Waikiki Eats: Cream Pot


Cream Pot – Belgian Waffles with Maui Strawberries

Cream Pot is a relatively new breakfast and brunch eatery in Waikiki featuring  French-influenced continental cuisine with an occasional asian twist.

Emphasize “relatively” new. Specifically, they’ve been in business for about 2 years now, having started in February 2008, with mixed, yet mostly favorable reviews by food critics, bloggers and Yelp users.

Most notable is that the unique French countryside kitchen decor theme at Cream Pot seems to garner just as much, if not more attention, influence and opinion as the food. For instance, one Yelp user says, “When you walk into the restaurant it looks like little gnomes live there because the decor is all miniaturized and completely random. I’ve often thought, “Hey maybe it’s a gnome restaurant during late night and you can’t get in unless you’re under 12 inches?” Ha ha! Good one!

Some say it’s decorated a little too frilly and feminine, while others find it classy, cozy and charming.

After recently receiving a suggestion and highly-praised recommendation via email from a reader of this blog, I finally dropped-in for a Saturday New Years 2010 brunch at the Cream Pot.

Without further ado, let’s have a closer look at the place and see (and taste!) for ourselves what everyone’s talkin’ about….

Cream Pot is located on the ground floor at the Mauka-Daimond Head corner of the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel on Niu street, which is towards the Ewa (west) side end of Waikiki. Somewhat oddly, the entrance to the restaurant is on the corner of Niu street and Ala Wai Boulevard, making it very much out site from the beaten pedestrian path of bustling Kalakaua avenue, the main strip of Waikiki.

If you haven’t been here before, yet have driven down Ala Wai boulevard in the past year, chances are you’ve noticed their rather odd-in-Hawaii white-painted garden arbor trellis entryway shown in the photo above. It sure contributes to making this eatery stand out as being different even before setting a foot inside.

Walking up the stairs to the main entrance, there’s a shaded outdoor patio area where you can opt to dine…

I didn’t take notice while there, but now after looking at this photo above, that looks like Rosemary growing on the side. It’s certainly smart to grow their own herbs if they’ve got the outdoor space like this to do it. Remember the Italian restaurant Castagnola’s at the Inn on the Park in Waikiki? They used to grow all their own herbs for the restaurant right outside next to the outdoor seating area. Rosemary, Basil, Thyme and everything else. You could literally reach over and pick some to add to your dish. Was neat!

Other than the bustling Ala Wai Boulevard with the cars speeding by between it, I suppose you can consider Cream Pot a “waterfront eatery”, as the featured view from the restuarant is the world-renown, ever-lovely, glowing green Ala Wai Canal lol…

Gotta admit, watching the glistening ripples of the water as the canoes and kayakers paddle by is kinda’ relaxing.

Upon entering, sure enough, it looks as if  we’ve been instantly transported to a kitchen dining room in a remote countryside part of France…

As you see, that long communal table dominates the central floor space. Thankfully they separate the chairs in pairs, so even if you’re seated here, you’re not forced to rub shoulders and elbows with strangers. Of course, this also must come in handy for folks dining here in large groups.

There’s also an adequate amount of smaller tables surrounding the perimeter.

The interior lighting is ambient yet natural, thanks to large open-draped glass windows that lets plenty of daylight in, including from a large manual sliding glass front door…

That gentleman standing at the far left in the light-blue long sleeve shirt is owner Nathan Tran, who was our server and also very nice, informative and friendly guy.

That counter in front of the semi-arched wall at the far corner is where you pay the bill…

Behind that wood door in this small room is the frontside food prep area…

According to owner Nathan, the main kitchen where all the cooking takes place is upstairs in the hotel at a remote location from the dining room. This might be causing service issues, as some others have complained about, which I’ll get into later.

Getting back to the decor, the treatment in this particular area is what really highlights the French country kitchen theme here…

This wall would fit in perfectly as a backdrop on the set of the late Julia Child’s cooking show. Notice that copper escargot tray. Nice. Hmmm, that gives me an idea! How about as a special, they offer an Escargot and sauteed Hamakua Mushrooms Crepe served with a Parsley and Garlic-infused Parmesan Mornay Sauce. That sounds DE-LISH!

