Mariposa

Saturday, July 8, 2006 10 No tags Permalink 0

I remember when Neiman Marcus opened in the Ala Moana Shopping Center. This high end, much-too-classy-for-local-kine-stuff department store sat its buttocks right smack in the middle of the shopping center. I remember people talking story about whether it could stay in business, how the local industry and store owners would feel and all that kine mabajaba. Many were unhappy, firmly believing this mainland chain was trying to change our shopping habits, our area of gathering and thus our lifestyle. But I suppose Neiman’s played it’s cards right, because nearly a decade (or more?!) later , it’s doing hefty business. And not just from the Japanese tourists!

Neiman’s signature restaurant, the Mariposa is located on the third floor hidden between shelves of wine and walls of cocoa and tea. How appropriate that it’s just footsteps away from the glass cases bearing Fauchon’s pink boxes filled with jellies, macarons and bitty truffles and the ivory brown and blue of Mariebelle classically chic delicacies. The Mariposa is where ladies who lunch, lunch. It’s where they go to rest their tiny Prada clad feet after a tireless morning of Louis Vitton and Chanel marathons. And this is the perfect place for them because the food portions are appropriately miniscule (but we’ll get more into that later :)).

That would be me in the bottom left corner, oh so busy contemplating the menu – crap, too many choices!
I come here for one reason only. And even I’ll admit it’s quite stupid. For these babies:

Ay yah! Popover!!! They are ridiculously easy to make a home, but unless you plan to eat a dozen or so within 15 minutes, before they turn cold and slightly deflated, then there’s really no point. Mere convenience aside, these popovers are SPECTACULAR! Oooo YES! They are like, how do I say?…LIKE THE BEST THINGS EVER. Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say. It’s got this perfectly light crisp and incredibly buttery crust. It’s hot, it’s thin crackly, buttery, all these wonderful vocab words…And that just the outside. Once you’ve crack open the shell of golden brown joy, the innards, why that’s a whole universe of difference, moist, with a nearly brioche-type doughyness, it like…holy crap. Just so good. I don’t know what to say. Just. Just. You gotta go eat it. It’s the only solution.

To make things more indulgent is the little dish of butter that accompanies the popovers. They used to send out poha berry butter, but in the last years or so, the repertoire has expanded to include, strawberry, honey, pineapple-papaya and my personal favorite, lilikoi. Man, I must have been lucky that day cause lilikoi was on the menu. The whipped butter is soft and sweet with the light citrusy tang of the summery lilikoi fruit. It’s divine.

They only give out one popover and this makes sense because they are rather large in size (but the inside is practically hollow, so maybe not that large!) The waiters, if you smile at them and bat your eyes, have no problem giving an extra, especially when they can tell you realllly like them. The problem arises when you want a third. And I always do. They kind of look at you in shock, with a what-they-hell-happened-to-the-first-two expression, then pause with a smile, as if you were playing a joke with them. When they finally realize you’re serious their smile deflates into a bummed out look as if they missed out on the joke. Only there is no joke! You just wanted another popover. Sigh. It’s complicated.

A dainty cup of chicken bullion arrives moments after the popovers. Very light and just a tad sweet, these little “extras”/amuse bouche rarely received in Honolulu restaurants often do the trick for returning customers.

I rarely order drinks with lunches, but the atmosphere in the restaurant calls for, if not demands, that you do so. Make sure to visit Reid’s site for a review and awesome pictures of the restaurant. The lightly brewed tea comes barely sweetened and is perfectly cool and refreshing (cause you know, we’ve been up to some exhaaausting shopping).

My friend who came to visit from Japan had the Steamed Mussels ($20). A dozen or so mussels in a clear rich broth and quarters of stewed tomatoes was served slightly lukewarm. Nonetheless, the mussels were sweet and tender, each one gently giving up it’s place in the shell. On the side was a decent size cut of toasted baguette to soak up the broth. Ahhh, I miss the days of moules frites!

