Iwilei Eats: EAT Catering & Cafe

Matters of Taste in Gentry Pacific Design Center recently changed ownership with their former chef now at the helm of what is now named EAT Catering & Cafe.

EAT Cafe is located in Gentry Pacific Design Center, a business plaza occupied mostly with upscale home furnishing retailers and design & remodeling contractors, as well as architect and real estate offices, located on Nimitz highway between KMart and City Mill, across the street from Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab. If that isn’t enough information to  help you find EAT Cafe, there’s a sign on the sidewalk to point you in the right direction…

You’ll find EAT Cafe right there on the left side as you walk through the street level parking lot main entrance…

Gentry Pacific Design Center, 560 N. Nimitz Hwy. (across the street from Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab)

Here we are at EAT Cafe…

Before continuing on, it must be pointed out that ‘EAT Cafe’ has got to be one of the most back-to-basics name for a restaurant one could conceive. I mean, DUH?!! What’s amazing as it does seem in all its simplicity, is that Chef and owner David Passanisi was able to get the domain http://www.eathonolulu.com. You’d think some hack out there would have already registered that URL, hoping to sell it in the future for a profit, but nope, I guess nobody thought of “eathonolulu.com” prior. Perhaps he had this vision for his restaurant long ago and registered it way back when. I’ll get back to you on that when I talk with him again.

Speaking of the owner, here’s Chef David Passanisi…

EAT Catering & Cafe owner, Chef David Passanisi

Now let’s see what’s on the menu for lunch at Eat Cafe…

Here’s the Breakfast & Beverages menu…

Like its former incarnation as Matters of Taste, Eat Cafe is set up as a casually-hip bistro, with self-service patio seating and take-out window to order your food…

Simply decide what you want off the menu boards as shown, place your order and pay, to which you’re given a receipt with ticket number that they call out when your kaukau is ready.

On my first visit, I decided to try the Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Goat Cheese  Panini…

Eat Catering & Cafe – Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Goat Cheese Panini, $6.95

The Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Goat Cheese Panini is made of grilled sliced Zucchini, Eggplant, Bell Peppers and Onions, slathered with a traditional Italian Pesto on Country Sourdough bread, toasted Panini style.

How is it? Supah ONO! This is a winner right here, and I’d go back again and again just for this sandwich. While there’s no meat in it, you won’t miss a thing, as the eggplant brings that element to the party, along with the pungent and very flavorful goat cheese, accented by the robust, earthy pesto sauce that’s generously slathered on the nicely “Panini-ized” (grill-toasted) sourdough bread. Here we reveal what’s inside…

Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Goat Cheese Panini with Zucchini, Eggplant, Bell Peppers and Onions

With that, I give Eat Cafe’s Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Goat Cheese Panini a solid 4 SPAM Musubi.

On a subsequent visit based on my favorable impression of that first sandwich, Diner E took me up on the enticement and decided to give Eat Cafe’s Pastrami Reuben Panini a try…

Eat Catering & Cafe – Reuben Pastrami Panini, with Russian Dressing, Sauerkraut and Swiss Cheese, $7.75

While that LOOKS absolutely fantastic and promising to be a great example of a Reuben, Diner E had several gripes about it. Number one is that they gave him the END SLICE of the Country Sourdough bread loaf, or as we call it, the “okole”. As you know, the end slice is heavy on crust, which is not one of Diner E’s favorite things. Mine neither.

Gripe number two is that the Pastrami was REFRIGERATOR COLD, not only making that itself taste less than ideal, but also preventing the swiss cheese from melting adequately. Having made my own Pastrami from scratch, I know that the proper way to serve a Pastrami sandwich is to steam the pastrami hot for service.

He also couldn’t detect any Russian Dressing, which he thinks was actually not added to the sandwich. If there was, there wasn’t enough of it to accentuate any flavors. With that, he gives this Reuben Panini 1 SPAM Musubi, noting that Kenny’s “in the Kam Shopping Center in Ka-li-hi” still is has the best Pastrami Reuben in town.

Next we have Diner A’s sandwich of the day, the Cuban Panini…

Eat Catering & Cafe – Cuban Panini: Ham, Kalua Pork, Chili Aioli, Swiss & Pickle, $7.50

Diner A was diggin’ this one. Noteworthy was the very smokey and moist Kalua Pork and overall the marriage of flavors of all those components coming together…

Cuban Panini, revealing the Ham, Kalua Pork, Chili Aioli and melted Swiss

Also noteworthy was that he ate all the pickled red onion condiment; something Diner A otherwise detests. I must say, these are some mighty delicious pickled onions and a great bonus selling point for this establishment. All said and done, Diner gives his Cuban Panini 3 SPAM Musubi.

