Chinatown has been bustling with new, delicious, innovative eateries lately. It's been very exciting to see the blend of cultures, influences and culinary techniques blend so nicely. I feel like food takes us on a journey -- and if we can't leave the island, or travel to far away places, at least sampling the food can give us a taste of what it's like to be there.
My latest culinary adventure takes me to 62 North Hotel Street. I have heard for several months about a place that serves up authentic French/Latin cuisine. But what does that mean? French food with Latin flavors? Or Latin food cooked in a French style using French techniques? I had to see for myself. Grondin recently started serving lunch and I have been conducting many business meetings over lunch so I opted to try this new hot spot.
Grondin opened in April 2014 to rave reviews. All of the culinary critics were applauding the dishes and flavors. A pair with French and Ecuadorian history have been busy helping others open restaurants around the globe that they decided to open their own place in Honolulu. The ambience is rustic meets simple South American/trendy with red brick walls, posted menus notated with chalk and wooden tables. The servers are well educated and wearing friendly smiles.
The food is simple Latin cuisine with French twists. We started off with the Kauai Shrimp Ceviche. served with a refreshing ceviche sauce composed of house ketchup, chile and pickled onions. A nice compliment to the dish is the house made plantain chips that are seasoned perfectly with salt and are light, crisp and thinly sliced. The portion is small, like a tapas style and the price is $13 which is a little on the steep side for something petite, but the flavors are spot on and perfect for a hot summer day.
Next up the Crepes Mole Negro - the meat is confit duck with Oaxacan mole, served with cilantro and lime creme fraiche. The duck is divine, so moist and so full of bright latin flavors. The crepe adds a sweetness to this dish that makes it delicate and soft. Honestly the cilantro and creme fraiche are almost nonexistent in flavor. But that doesn't matter because this is a hit. For $13 you get two crepe wraps, I could've eaten two more.
I was hankering for a sandwich and took the waiter's suggestion to have the Chicken Sofrito - which is made with Jidori chicken $14 (that is the hot commodity right now, everyone is showcasing Jidori chicken), cultido, aioli, jalapeño on French baguette. This is a delectable sandwich. The chicken is almost like a chicken salad with the aioli and cheese. It has some crunch from the bread but could use some acid like tomato or even extra crunch from bacon perhaps. Although this was a wonderful sandwich with great flavor and most of all it was moist. I placed the house greens and arugula on the inside of the sandwich to add more flavor, and that's how I like to eat my greens.
Now say hello to my favorite of the day -- the Cassoulet. This is similar to a hearty portuguese bean soup, but with more veggies and a divine broth that is nice and light. The stew comes with Shinsato farms pork shank, house cured lardon and saucisson a l'ail $12. We got this with toasted and buttered crostini and I couldn't be happier. It was truly comfort food! The broth was so simple yet complex, the ingredients were filling and hearty but not too overbearing. The meat was tender and delicious. This is apparently one of the most popular dishes, even for dinner. I would go back just for this dish. Its not fancy but the flavors and the textures brought me back home.
In the end a little homemade ice cream created a nice finale to this lunch. Banana, vanilla and an amazing chocolate ice cream. I would say to get the chocolate was the star hands down! The chocolate was bold, intense and full of flavor.
Overall, I can't wait for another chance to try Grondin. The casual setting with the hints of Latin America almost take you away to another place, think of it as a vacation - even if it's just for an hour.