Continuing our look around the restaurant, this might be where that “Yelp’r” got the Gnome idea…

There’s nothing to give you scale here, but this statue is about 24″ tall, IIRC. I wonder if it comes alive and walks around the place late at night? We’ll name him (or her?) the “Gnome Greeter”. lol

Here we have the “Gnome Watcher”…

More frilly stuff…

This faux bowl of fruits and veggies is one of the centerpieces on the communal table…

Being we’re at the tail end of the holiday season, they still had their Christmas tree up…

By now you should have a good idea what the place looks like. What I can’t show is how the place FEELS. Which I have to say is a very calm, cool and relaxed vibe, as if the world had stopped for the moment. The sound level is peaceful with everyone speaking at intimate volumes. The housekeeping is also very tidy and clean. Really, an almost fantasy-like, very peaceful, pleasant place to be. At least so it was at the time of our visit.

As you seen in some of the photos, most of the clientele during our visit were Japanese tourists, with what looked like a few mainland tourists here and there. Nathan’s wife is from Japan (and they’ve lived there), so that might explain why they partially-target  the Japanese, as is evident on their daily specials menu which is subtitled in Japanese writing. $mart move. Look out Eggs ‘N Things!

Speaking of the menu, let’s finally take a look at what they’ve got to eat!…

Here’s the Daily Specials…

Other than the Toro Eggs Benedict (Blue Fin Tuna Belly $$$), the prices on the ‘Daily Sets’ are a considerably-better value and recommended by Nathan if you’re a first-timer, although we ultimately went ala carte.

Making it easier to decide on what to get, along with the text menu, they also give you a bound set of laminated photos showing all their signature dishes…

Does everything look and sound yummy or what?!!!

Starting things out with drinks, my girlfriend ordered a glass of Strawberry Lemonade…


Cream Pot – Fresh-Squeezed Strawberry Lemonade. $3.75

The Strawberry Lemonade is about equally tart as it is sweet, having what looked and had the texture of freshly-pureed strawberry in it. Refreshing. I’ll say that.

I had the Cream Pot Iced Coffee (even though I’ve actually “quit” drinking coffee, what the heck, just one glass)…


Cream Pot Blend Iced Coffee (Vietnamese style). $3.75

Nathan said their Coffee was intense, and WOW it was! Even after thoroughly stirring it to incorporate the whipped creme and melting ice, it remained a potent brew. Yet as you might expect, the deep robustness of what tasted like quality coffee beans to make it, this creamy iced coffee went great with the fruity-sweet banana crepe and strawberry Belgian Waffle, as it also paired quite well with my Salmon Eggs Benedict.

Right before the food arrives, a basket including your silverware and napkins are brought to the table…

After about 10 minutes of contemplation, my girlfriend decided to try the Strawberry Belgian Waffles…


Cream Pot – Belgian Waffles with Fresh Maui Strawberries: Homade Vanilla Custard with Fresh Strawberry Coulis. 11.50

I decided on trying the Salmon Egg’s Benedict…


Cream Pot – Salmon Eggs Benedict: Grey Goose (Vodka)-cured, Caramelized Onions, Lacy Potato Cakes, Two Soft-Poached Eggs, Mornay Sauce. $12.50

While we both shared a Banana Crepe…


Cream Pot – Kahuku Banana Crepe (Delicate French Pancake): With Homemade Vanilla Custard Creme Filled, with Dark Salted Caramel Sauce. $9.50.

It took about 20 minute from the time of placing it to our entire order arriving at the table, which is a bit of a stretch considering how slow it was at the time,yet still within a reasonable threshold.

Now for the ongoing Tasty Island “moment of truth”, how is it?

Let’s start by trying the Banana Crepe…

The salted caramel was delicious, though not as mind-blowing as the one I remember being served with Sansei’s Granny Smith Apple Tart. Probably partially because there wasn’t enough of it, but only a very thin layer drizzled on the plate, making it more of a “tease”, as is the style here, where sauces are said to be more conservative in use.

The homemade Vanilla Custard Creme surrounding the sliced Kahuku bananas inside was more on the light and airy side, as if being whipped.  The crepe itself was delicate yet sturdy enough to hold the contents without breaking apart.

My only major complaint,  as was a problem with the Belgian Waffles, was that it arrived on the table at room temperature. If it had arrived warm or hot, I would have enjoyed it much, much more. As it is, I give this Crepe 2 SPAM Musubi. Had it been warm it would probably be a three, or better yet, hot right off the crepe iron, a 4.

