HONOLULU CAFE 檀島香港茶餐廳
at Xinyi Mitsukoshi A11, B1
MRT: Taipei City Hall
website: Honolulu Cafe Taipei facebook page
hours: 11AM–3PM, 5–10PM
THE SATISFYING FLAKINESS OF 192 LAYERS of pastry and a jiggly, custard-like center. This is the egg tart that has lured me and all the other people to Honolulu Cafe's first Taipei shop.
If you hadn't heard of Honolulu Cafe, the famed cha chaan teng from Hong Kong yet, then the trays of freshly baked egg tarts from the entrance's window and the line of people wrapped around the corner outside the building might pique your curiosity to wait in line too. The store introduces itself with well placed signage "Honolulu Cafe | Since 1940" at the entrance, and hand drawn posters diagramming its egg tarts features for newbies.
Even though I had been a fan of Honolulu Cafe's egg tarts for years, even bringing boxes back to Taipei from Hong Kong, I didn't know there were 192 layers until I saw it on the poster. I just knew that the flaky crust was one of the best egg tarts I had eaten. So I was extremely excited to hear about the opening at Xinyi Mitsukoshi A11.
Honolulu Cafe's menu is a dizzying array of choices, especially without English translations, but luckily the waiter drops off an iPad menu of glossy photos to browse and order.
As we swipe through the menu, everyone excitedly agreed that each person will get their own egg tart, and everything else we can share family style, including a few pineapple buns with thick slabs of butter inside, another classic Hong Kong treat.
The pineapple bun is spongy and sweet with a crumbly crust. Those who love this dish devour it with the butter, those of us who can't just eat straight butter nibble around it. I would choose the egg tart over the pineapple bun, which is not as moist as the Taiwanese bolo pineapple bun or the cha siu version of it at Tim Ho Wan.
And let's not forget, the drinks. Iced lemon tea, coffee brewed with sweetened milk tea, or iced coffee, something that I've never had at the original shop.
To be honest, I've never actually eaten inside Honolulu Cafe in Hong Kong, I've only picked up takeaway of a half a dozen egg tarts from their shop's front counter outside the store every time. So stepping into their restaurant I'm surprised by the bright modern decor- there are several seating sections, all slightly different with booths, tables and outdoors.
After we've ordered, a medley of Hong Kong classics arrived to fill our table and the ones around us- dim sum favorites like steamed shrimp chang fun, platters and noodle soups of roast bbq meat, and claypot tofu dishes.
For a filling bite, I also enjoyed the Hong Kong style french toast, two slices sandwiching a layer of peanut butter and then drenched in maple syrup and a pat of butter.
My favorites were the roast bbq pork, crispy pork and duck that come with four different dipping sauces, the deep fried soft shell crab, and the sausage claypot rice. And of course the egg tart.
Try to eat the egg tarts as soon as it's served. It's best eaten hot, though of course don't burn your tongue. The crust is flaky which makes it messy to eat, and the filling is more custardy and soft than dense and sweet like bruleed Portuguese egg tarts, but that's what I love about it. If you prefer the shortbread crust and filling that doesn't wobble, this might not be the egg tart for you, but for me, I'm happy since I won't have to haul back boxes from Hong Kong anymore!!!