Finally we move on to my order, which on this visit, I decided to try Eat Cafe’s take on my all-time favorite burger, the swiss ‘n ‘shroom…

Eat Catering & Cafe – Sauteed Mushroom & Swiss Burger, $7.95

Here’s a more photogenic look at it in fully-assembled form…

Sauteed Mushroom & Swiss Burger

Now THAT is one mighty fine lookin’ burger!

Here’s a cross-cut view of this bad boy…

Sauteed Mushroom & Swiss Burger

According to their website, their char-grilled burgers feature 6 oz. of Angus ground beef. Whatever it is, as long as it’s not recently purchased from the local Safeway, that’s fine with me.  As a nice touch, like any decent burger joint would do, they asked me how I wanted it done, to which I requested medium. Which is pretty much what I got from you what you see here.  A little pink is good… better than “killed” (overcooked).

How was it? Not bad. Gripe one would be that the burger lacked any “char-grilled” flavor, nor did have any obvious char-grilled markings on the patty to prove it. This could have been a pan-fried burger for all I know. Gripe two would be the lack of mushrooms, and also the “manini” (small) size of the sauteed ones provided on it. They also looked and tasted like they were sauteed to oblivion. I prefer my sauteed mushrooms still tender and soft, not sauteed to a crisp as they were headed here. There also wasn’t any mayonnaise on the bun, so big minus points for that. A Swiss ‘n Shroom HAS TO HAVE MAYO’! Points plus for the toasted bun. At least they did that! Also points plus for the very fresh Manoa Lettuce and Tomato, as well as the RED onion. Not white, but red, which is a big improvement in taste when it comes to burgers. The Shack (still my favorite Swiss ‘N Shroom Burger yet) uses these, and I’m glad to see they use it as well.

I’m a bit disappointed that the burger didn’t live up to my lofty expectations, as their former incarnation as Matters of Taste EXCELLED with their Char-Grilled Pepperjack Cheeseburger. I swear that was one of the best burgers in Honolulu. Perhaps we just need to give Eat Cafe time to “season” their grill. You know, when all the fat drippings accumulate and add more and more flavor to the food cooked on it. Oh yeah!

With that, I give Eat Cafe’s Sauteed Mushroom & Swiss Burger 2 SPAM Musubi.

Once again, props on the pickled red onion condiment. I’d buy a bottle of that stuff. It would be nice if they added some kind of fries to the menu. I understand the don’t use a deep fryer, but at least offer baked potato wedges as an add-on for the sandwiches and burgers. Perhaps tossed with rosemary, thyme and EVOO to kick it up a notch. Bam! lol

Since they don’t offer fries to accompany my burger, for a side I decided to try their Cole Slaw…

Eat Catering & Cafe – Cole Slaw, $1.95

How is the cole slaw? Not that I was expecting it, but there were no thrills or frills. Just your average, ordinary slaw consisting of cabbage and carrots with just a light toss of what tasted like mayo’, sugar and vinegar, along with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper.  Being that Eat Cafe (and the former Matters of Taste) carries a trendy gourmet theme, you’d think Chef would at least throw in some raisins or better yet, craisins (Cranberries) in the mix, but nope.

Diner AC also tried this place, having the Turkey, Smoked Mozzarella and Pesto Panini, acclaiming a 3 SPAM Musubi rating for that one.

Again, I’d easily go back again and again for that explosion of flavors packed in the Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Goat Cheese Panini. I’ll also certainly return to try some of their pasta dishes, which Matters of Taste was  good at.  I’m hoping Chef will also consider bringing back Matters of Taste’ most excellent take on the classic French Dip sandwich. OMG, theirs was the best!

EAT Catering & Cafe
560 N. Nimitz Hwy #68
(within the Gentry Pacific Design Center)
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817
Tel. (808) 538-0597

Hours of operation:
Monday – Friday
Breakfast 7:30am to 10:30am
Lunch 11am to 3pm
10am to 2pm (breakfast served all day!)
Only open for reserved functions and catering

The Tasty Island rating:

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

P.S. For dessert, Diner AC shared with us her most amazing Mango Bread Cupcakes…

Mango Bread Cupcakes, courtesy of Chef Diner AC

Unwrapped, here you see the generous chunks of fresh, sweet ‘n ripe Ewa Mango…

Mango Bread Cupcake

Looking deeper, there’s also raisins…

The white frosting on top is cream cheese based, so you know it’s GOOD!

