Kahala Eats: Olive Tree Café

Tony KawaguchiJoining us again today is guest blogger Tony Kawaguchi, a Honolulu resident who usually blogs about Hawaii Real Estate at www.AlohaTony.com.

 Olive Tree Café in Kahala
By Tony Kawaguchi

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about a restaurant simply because there are so many on Oahu.  For Greek food there are a few options around, but I had been told by many that Olive Tree Café was the best.  My second time to Olive Tree café in Kahala reminded me why I agreed and had wanted come back.

It’s small, with only about 20 small tables, and a simple order-at-the-Deli bar then pick-up style.  There isn’t much service, as the guys behind the counter rarely come out.  They can’t really, because the line was constantly moving people through like a deli counter. We went on a Wednesday night and it was packed, which is a great sign for a local shop. I love seeing a local business owner thrive in Oahu!

The menu is small, with only 5 main dishes.  Yes that’s right, five. And actually 3 of those are the same dish with fish, lamb or chicken options.

In comparison, they have 7 appetizers (don’t call them pupus — this place is Greek), and 12 different beverage options. They don’t serve alcohol, though the cozy little Greek Deli next door by the same owners offers you everything you could want.

One of the friends who accompanied us had lived in Greece for a time, so he was a great help in choosing and understanding the food.

We started with Tabouleh salad, which has bulgar wheat, greens, parsley, herbs, with lemon herb dressing.  Tabouleh is one of the most popular Middle Eastern salads, and has a great light taste.  This would be a great summer food, while some Greek food is a little heavy for that.  Very crispy and fresh vegetables made this a great starter.  The dressing is lemony light, not heavy like the olive oil you might normally expect in a Greek dressing.

While in the kitchen I noticed the pitas being heated on the grill, which makes them a little crispier than usual and of course they are so much better served hot. Sometimes pitas feel a little gummy, and warming them on a hot grill is the way to solve that problem.

Since there were only 5 main dishes plus the special available, we decided to get 3 appetizers after the salad. The Hummus (garbonzo bean spread) and pita dish was great.  Good hummus is great, mediocre hummus is terrible.  If it’s not just the right creamy texture, hummus feels like eating salty glue.  In this case it was fantastic, with a little olive oil in the center, and of course the warm semi crispy pitas.  Soft like pancakes but crispy on the outside.  By the way I had requested double pitas, which cost an extra 72 cents.  Their normal order is a lot of hummus and you’ll almost always have a bunch left with no pitas to eat with it.

This is the Avgo Lemono soup.  Egg and lemon don’t sound like a good soup, but it’s great.  Though it looks like some kind of chowder, it’s not at all.  The lemony taste tells you that right away.  For only $3.83 (how do they come up with that number?) it’s a great start and not too filling.  While you might never put lemon on your eggs, this combination works surprisingly well.

Dolmadakia is a small wrap of grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, and a side of Tzatziki sauce.  At $5.74, a little pricey in comparison to the soup.  Especially since each wrap is about 2 bites.  My friend enjoyed his, but I thought it was a little bland.  All I could taste was the sauce, while the grape leaves have very little flavor.  The rice and herbs inside were not very interesting either.  This was the one dish I didn’t really enjoy.  It’s not bad, it’s just not good.

We ordered the Lamb Souvlaki and the Lamb Shank Plaki plate special. I guess the Greek is Arni Stlehos Plaki.  I took a lot of Greek in college, but not food Greek, so I’m no help at a restaurant.  For $16.24, it was quite a bit more expensive than everything else.

Here it is, beautiful.  Served with rice-like pasta called manestra, and salad and pita.  The lamb as tender as you can ever get, falling off the bone with a mere brush of the fork.  They must have cooked for a loooong time.  The flavor was wonderfully tomatoness, though the portion was small.

The manestra is a lot like rice, but goes down much more smoothly, like it’s coated with oil or something.  It also has a lot more flavor and is a great alternative to plain white rice.

Now the Souvlaki is really their specialty. With only 2 other main dishes, that seems obvious.  We ordered the traditional lamb version for $12.42 (more funny prices) and were really pleased with it.  The lamb was juicy and tender like a meatball, but these were nice thick cuts, not ground meat.  Delicious, saucy smooth and mouth watering.  Eating these big tender chunks of lamb feels like you’re eating something unhealthy, but that’s not the case.  It’s just that good and tasty.

We had gone to the Greek deli next door before our food came and picked up this Mavrodaphne, a “sweet red wine” that was similar to chilled Port.  But with a 20% alcohol content, this fortified wine was no joke.  I had a couple small glasses and felt it quickly, being a light weight.  What a great sweet flavor, perfect for after dinner.  The other wine we had was brought from home, nothing very interesting. But this almost dessert wine was a great way to finish along with…

Baklava!  For only $2.87, we got two of these fresh out of the oven, crispy, sweet honey spiced treat.  Combine this sweet compliment to the sweet wine, and you get one sweet ending to a great Greek meal!

Sometimes Baklava is too dry, which makes it almost hard to eat, but this was warm, flaky, and with enough moisture in the pastry to make it a delight to eat.

Four of us added up to about $68.  We were surprised to see 48 cents for each glass of water.  Is tap water getting more expensive these days?

They don’t accept credit cards, and we had to scrape around our wallets and purses for the last few dollars, so beware and take plenty of cash.  It’s hard to believe how many places in Hawaii still take cash only.  What is this, 1960?

If you want Greek food, I think Olive Tree Café is the best in Oahu.  A quaint local restaurant that has a great local following.

4 Spam Musubi rating!


Olive Tree Café
4614 Kilauea Avenue
Suite 107

Honolulu, Hawaii 96816

Tel. 737-0303

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
Olive Tree Café – ‘Ono Kine Grindz review
Olive Tree Café – Ma’ona review
Greek Cuisine Done Light at Olive Tree – Honolulu Star Bulletin review
Serve Yourself Well at Olive Tree Cafe – Honolulu Advertiser review
Olive Tree Cafe – Yelp user reviews
• Honolulu Greek Festival (8/28/06, 8/26/08) – The Tasty Island


One thought on “Kahala Eats: Olive Tree Café

  1. your assessment of hummus is spot on! good hummus is to die for! that being said, the hummus pictured in your review looked really really good. and you’re right, hot pita def tastes better than room-temp.

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