Explore the savory side of crepes


POSTED: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chances are, if you're familiar with crepes at all, you've most likely enjoyed them in dessert form, rolled up with a filling of fruit, chocolate, Nutella or cheese. But a couple of restaurants are introducing the heavier, savory side of crepes as a quick and inexpensive meal. These are not the delicate, floppy—and, OK, let's just say it, effeminate—crepes you might be imagining, but sturdy, filling, street-style crepes that might be seen as alternatives to the traditional sandwich, omelet, calzone or yesterday's popular wrap.

One thing I've found is that people who serve crepes have such a passion for the form that it's reflected in their attentive, people-pleasing service. It's comparable to the kind of hospitality and graciousness associated with afternoon teas. Check out:


Le Crepe Cafe

2740 E. Manoa Road; 988-8400
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Prices: About $20 for two

Marysol Ruiz fell in love with crepes while living in Paris as a study-abroad student, and never saw living in Hawaii as a barrier to enjoying her favorite food. She simply brought the concept of the street crepe cart with her. For a brief time she operated the restaurant in the Food Court at Waikiki Trade Center, and her carts popped up at various events and farmers markets around town, including here at Restaurant Row when there was a Wednesday Farmer's Market.

At each appearance, patrons asked when and where they could find the crepes again.

“;Sometimes we didn't even know,”; Ruiz said.

Now she has settled in Manoa, on the site of a former gas station at East Manoa Road and Kema Place.

It's a tiny space, but Ruiz tried to infuse it with the charm of Paris, from signage that replicates the blinking lights of a Metro stop to a mural that includes such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.

And, there is still the street cart parked outside so those who have lived or traveled in Paris can relive the experience of sidling up to cart and ordering up a crepe on the spot.

Without much of a crepe history here, and some customers asking questions like, “;What's a creepy?”; she's entertained by the idea that here it's treated as sit-down fare, with families spending time together, savoring them as entree and dessert. In Paris it's treated as to-go fare folded into a triangle and slipped into a paper cone for fast, hand-held dining.

“;They're so cute. Sometimes I see people come in for breakfast, and I'll see them again for dinner. It feels nice feeding people. I love it!”;

She's assisted by her husband, Soufiane Bouharkat, who ran a creperie in France, though they met in Hawaii and bonded over a shared love of crepes.

I naturally gravitate to dessert crepes because at one point, crepes Suzette, flambeed with Grand Marnier, was extremely popular at high-end restaurants. I had to force myself to try the savory ones, but they're just as delicious, with meat and vegetable fillings you'd find in a sandwich or omelet.

Here, Le Moulin Rouge ($6.99), filled with cheese, sliced chicken, tomato and basil, is most popular. I liked the addition of spinach ($7.99) to the mix in the Tsunami. Even so, I couldn't wait to dig into the Romeo et Juliette ($6.99), smeared with Nutella then filled with sliced strawberries and bananas. Heart be still!

But once they've tried the fancy versions, people are discovering the beauty of simplicity, coming back for nothing more than the basic Parisienne ($4.99) with melted butter, a sprinkle of sugar and squeeze of lemon.


Crepes No Ka Oi

131 Hekiki St., Kailua; 263-4088
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and to 2 p.m. Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.
Prices: About $20 for two

In another part of the world, Chris Tarvyd spent summers in French Polynesia, where he fell in love with crepe trucks feeding visitors to the wharf in Papeete, Tahiti. His wife, Rosario, grew up in the Visayas, Philippines, where she frequented a Cebu creperie.

They, too, missed the crepes once they moved to Hawaii and began offering them at festivals, before landing in their permanent home on Hekili Street in Kailua, across from Pali Lanes.

Here you'll find 11 savory crepes offered for breakfast, lunch and dinner, matched by 11 sweet crepes, including the Healthy Alternative ($7.95), filled with nonfat plain yogurt, honey, granola, and slices of strawberries and bananas.

Kailua's big on breakfast, and many of the crepe ingredients used are associated with omelets. There's Popeye's Power ($7.95), filled with spinach, onions, jack and cheddar cheeses and a choice of oven-roasted turkey or thick slices of honey ham; the Godfather ($7.95), with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar; and the Southwest ($8.95), with cheese, scrambled eggs, a choice of turkey or ham, and tomatoes, with a side of sour cream and salsa.

To encourage people to try them for dinner, the couple introduced evening specials from 4 p.m., such as buying two savory crepes and getting a dessert crepe at half price on Monday and Wednesday evenings, or adding salad and house dessert to a savory crepe order for $6 more.

And, again, my main attraction is the dessert crepes, such as S'mores ($7) with crushed graham crackers, chocolate syrup, marshmallows, whipped cream and powdered chocolate; or a waffle stand-in of Temptation in Paradise ($6.95), a crepe filled with cinnamon apples and brown sugar, then topped with whipped cream and powdered cinnamon.

To add to the enjoyment, there's a variety of loose-leaf teas with flavors of lavender, pomegranate, jasmine and French vanilla.


Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).