It’s finally happening: Our Ed Morita is opening his own restaurant. He’s teamed up with Kyle Matsumoto, owner of Off The Wall Restaurant and Catering in Pearl Kai Shopping Center to bring a new dining experience to Honolulu with Off The Wall Craft Desserts & Kitchen (OTW Craft). They’ll be taking over the former Tsunami Night Club space at 1272 S. King St. with a soft opening from January 29 to 31, and a grand opening on February 14 — Valentine’s Day.
Ed will be doing the sweets, of course, and Off The Wall’s Andrew Mitani is the chef de cuisine who will be presenting the savories. The unique twist on the menu, however, is that Ed will be encouraging you to eat your desserts first. (Social media users, use #DessertFirst.) “Every restaurant I’ve ever worked at treated desserts as an afterthought,” he said, “that is why I knew that if I ever had the chance to develop a dining concept, it would revolve around highlighting #DessertFirst.”
Andrew, of course, will be encouraging you to eat your food first, dessert later. (Social media users, use #FoodFirst.) The three have collaborated on a fun, unique menu that will sometimes blur the lines between sweet and savory. Here’s a look at some things you can expect to find:
The kabocha malasadas with haupia sauce were actually the last things I tried, but they’re so good, you will definitely want to eat #DessertFirst. In fact, when Ed left the room, Andrew and I inhaled these shamelessly. They’re fluffy and light — better than Leonard’s. I kid you not. The kabocha doesn’t provide a too-strong pumpkin flavor, but it does take the taste to a whole new level.
“These are a variation on a pumpkin malasada recipe I’ve been working on for a long time,” Ed said. “I previously made a variation using ‘ulu pala while at Highway Inn.”
The ahi poke “cupcake” has a cute presentation in a cake cup, with rice on the bottom and a poke muffin top. Andrew added bubu arare sprinkles and created a special sesame-ginger “frosting” topped with yuzu tobiko. I liked that it had a nice blend of flavor and texture in every bite, and wondered why no one had invented this before. Did you know that Ed is anti-cupcake? Andrew created this not just to do a fun play off a dessert item, but as a dig at Ed!
Will you start with a bacon pecan sticky bun instead? This will actually be offered for brunch, when they start that. Ed’s bun is made from his kabocha malasada batter and it’s got a generous layer of candied pecans and bacon, plus Manhattan-spiked honey syrup flavored with whiskey, bitters, and maraschino cherries. Need I say more? Actually, to be honest, the bun is delicious on its own and doesn’t need the extra honey, but it does give it an extra bit of decadence.
“I came up with the idea for spiked honey when I was doing blogs with the honey I received from the Adopt-a-Beehive program. After my first test batch, I realized that I had something special, so I’ve been holding on to the idea until now,” Ed explained. “And by the way, I’m not anti-cupcake! I’m anti-bad cupcakes.”
“The sweet versus savory cream puffs signify our ‘battle’ between #FoodFirst and #DessertFirst,” Andrew said. These are regular menu items, but watch for them in smaller versions as an amuse bouche when you dine at OTW Craft. The savory puffs are filled with goat cheese, bacon and chives with passion fruit falernum glaze. (Falernum is a Carribean syrup used in cocktails with high proof rum and some spices.) The sweet cream puffs are filled with Black Sand Porter “beer-a-misu” — tiramisu made with lady fingers soaked in beer and coffee syrup.
The puffs are nice and light. I intended to just take a bite and move on, but each was so tasty, I ended up eating a whole puff. The passion fruit falernum glaze on the savory puff is fantastic — it adds a great, subtle citrus flavor that contrasts well with the goat cheese. As for the sweet puff, I tend to not like beer, but this was not too strong. The cream is rich but not heavy, which made it too easy to keep eating!
Happy new year! You’ve heard of ozoni (good luck mochi soup), the traditional Japanese dish eaten on New Year’s Day. Well, the guys have created ozoni pizza. Ed made the pizza crust and they topped it with hatcho miso sauce, grated mochi, miso chicken, and mozzarella cheese, then a salad of mizuna, daikon, carrots, and yuzu wafu dressing. For added crunch and general prettiness, they added fried hasu chips. On the side is pickled mizuna stems in chili pepper oil.
Kyle said this is the first on a list of unique pizzas they’ll be rotating throughout the year. I liked this twist on a classic soup dish, not to mention it’s quite healthy.
Another sweet versus savory pairing: Ed made sandwich rolls with banana-nutella filling and provolone cheese that are rolled up, grilled in butter and served with white chocolate haupia sauce. So good! And I especially liked that he cuts off the crust. “Since I was making Twinkies at Highway Inn, people said I should make my version of other hostess snacks. This is my version of a Hoho,” he said.
Andrew’s answer is this dish: Vegetarian sandwich rolls with grilled zucchini and eggplant with housemade ketchup. I’m admittedly more of a savory person, so I really dug these easy-to-eat, crustless yummies. The ketchup, I think, really pulls it together. “We really wanted to do something that was vegetarian, but I think this will appeal to omnivores, as well,” Andrew said.
For a lighter alternative, get the dirty Caesar salad with spinach, romaine and swiss chard, topped with bacon and croutons made by Ed. “We wanted to make this salad appealing to carnivores, so we reduce bacon down and use the fat to make the dressing,” Andrew explained. No wonder I ate all of it.
The curried roasted pepper hummus with house made flatbread is another collaboration between the two, since Andrew makes the hummus and Ed makes the bread. I liked the curry flavor, as it was subtle but just enough to make it unique. Andrew said, “This is something for the entire table to share to start the meal off right. We chose to marry the sweetness of the roasted peppers with the slight spice of Indian curry to round the dish out.”
Andrew is a burger guy, so he created a buffalo slider. Instead of regular condiments, he provides housemade ketchup, grainy beer mustard, mushroom duxelles, and a pickled onion. I really enjoyed this one, with the meatiness of the burger and the flavorful condiments. In fact, the condiments really make this burger sing. Great. Now I can’t eat commercial condiments anymore, either.
“We wanted a burger that a burger lover will crave. We took ground buffalo and cut it with 80/20 ground beef to add a little higher fat content. The burger itself was built to be great on its own, but the condiments raise the bar,” Andrew said.
Off the Wall Craft will be open to the public from January 29. There’s parking on the street, and limited free parking in the back. You’ll find a very spacious, comfortable interior (don’t forget to look at the floor) and some thoughtful touches; Ed has table lamps available for people who like to take photos of their food.
Off the Wall Craft
1272 S. King St.