometime very soon (like, tonight) to sample more dishes — OK, maybe just to get more Tataki Sashimi. The problem is, I know in the end I’ll cave and get another slice of Fairy Toast — and that would be too much sugar in one week, right? Maybe?
I SPY You know what else sounded amazing? A Ham, Egg and Cheese Toast
SERVICE Fast and friendly
TIMES I’D LIKE TO RETURN Infinite