The Weekly Eater

Nadine Kam

Moutarde Cafe's Travis Vaughan, left, and Mike Jack cook up hot entrees to order.

Moutarde worth seeking
for gourmet plates, sandwiches

BUT FOR A small window of opportunity, I may never have met my significant other, even though we had, by then, worked in the same building for three years -- me for the Star-Bulletin, he for the Advertiser.

We met on neutral turf, the library, where he played reporter, rattling off a series of questions: "Who are you? Who do you work for? What are you doing?"

Charming. But I could not be bothered. I was working on a major story on Megadeth, feeling a great affinity for the band because guitarist Marty Friedman had lived here and sent his former drummer to my drum teacher for lessons -- two degrees of separation!

Even after that pushy reporter and I got together through the magic of an interoffice computer message system, I never saw him much in the building. If not for that brief introduction in the library, our lives might be very different today.

I'VE THOUGHT about that with regard to certain restaurants that, due to logistics of time and distance, I would neither chance upon nor feel compelled to examine. I find that true of most people. We tend to frequent restaurants closest to us. Just ask Sweetie Moffatt, proprietor of Comme Ci, Comme Ca, the consignment boutique next door to Moutarde Café.

"I eat here every day. It's soooo good!," she said, while adding that she never tires of the café's rotating roster of daily specials, and claiming responsibility for the cafe's introduction of a brown rice option to plain white.

If not for this column, I might never had reason to visit Moutarde for the simple reason that it closes at 5 p.m., long before my workday ends. So a visit would involve a lunch trip. Everyone in the news business understands that lunch is generally a 5-minute affair involving scarfing down a mahi or teri chicken sandwich at the desk, trying not to get too much mayo or breadcrumbs on the keyboard. So do lunch? In Kaimuki? Too far.

I was hoping Moutarde would open for dinner, but that's been an on-again, off-again proposition and I finally had to devote a couple of Saturdays to the task. I was glad I did because they offered up a Cajun steak sandwich that was certainly worth the drive over the mountain and through the tunnel from my homebase in Kailua.

It's a mini bistro-style cafe that's bright and tidy, with an open feel even though it's enclosed. Just walk up to the counter for deli sandwiches and gourmet-style plates cooked to order.

MOUTARDE started simply, with a menu of pizzas, basic pasta dishes such as linguine Alfredo ($6.75) and linguine marinara ($6.25), and classic sandwiches such as Reubens ($6.75), Philly Cheesesteaks ($6.50), French Dip ($6.50) and meatball ($6.25).

They've since added a long list of daily entrees, proving as adept with local fare as continental, with the likes of fried ahi poke ($7.95) and meatloaf loco moco ($5.75).

Fish is a good choice at lunchtime, and Moutarde does an excellent job with the likes of blackened or broiled salmon ($8.25) and mahi prepared several ways, whether sprinkled with furikake ($8.95) or steamed, Chinese-style ($7.25), under a layer of veggies including onions, broccoli, and strips of bell pepper.

Meanwhile, eggplant parmagiana ($6.75) could be better with more eggplant and less breading, and a Pacific Rim chicken curry ($7.25) ran mild so as not to offend sensitive tastebuds. Southern BBQ ribs ($7.95), on the other hand, made good use of chile peppers for heartier palates. I only wished there was more meat on those bones.

It's not likely that you'll have room for dessert, but if you do, there is plenty in Moutarde's glass case to tempt you. Just take a peek at new creations added daily.

And just because the restaurant isn't open for dinner doesn't mean you have to go home empty-handed. In addition to late-afternoon take-out, in their refrigerator you'll find a half dozen different kinds of ravioli to take home, heat and eat. You might opt for the lobster at about $15. I tried the portobello ($8.95) version, with 12 pieces, enough to feed two. The catch is, you're on your own in making a sauce to accompany the ravioli, but on the bright side, half your work is done.

Moutarde Café

3458 Waialae Ave. / 732-5192

Food Star Star Star

Service Star Star Star 1/2

Ambience Star Star Star 1/2

Value Star Star Star Star

Hours: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

Cost: Less than $10 per person

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.

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

very good, exceeds expectations;
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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