The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, February 13, 1997

Kahala serves up
a sweet dessert deal

MY friends think I'm crazy because I don't make a big deal over Valentine's Day (or any other holiday for that matter). Frankly, generic occasions invented to pad retailers' pockets one day of the year mean little to me. What really counts is the other 364 or 365 days, and how one demonstrate one's affections with daily thoughts and deeds.

So it doesn't matter if the Kahala Mandarin Oriental's Plumeria Beach Cafe is booked up for V-Day. There's always Saturday, or the next day, or the day after that for treating your loved one to a repast in a postcard-perfect setting overlooking the beach.

The restaurant offers a la carte and buffet dining focusing on Pacific Rim specialties most of the week and seafood on Fridays. More importantly, the Plumeria offers - not just on Valentine's Day, but every day - one of the sweetest deals in town, a $6.50 all-you-can-eat dessert bar.

The confections are the creations of executive pastry chef Rodney Weddle and his assistant Christopher Kahmann, who said, "Every day we put on a really good show, but Sunday brunch is the really big show."

Most nights, the dessert bar features about 13 cakes, cheesecakes, breads and tarts, but for Sunday brunch, there is an additional selection of lavosh, cookies such as coconut macaroons and hazelnut sables, and chocolates, such as truffles.

I showed up on an evening and was not disappointed. Considering that most restaurants of the Plumeria's caliber serve desserts for $6 to $8 each, you can sample up to 12 here for the same price. And diversity is a wonderful thing.

DON'T try to ingest all of this on an empty stomach. To settle your conscience and prep your stomach, you might order a respectable salad here for $12.50 to $14.95. My companion, who admirably managed to sample nine desserts after dinner, nevertheless left the restaurant with a sugar high. He claimed to feel dizzy and shaky. Drunk on sugar, we laughed and staggered all the way back to the parking garage. Who needs alcohol?

Unfortunately, I started with the best desserts, and after devouring those in entirety, could only manage nibbles of five more.

My favorite was the Florentine, a nut bar of slivered almonds melded together with honey, butter and sugar, baked on a shortbread base. This dessert is sometimes dotted with candied cherries as well.

Next up was a Chocolate Mousse Cake, thick mousse layered between chocolate cake that had been soaked with a whiskey-sugar syrup. The chocolate blitz didn't end there, as the dessert was enveloped in ganache, a smooth, rich icing made of Valhrona chocolate, which melted easily on the tongue.

A Fresh Fruit Tart was just as fabulous. I oohed over the sweet kiwi, ripe papaya and crunchy strawberries just as much as I

aahed over its layer of light pastry cream, which Kahmann said is made from scratch.

After that, my eyesight began to blur. But not before sampling the Raspberry Opera, an architectural layering of dark chocolate, raspberry butter cream and almond frangipane, or cake, atop which sat a raspberry miroir glaze, and finally, the raspberries themselves. These desserts were cut into perfect rectangles like a colorful set of mahjong tiles.

In addition, there were mango and blueberry cheesecakes and a lovely sponge cake that revealed a gustatory surprise as one bit into the tart lilikoi topping.

After all of this, I thought that what the buffet really needed was something as plain and simple as a slice of apple pie. Kahmann says that could happen.

Plumeria Beach Cafe

Where: Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Hours: Dinner 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily; breakfast 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and lunch 11:30 to 2:30 p.m., daily except Sunday when there is brunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Prices: $19.95 breakfast buffet, $24.95 lunch buffet, $29.95 weekday dinner buffet, $38.95 Friday night seafood buffet and Sunday brunch buffet $32.95.
Call: 739-8888

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

- excellent;
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- average;
- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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