From the cacao tree comes chocolate—and in every form found in Waikiki, it’s delicious, delightful and just plain heavenly.
It’s gooey, it’s melty, it’s powdery, moist, crunchy, rich, dark and milky, velvety brown and ivory white. If ever there were a paradoxical delicacy, it’s chocolate. Is anything else oh-so-sinful and divinely scrumptious all at once? Waikiki boasts plenty of spots for hunting down the heavenly elixir in all of its delectable forms.
“I like to call Kokoa Bar a three-dimensional shop, where you can come in and see everything being made, ask questions, enjoy samples,” says entrepreneur Richard Muszynski. If ever you saw someone passionate about what they do, this man is―from the unique shapes and whimsical designs that accent his truffles to their locally sourced ingredients. He also offers weekly chocolate-making classes, and they book up quickly. His cacao comes from Waialua on O‘ahu’s North Shore, and his tropical flavors include Honey Blossom, Wild Ginger, Pineapple, Toasted Coconut and lots more. The enthusiastic owner holds up his recommendations: Port Almond, Peanut Mousse, Hawaiian Chili Pepper. Each is a nougat of tender bliss. Then there’s the clunky, salty-sweet Jungle Bar packed with peanut butter pretzels, graham crackers, Oreos, marshmallows and 72 percent dark chocolate. If it’s hard to stop talking about Kokoa Bar, it’s because it also offers a self-serve candy bar, Hawai‘i-made ice cream, and specialty coffee and hot chocolate drinks in unheard-of combinations like Dark Chili Pepper, White Lemon Grass or Milk Grand Orange. “Nobody else does anything like us,” says the man behind Ricard Chocolat―“That’s my Willy Wonka name,” he laughs. He’s right, no one makes anything like Ricard Chocolat’s inimitable truffles.
For a nice hunk of melt-in-your mouth goodness, Malie Kai makes pure bars, sourcing its cacao locally, from Waialua. Wrapped in signature pastel green, blue and pink boxes, Malie Kai’s chocolates are popular around town in specialty shops, but they now have a storefront at Royal Hawaiian Center. The bars come in white, milk or dark and the chocolate bursts onto the taste buds, oozing with complex, fruity notes. To make it extra unforgettable, a milk bar might be spiked with cocoa nibs, the white with tangerine essence, or the dark with Kona espresso. Malie Kai features occasional specials, like its decadent Hawaiian Rum Truffles, using Maui rum which leaves a touch of molasses and vanilla on the tongue. Ask for a sample of any of the bars and prepare for some swooningly aromatic flavor.
Panna Cotta al Cioccolato Bianco
Any great Italian restaurant is bound to have a mouthwatering dessert menu. Il Lupino delivers with its Panna Cotta al Cioccolato Bianco. Darker chocolate is all the rage, but for a delicate dish based around creamy chocolate pudding, the softer qualities of white chocolate allow the vibrant berry compote, finished with cardamom, lavender, orange peel and Madeira wine to shine. The succulent silkiness of the former matches up with the tart juiciness of the latter and there perhaps hasn’t been a more passionate combination since Romeo and Juliet.
Wild-jungle name and all, nothing quite says “refreshing” like an iced pick-me-up from Gorilla in the Café… and the best are the ones that feature banana, of course! Let’s not play coy when something is downright amazing, like the server-recommended Gorilla Frappe-Choco/Banana. A blend of ice, milk, banana, chocolate syrup and mocha powder, it’s luscious and not too sweet―a perfect pairing of chocolate and banana, with a mocha kick. Alternatively, there’s a White Gorilla Frappe-Banana/Vanilla or a Chocolate Chip Frappe, and lots of coffee choices with beans harvested 100 percent right here in Hawai‘i. Or try one of the Manoa Chocolate bars on the counter, also made in paradise and sporting eye-popping ingredients like goat milk or ghost pepper.
Gorilla in the Café
2155 Kalakaua Ave. [C:6 Waikiki Map]
Beautifully packaged boxes galore with equally delightful contents declare “pick me” from the shelves and tables of T Galleria’s eatable-gift marketplace. Whether savoring them yourself or saving them for that special someone, the brands of chocolates, coffee, cookies and tea are some of Hawai‘i’s tastiest and freshest. Take Big Island Candies, for instance, or Honolulu Coffee Co. There’s also Honolulu Cookie Company, Hawaiian King chocolate treats, Godiva and more. At the Honolulu Cookie Company stand, a tray of pineapple shaped confections are being dipped in molten chocolate. Talk about fresh! Samples of coffee and tea also tempt the tummy and pocketbook. But really, it’s all about that food of the gods―the myriad varieties of chocolate in all its splendor.