Aside of the rich cream cheese frosting topper, Diner AC noted that she modified the basic mango bread recipe by substituting Whole Wheat Flour for Enriched White Flour, and also used Apple Sauce instead of oil, all for the sake of a healthier mango bread. Yet despite those substitutions, it was still amazingly moist and just incredibly delicious! Mahalo Diner AC!

8/14/09 post edit : I went back to EAT Cafe on a subsequent visit to try their Chicken and Beef Tacos…

EAT Cafe – Chicken Taco and Beef Taco, $2.95 each

Taking the Chicken Taco apart…

EAT Cafe – Chicken Taco with ‘slaw and 2 toasted white corned torillas, $2.95 each

you see it’s made using, acording to Chef David, 2 lightly-toasted white corn tortillas, with their special ‘Slaw’ added as an accent ingredient, along with the spiced chicken meat, cheeeses, lettuce and tomato.

Same for the beef taco…

EAT Cafe – Beef Taco with ‘slaw and 2 toasted white corned torillas, $2.95 each

The Chicken Taco is pretty good, but there’ s no question the Beef Taco is ROCKIN’ here! Two of these bad boys and you should be good for lunch. They also have a Pork Taco which I’ll try on a future visit.

8/24/09 post edit: Went back to EAT Cafe yet again to try their Turkey, Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella Cheese Panini…

EAT Cafe – Turkey, Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella Cheese Panini, $7.25

Here you see Smoked Mozzarella has been thoroughly melted by the heat from the Panini press…

I might also add that the pronounced smoked flavor the Mozzarella has almost gives the low fat turkey a richer bacon-like flavor profile. Really nice! While the traditional pesto rounds out the sandwich just beautifully.

A solid 3-SPAM Musubi for the Turkey, Pesto & Smoked Panini.

1/5/10 Post edit: Diner E returned to Eat Cafe again yesterday to give their Reuben Pastrami Panini another try. Here’s how it turned out…

Eat Catering & Cafe – Reuben Pastrami Panini, with Russian Dressing, Sauerkraut and Swiss Cheese (purchased on 1/4/10)

Apparently, thanks to Jocelyn, the folks at Eat Cafe have taken the criticisms here (and wherever else) constructively (and seriously), making the necessary improvements to their preparations.

This time around, as seen by his own comment below, Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E says, “just pau eat da Ruben Sandwich and dis time da buggah was broke da mout, everyting was hot and da cheese was melted. and da panini style grill made da sandwich crunch chewy ONO! I geev’um one 4 spam musubi, if da buggah get little moa Meat (Pastrami) garans get da 5 spam musubi! Eh! Get one Happi New Yea Everybody!!!
P.S. Dis time dea neva give me okole part of the bread.”


16 thoughts on “Iwilei Eats: EAT Catering & Cafe

  1. Pomai, I been looking for a Asian Panini with Vietnamese roast pork style sandwich but not the hard crusty bread. With panini type bread. It easy to chew on. Wonder if they would make it? A Vietnamese Panini you might say.

  2. Pomai, interesting ideal. I could not eat Vietnamese Sandwich due to dental work. Always like it in a soft but not too soft bread. Panini sound very good indeed. With Asian fillings in it for something so Hawaii .

  3. Aloha,

    Thanks so much for coming in to EAT! We just have been open for the past few weeks and never closed during the transition. Our place will be evolving over the next few months as we chip away at changes.
    Chef David is now in the process of training the staff and reworking the menu.
    We think any feedback is good feedback so mahalo again for taking the time.
    I just love how thorough this site is!

    I wanted to write to tell each of you we will be adjusting the items mentioned that need tweaking. We thrilled that you enjoyed the new side of pickled veg/onions (my hubby makes it all from scratch). Our true goal is that we want you to arrive giddy about what you’re going to devour and leave wanting to come back again and again. Articles like this allow us to focus on some immediate changes and we appreciate the time you each took to make it.

    For those of you inquiring about some special items: our motto is that if you crave it, we can make it (or at least try) So…email us at info@eathonolulu.com with your delicious craving and we will try to either consider putting it on the upcoming revised menu OR can feature it as a special and contact you for the few days or week it will be running. (So yes, I will request that my hubby makes a Vietnamese Panini =)

    Ooh, and if you liked our mango bread cupcakes…you must come by and try our carrot cake!!! (My favorite, so much so that Dave and I had our wedding cake entirely made of them.)

    -Ms Jocelyn Leigh (food, wine lover & #1 fan of the Chef)

  4. I’m with the folks who fixated on the mango bread cupcakes. Those are serious chunks of mango! We who do not live on Oahu (or any other place with mango trees in the yard) savor the ones we buy too much to waste ’em on bread. So this is a fantasy treat to savor one day.