Then there was my girlfriend’s Belgian Waffles with Maui Strawberries, which as just mentioned about the crepe, this also arrived at room temperature. Because of this, what would have been an EXCELLENT Belgian Waffle was reduced in appeal considerably. Again, had it arrived at least warm or piping hot right off the waffle iron, this surely would have been outstanding. We could tell that. She also thought the strawberry Coulis was too light and not “syrupy” or bold enough to stand-up to the browned crust of the waffle. In fact, the porous texture of the waffle absorbed the rather thin Strawberry Coulie so much that she had to ask for more sauce…

The Maui Strawberries themselves were quite tart, and while I would have preferred them a little more sweet, that tartness did add an interesting zing to the overall waffle and syrup combination. The vanilla custard creme topping was the same light and whipped stuff used in the crepe, which put a nice and light yet creamy touch to the overall waffle.

Regardless of the temperature issue with the served dish, she still thoroughly enjoyed their Strawberry Belgian Waffles, finishing the entire plate . As it is, she gives it a 2, yet she notes the ambiance of the restaurant is half of what makes the dining experience here so good, so she adds a bonus point for that, giving an overall 3-SPAM Musubi impression of the meal.

Finally let’s sample my Salmon Eggs Benedict, inspecting what lies under each layer…

Notice on the bottom, instead of the traditional English Muffin, they use what’s called a ‘Lacy Potato Cake’, which is essentially a hash brown patty. Although being scratch-made, theirs is somewhat more sophisticated and refined than what you’d get from the neighborhood McDonald’s. Which it should be for the price you’re paying.

On top of that you see the generous portion of Grey Goose Vodka-cured Salmon, which was amazing. Very tender and “meaty”, not “fishy” flavored, while the Vodka curing seems to have tamed some of that intense fishy Salmon taste, making it more subdued and not as in your face. Really ono.

Then there’s a perfectly-poached egg laid over the cured salmon, with the yolk just how I love it, nice and runny…

Oh yes.

Topping the poached egg is a delicate lacing of caramelized, finely-julienned sweet onions (not sure if of the Maui variety) that added even more dimensional complexity in a very complimentary way. Finally, the Mornay sauce drizzled over and around it is much lighter and creamier than the traditionally-rich butter and egg yolk-based Hollandaise sauce. This also let the salmon and potato cake stand out more instead of being overpowered. Would I have liked Hollandaise instead? Probably. Yet I appreciated and savored it just the way it was.

What matters most is that when you slice through all layers of Cream Pot’s Salmon Eggs Benedict and eat it in one single, big-mouthed bite, one-and-for-all they individually compliment each other quite nicely. Dreamy actually when combined with the surroundings as you’re eating it.

Thankfully unlike the other two dishes, the two Salmon Eggs Benedicts on my plate were still very warm when served.

As for the salad, it’s a simple blend of leafy ‘Nalo greens with what turned out to be a mild, yet very delicious Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing which had a perfect balance of acidic and sweet going on. It was a wonderfully refreshing and crisp contrasting compliment to the main entree.

Summing it up, I give their Salmon Eggs Benedict a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi, again adding a bonus point for the unique and very comfortable ambience, which kicks it up to 4.

Our tab came out to $43 for the two us, not including tip, which didn’t surprise me after reading other reviews. Looking over the menu prices, you shouldn’t be comparing them with the local diner, drive-in or dive anytime soon. What you get with those higher price are quality ingredients and attention to detail (save for the two room temp’ plates on this particular occasion, which we forgive) that elevates Cream Pot to another level.

It’s the uniqueness of the sophisticated continental menu with an occasional asian twist, combined with the Euro-cool and cozy atmosphere that I think makes makes the Cream Pot a highly recommended restaurant worth that special breakfast or brunch treat when you’re looking for something different and new.

We’re certainly coming back to try more dishes, where I have my sight on the ‘Classic Crepe’ with Baked Maple-cured Bacon, Caramelized Maui Onions, Potatoes, Gruyere Cheese with Bachemel. A dish one Yelp’r exclaims is to die for.

Check ‘em out!

Cream Pot
Hawaiian Monarch Hotel Waikiki
444 Niu St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815

Tel.  429-0945

Business hours:
6:30am to 2:30pm for breakfast and brunch daily. Closed on Tuesdays.

$2/hour validated parking in the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel

The Tasty Island rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
Cream Pot pleases with sweet treats and breakfast eats – Honolulu Star Bulletin
Cream Pot, a closer look – AkuEats.com
The Cream Pot – Coty Gonzales T-Shirt Review Blog
Cream Pot – Yelp user reviews


Comments

Waikiki Eats: Cream Pot — 11 Comments

  1. Pomai, the front of the cafe look so like country French cottage setting. I like it very much and will bring my friends with me in din.ing there. Would try the the salmon egg benedict something so different.