The Ahi Salad ($18) is beautiful thing. Unfortunately my dog, Buddy a five pound Pomeranian could finish the entire dish in ten seconds flat and still be starving. I usually shake my head at small dishes and not because I support gluttony (though I can be a glutton at times) but because I like feeling I got a good deal (it’s the Chinese in me). This salad is TINY. But it’s okay, cause I’ve had three popovers, with four dishes of butter and I probably shouldn’t eat anything more. Six thin cuts of ahi are quickly seared and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. Simple, eh? But good. As long as you use good quality fish, it’s hard to go wrong. This takes up about 10% of the dish. When the say salad, they mean it! Butter, Romaine, Manoa in shades of dark purple, a rich green, the summery colors of grass, a whimsy twirl of healthy orange carrots and a cut of sweet roma tomatoes make the remaining 90%. It really is delicious, especially with the slight tang of the garlic based vinagrette. The veggies are so fresh and vibrant in colors, I actually crave a piece of lettuce. It maybe a place for dainty, lets-check-out-whos-wearing-what kind of meals, but while the cuisine is predictable it’s also excellent. I don’t aspire to be Gucci attired lady who lunches, I’m a girl (oh crap, I just turned 20 – do I not qualify for “girl” anymore?!) who really likes to eat. And when good food comes a calling, I’m running there!…Chanel shoes and all :)

Mariposa
Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 951-3420

10 Comments
  • elmomonster
    November 30, -0001

    Me neither…pop-overs are just as foreign to me as loco moco (which I haven’t got the guts to try yet).But your description makes me want one…right now…this very minute.

  • Robyn
    July 8, 2006

    I’ve never had a famed popover. :( It looks goooood! A few years ago my mum said we could try the local Neiman Marcus restaurant, but we still haven’t done that. Oops.Did you ever go to Popover Cafe?

  • J. Lo
    July 10, 2006

    omg, i ALWAYS go to mariposa with my dad every time I go back! it’s like a ritual…..my mom refuses to go with us because she claims it’s a total rip off. But, man, one of those popovers (with the ohelo berry butter) and some of that chicken consomme and I’m in heaven!!!! god….i’m just thinking of it now. the only frustrating part about mariposa is that you like practically have to beg them for more popovers……the good thing though is, once you’ve annoyed them enough, they just bring you extras by default (just so you won’t bug them anymore….)i also get the salad with the wood-smoked salmon. It’s ok, but I much prefer the popovers….lol….have yet to try their monkey-bread for dinner though.

  • anonymous
    July 10, 2006

    Hi Kathy – Chanel Shoes…..oh-oh, sounds like trouble! LOL! I loved the way you started…buttocks, eh? Not okole??? ;o)

  • Kathy YL Chan
    July 11, 2006

    Hye Robyn!I always wanted to try the popover cafe, but pooh, that’ll just have to wait until my next trip back. Oooh, such yeasty sin, those creatures!Hey Justin!Lol! We should go together, then we can demand the entire basket of popovers along with dishes and dishes of their butters. We’ll sit till lunch is over and dinner begins, at which point we’ll celebrate with monkey bread (which I’ve never had but need to try)!Hey Kirk!Ok, man, just for you: OKOLE! :)Hey Elmo!Man, I wish I give you one right now! It’s crazy how the ingredients: flour, butter, egg and milk are so simple… but gah, when they come together, magic! :)

  • anonymous
    July 11, 2006

    it hurts to know there’s such good food and im nowhere near it. oh…the pain!!haha…i sound like a broken record..dont i :)

  • J. Lo
    July 11, 2006

    and PS, I greatly dislike dining with people who refuse to eat the popovers with the butter!!! that’s usually my dad or my sister……annoys me to no end! mmmm, monkey bread……i saw pictures of it in the neiman marcus cookbook. looks amazing!

  • J. Lo
    July 11, 2006

    sorry to dominate your comments section, but I also heard through the grapevine that mariposa has replaced their seafood curry (which I loooooooooved) with a new singaporean dish called Laksa!!!! it sounds so good….so we definitely have to go to try it. apparently, they have it at a lot of vietnamese places too. http://starbulletin.com/2006/07/09/features/eater.html

  • anonymous
    July 13, 2006

    Hey…I’m a close friend of Robyn’s! (The Girl Who Ate Everything).I’m going to Hawai’i tomorrow!I have no idea where to eat :(I have email! arobotar@gmail.comHelp a poor, wandering soul find sustenance.-tristan

  • Kathy YL Chan
    July 13, 2006

    Hey Ed!But surely a GOOD sounding broken record! :)Hey Justin!Lol, you are nuts man! Ohh I clipped that article out of the bulletin, I’d have laksa all the time in LA (my uncle’s from Indonesia) – I could definitely go for a bowl RIGHT NOW :)Hey Tristan!I just sent you an email – lets meet up and EAT! :)

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