    Yoga Spy

  5. Looks yummy! We also have some burgers at our place – along with some local food (laulau, kalua pig, etc.). Let us know if you’d like to stop by! You can follow us at twitter.com/HighwayInn. Mahalo! We love your blog.

  6. Wow I haven’t been to the Gentry Pacific Design Center since my high schools days when I used to play in open chess tournaments that were held in the empty conference rooms upstairs! I remember there being a different eatery where EAT now resides.

    The paninis look great! Might have to make a stop by here on my way to see clients one day.

  7. Dale, I highly recommend the Grilled Vegetable, Pesto and Cheese Panini. I was just there again yesterday, and this time they were serving it with Brie instead of Goat Cheese. Now that sounds great!

    Highway Inn, on my next trek into Waipahu I’ll stop by your place for sure! Please add ‘The Tasty Island Guy’ to your “comp to-do list”. Just kidding! lol Seriously, I’m about due again for some ono laulau, lomi salmon and poi. Extra poi, please.

    Yogaspy, that’s always the big dilemma here in Hawaii during mango season… making use of the surplus over-ripe mangoes. Many simply get tossed in the trash because we’re already sick and tired of making mango bread and chutney and whatever else. But these mango bread cupcakes with the big chunks of mango in it and the cream cheese on top? Choice!

    Jocelyn, glad you enjoyed the review and take it with a constructive frame of mind. I was just in your restaurant yesterday and tried the Chicken and Beef Tacos. The Beef Taco is AWESOME! I’ll be back for more of that too! Dig how you folks add slaw in it, as well as combining both a lightly pan-toasted flour and corn tortilla. Great product. Keep it up! You’re too funny though… just to let you know, the Mango Bread Cupcakes aren’t from your restaurant. My coworker made those! Silly you. lol

    Spotty, yup, cream cheese will always do it. Gets me every time.

    Takat, I’ll have to ask Diner AC about that. Will get back to you on it.

    Amy, yeah, Diner A was quite favorable about that Panini’s Kalua Pork element, saying it really brought it to the party.

    Erica and Kelike, that has me wondering how a Vietnamese style Banh Mi sandwich would do if pressed Panini style. Logic would say it doesn’t make sense, but you never know, those grilled marks may just add a whole new dimension of flavor to the sandwich!

  8. Well it easy to eat for I try banh mi and man my veneer inplant came out. How can a person like me or other enjoy banh mi at all? These places do not care to see and think of other people who perfer an easy to eat sandwich for the filling is very good.

  9. Erica, glad to hear your veneer went well. Not sure about sandwiches, but certainly stay away from coffee, tea, wine or grape juice. You don’t want anything staining that pearly new white! If you must, drink them from a straw.

  10. Aloha Pomai and to all y’all,

    It’s true I am silly. You see, I am just but a mere admirer and wife of the owner and did not realize about the Mango Cupcakes being that we make some sick Cupcakes & Scones in all flavors, Brownies and Cinnamon Rolls, Carrot Cake all from scratch. I thought it was a dessert feature for the day. (Oops.)

    In addition, I have some great news! We have a FRENCH DIP for those who are craving one. It ran today and sold out so now we are going to run
    again tomorrow:

    *Shaved Lamb French Dip with Provolone Cheese & Roasting Jus @$8.25 *Lamb Gyros @$6.95

    Yum. Yummm. Yummy!

    Thanks again for all your support!!!

  11. Jocelyn, ooh that Shaved Lamb French Dip with Provolone Cheese & Roasting Au Jus sounds delicious! Hopefully you’ve got chopped rosemary and mint jelly incorporated somehow in the dish.

    Note, I just added photos and a mini-write-up about your Chicken and Beef Tacos. It’s at the very end of the review above. The Beef Taco is excellent! Perhaps in the future you folks can offer one substituting beef, chicken and pork with a taco featuring Portobello mushrooms and/or eggplant, similar to your grilled vegetable Panini.

    Maui Ohana, they’ll be closed on Sunday when we pick you up, but perhaps Monday we can stop by if the timing’s right.

  12. Diner E (aka Saimin Kau Kau) hea, just pau eat da Ruben Sandwich and dis time da buggah was broke da mout, everyting was hot and da cheese was melted. and da panini style grill made da sandwich crunch chewy ONO! I geev’um one 4 spam musubi, if da buggah get little moa Meat (Pastrami) garans get da 5 spam musubi!
    Eh! Get one Happi New Yea Everybody!!!
    P.S. Dis time dea neva give me okole part of the bread

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