  2. Pomai, mom saw entry and now want to go there. Planing to have other family come along also. I like savory dishes so Burgundy beef stew with rice omlette is the one for me. Other people will order savory dishes too and some sweet breakfast ones like desserts and share.

    What atracted mom was the setting like many for it charming. Like the Japanese serial Ando Natsu this young woman started out working in Country French Cottage Cafe making pastries

  3. I would give it 3 musubis also. I readed yelp and most people expect service to be like fast pace American diners here. Well when I in Cream Pot I here to dine and relax. So what the hurry?. It how it is in Europe. Enjoyed the pineapple bacon eggs benedicts and ate it very slowly to taste every bite of it with mint lemonade.

    Next time try maguro benedict and bringing my friend along and share a sweet banana crepe together.

  4. I went here in September and really enjoyed it.

    I walked up to it from the canal side, and climbed the little stairs thinking that was the entrance, only to find, after tugging on it several times, that the little gate was locked! I had to climb back down and walk around to the entrance of the building by the garage, then ask someone how to actually get to the restaurant. Good idea to make that the main entrance.

    Had the daily set — baked eggs w/bacon, potato and onions, followed by the banana crepes w/salted caramel. Both were excellent. Service was kind of slow, but everything was the proper temperature. I couldn’t figure out where the kitchen was — now I know. I sat at a table in the corner where the Xmas tree is in your photos, and I have to say, it was just lovely sitting there eating delicious food, watching the movement of the canal, and the clouds traveling towards the mountains. As for the decor, it would be so perfectly at home in Japan. I imagine it gets very good Japanese press.

    I’m definitely going back next trip. I wanted to go again that week, but ran out of time. The maguro benedict or the beef burgandy omelet rice may be what I try next. They both sound/look good. But the salmon benedict looks pretty good, too.

  5. Pomai, yes Yelp bloggers who wrote service slow made wonder also what the hurry eating there? When I was in France in Paris notice people like enjoy dining. They take their time in cafes and restaurants . If in a hurry they head to bakery deli to buy something quick. American do like to rush in doing things. Fast food and diners is what they are use to.

    I will try next time their salmon benedict with strawberry lemonade and banana crepe.

  6. Patty, very good point. I wouldn’t plan on eating at a place like Cream Pot if you’ve got other deadlines that day. It makes a great slow-paced start to a relaxing day off from work.

    Debbie-chan, glad to hear you had a good experience. I was curious about the baked eggs with potatoes as well, but thought I’d get my feet wet with one of their more unique signature items. I also want to go back and try that Beef Burgundy Omelet. Sam Choy has a “local” version of that, where he pours his Hawaiian style beef stew over an omelet and rice. I think the deeper Burgundy Beef would be even better. I believe there’s rice inside the omelet in that dish.

    Michael, the Pineapple Bacon Eggs Benedict must have been a special when you went, as it wasn’t on the menu on our visit. Sounds delicious though!

    Kelike, Cream Pot is the perfect place to take mom or grandma. They’ll probably fall in love with its charm and sophisticated yet simple menu.

    Amy, hope you get to try CP. I think you’ll be delighted.

    Wasabi-Prime, sharp eye in noticing the heart-shaped flask. Very nice touch on their part. This is what you call ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Little things like that can make all the difference.

    John B, you should check it out. Pretty neat place.

     

  7. My family and I discovered Cream Pot when visiting the University of Hawaii Campus. Now, every trip to Honolulu must include Cream Pot. The decor is one thing, but the food is absolutely wonderful. The baked eggs are delicious and filling. Tip, bring your own champagne to pair with their delicious orange juice. Also, all the Benedict choices are excellent from personal experience. If you want to enjoy extraordinary food and leisurely dining, I highly recommend Cream Pot.

    • Cheryl, Cream Pot is still doing very well (I drive by there everyday on my way to work), especially with Japanese tourists, due to their aggressive advertising in Japanese travel magazines and websites, plus word-of-mouth.

      I find it odd though how Japanese tourists in Waikiki are so fixated with breakfast joints. They also flock to Eggs ‘n Things like bees. Crazy! I mean, come on now, how hard is it to cook bacon, eggs ‘n pancakes? lol

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