A couple weeks ago, we were invited to attend a media preview of Off the Wall Craft Desserts and Kitchen. (It’s located in the former Tsunami night club space on S. King Street.) OTW Craft is the brain child of Kyle Matsumoto (owner of Off The Wall Restaurant and Catering in Pearl Kai Shopping Center) and Ed Morita (formerly of Highway Inn Kaka‘ako). The restaurant’s concept is “local-style comfort food with a twist” and revolves around a friendly food fight between savory and sweet.
Chef Ed Morita represents for #DessertFirst, with his pastry background at Highway Inn, Halekulani and Greenbriar, among other establishments. The savory #FoodFirst team is headed up by Chef de Cuisine Andrew Mitani who moves over from the Pearl Kai Off the Wall. (You’re encouraged to show your support via the hashtags.)
I am obviously big-time on Ed’s #DessertFirst team because I share his philosophy that dessert shouldn’t be an afterthought. (Ed’s also a friend of ours and has been a great source of info for me when I need help finding weird ingredients. I’m also a big fan of his chocolate chip cookies—they’re just the right amount of chewy and crunchy.) I think Ed has an little unfair edge over Mitani, though, because it’s much easier to inject quite a bit of savory into your dessert and have it still be very dessert-like, plus appeal to people who aren’t really “dessert people.” (Those people are not allowed to be my friends.) Here’s an example that we tried at the preview: “Beer-a-Misu” Puffs—mini cream puffs filled with mousse and coffee-beer-soaked lady fingers.
This was a head-to-head puff-off with the Beer-a-Misu puffs presented alongside Mitani’s savory puffs which were stuffed with goat cheese, bacon and chives and topped with a liliko‘i-falernum glaze. This was actually a really close call, but the Beer-a-Misu puffs just barely edged out the goat cheese as the favorite of our table. Both were excellent, and honestly, we probably should consider them a tie. (It looks like the Beer-a-Misus are on OTW’s opening menu, but the goat cheese have fallen by the wayside. Bummer.) The puffs on both were airy and not sweet themselves. The mousse in the dessert puffs was lightly sweet and there was a malty, beery quality from coffee-beer-lady fingers paste. The savory puffs were salty and rich, though I did not pick up much taste from the liliko‘i glaze.
Savory, I think, has to tread a finer line regarding how many sweet touches you can add without turning into something that’s really more of a dessert or just too odd, so it’s a bigger challenge to tweak them the other direction the way you can with sweets. But I love the idea of trying to blend the two and challenge our perceptions of what constitutes “food” vs. “dessert.” I thought this dish by Mitani was a really fun way of playing with the savory-against-sweet concept: he turned a fully savory dish into something that LOOKS like a dessert: an ‘Ahi Poke “Cupcake” with poke, sesame and pickled ginger “frosting,” bubu arare and yuzu tobiko over sushi rice. I loved this.
We tried several other items at the preview, including another head-to-head involving “sandwiches” (actually more like crepe rolls; the sweet of Banana & Nutella won out over the Eggplant and Zucchini veggie savory); a #DessertFirst Sticky Bun with bacon, pecans and Manhattan-spiked honey; a #FoodFirst “Ozoni” (Japanese New Year’s soup) Pizza (fully savory and a very inventive concept using all the traditional ingredients of ozoni); Curried Hummus (very tasty, though not as thick as most hummus; the flatbread served with it was fantastic); a burger and a take-home of Kabocha Malassadas. (We ended up breaking into the goodie box before leaving, though, because Mitani brought out a flight of Ed’s boozed-up honeys for us to try and they were great on pieces of malassada.) Apologies for telling and not showing, but I was having a bad photo day, so I don’t feel that what I shot is good enough to show you. (I encourage you to check out Melissa Chang’s Frolic pre-media-preview preview and/or Olena Heu’s “My Point of Heu” post for their point of view on the various dishes or if you’d like more photo action that I’ve got going on here.)
OTW Craft will be officially open for business (they are currently in a soft-opening period) on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14. To kick things off, they are holding a special event, “Chocolate Lover’s Spat,” which will feature action stations throughout the restaurant. (So not their usual menu; if you want to try that, visit another night.) Tickets are $50 pre-sale, or $65 at the door. Check out the menu and get tickets here.
Disclosure: We were invited to attend a media preview hosted by the restaurant. No financial compensation was received for this post and no representative from the establishment was given the opportunity to review or comment upon this post prior to publication.