The Weekly Eater

Nadine Kam

Dessert before dinner
a temptation at JJ
in Kaimuki

I'M ALL FOR domestic bliss, so when a friend complained about her grouchy old man, I didn't tell her to boot him out the door. Instead, I said, "You should do something nice for him; why don't you get him something from JJ's?"

For those who have yet to discover JJ French Pastry, it is a Kaimuki oasis for dessert lovers, and home of the chocolate pyramids that grace restaurant dessert menus.

By now you may be wondering what that has to do with soothing the savage male of the species. Chocolate and sweets just don't hold the same sway over men as they do over many women, rendering them swoony, particularly after 3 p.m. on a workday.

But who says I'm talking desserts? In spite of the moniker, JJ French Pastry is also home to a handful of simple, hot entrees, and that's a good thing because neither men nor women can survive on pastry alone. In fact, when the bakery opened, I hoped owner Praseuth JJ Luangkhot would follow the example of competitors up the street, and offer food as well as dessert. It just makes it so much simpler than bouncing from one place to another in a single evening.

After a while Luangkhot started offering sandwiches, but I'm not much of a sandwich eater, having grown up truly local style with the hot gravy-smeared entree tradition. No dry bread for me!

And what do you know, I got my wish, although I still must contend with JJ's impossible hours. The shop closes early, at 7 p.m. weekdays, and 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Maybe that's great for the leisure class or seniors, but most people I know are still working at 7 and just getting ready for playtime at 9 on weekends.

After I've been fed and put out the door around 7:15 p.m. or so, I've noticed other poor creatures drive up, only to stand forlornly, peering through the windows. Inside: light, radiance, inspirational confections. Outside: cold, hard dreary pavement. Luangkhot sometimes takes pity on the pastry-less and lets them in for a quick soul-saving purchase. In spite of the difficulty getting there on time, JJ is worth seeking out.

JJ French Pastry chef and owner Praseuth JJ Luangkhot shows some of the beautiful French pastries inside his Kaimuki restaurant, where adults may feel compelled to eat dessert before dinner.

FORGET THAT I dissed sandwiches for a second. I can change my mind, can't I? Luangkhot's lovely, buttery, flaky croissants make all the difference, elevating your basic turkey, ham and mixed greens sandwich. For an affordable $4.75, it also comes with a small salad. I wish I could tell you more about the sandwich but it was so delicate, fresh and light, that before I knew it, it was gone, vanished, inhaled. It's rare to find food that effortless.

Pizza was more substantial, with personal portions measuring about 6 inches in diameter and running $5.50 to $5.95 each. If you want to make it a prix fixe meal, you can add a drink and side salad, bringing your bill to $8.50. Or if you know you're going to cave to dessert anyway, order pizza or pasta, with salad and one dessert for $9.95.

Pizzas range from your basic veggie ($5.50) with mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach and mozzarella, to the unlikely "Angel Pizza" ($5.95) topped with beef satay, angel hair pasta and veggies. I went with the more traditional garlic shrimp ($5.95) and veggies, the baking timed so each of the ingredients is at peak edible perfection, preserving the translucence of shrimp, crunch of the bell peppers and without drying or rendering the spinach entirely limp.

Curries are offered on rice or pasta. The ratatouille ($5.75) bears no resemblance to the Italian dish of the same name. All they have in common is eggplant. Here, it's slivered and served with bamboo shoots and bell peppers in a chili butter sauce that looks pale and innocuous but packs plenty of heat. Eggplant also stars in a green curry sauce ($5.95), and the house special features veggies in a creamy basil sauce ($6.95).

Service is spotty in that servers don't always understand or are unable to explain the menu, so I hope Luangkhot knows what he's getting into in expanding his reach into Downtown Honolulu this summer. Too many successful endeavors have been felled in the growing process, and Honolulu needs JJ's to stick around, a place where we can have our cake, and dinner too.

JJ French Pastry

3447 Waialae Ave. / 739-0993

Food Star Star Star Star

Service Star Star Half-star

Ambience Star Star Star

Value Star Star Star Star

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and pickups only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays

Cost: About $10 per person with dessert

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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