A Hawaiian cafe in Shanghai sounds like a recipe for disaster: pasty fuwuyuans in cellophane hula skirts bearing tiki head mugs, and cloying, pineapple-drenched dishes etc. But the Japan-based WK Hawaii is quite the opposite with a solemn, speakeasy vibe, and a menu that reads like the International House of Pancakes,’ plus a couple Hawaiian options. It’s almost too opposite. You actually end up wishing someone would throw on a plastic lei for old time’s sake. Fortunately, all is forgiven when you a bite into one of their scrumptious flapjacks.
As far from a tropical island paradise as you can get: white linens, dim lighting like in a witness protection vid, and a sleek, long bar well-stocked with whiskies and vodkas. Jazz and lounge music drones softly in the background. They sometimes play the odd Hawaiian tune, but it’s subdued, like something you’d hear in the waiting room of your dentist’s office.
The un-Hawaiian decor stems from the fact that the parent company originally intended the space to be a fancy Japanese spot, Mature. When the drinks performed better than the food, the owners scrapped Mature for WK Hawaii, but kept the bar. Hence the speakeasy drinks.
The clientele is mostly Japanese. Technically, you could argue that the ambience is somewhat Hawaiian seeing how the islands boast a massive Japanese population. It just doesn’t conform to the postcard vision.
Pancakes, pancakes, and more pancakes, all made with flour specially imported with Japan. The majority entail your standard strawberry and blueberry-heaped variety. Then there’s the Montana, a looming ten-layer pancake tower, touted as 10cm in height (95RMB). If you want to go more native, head up the haupia pancakes (40RMB), a pair of fluffy flapjacks slathered in yogurt-y coconut cream, flecked with crushed macadamias, and filled with discs of caramelized banana. It’s damn good.
Not a pancake person? WK’s got you covered with the Loco Moco, a hearty meatloaf patty coronated with a golden fried egg, and flanked by a tangle of ranch-lathered mesclun, and rice. Get the set with a drink for 55RMB.
You can also get this in burger form with the Loco Moco burger (58RMB), or you can opt for the WK burger: a standard burger but with pancakes subbing for buns. Think the Luther Burger with pancakes instead of donuts.
Keeping with Hawaiian tradition, the portions are humongous – rolling hills of rice, and sprawling meat patties and pancakes. So bring that Samoan linebacker appetite.
Wash it all down with a choice of coffee (unfortunately not of the Kona ilk), juice, or soda. From 5pm on, the joint reverts back to being a bar.
Haoles hoping to lounge in hammocks while coconut bra-clad hula girls shlep them platters of kalua pig and papayas will be disappointed. As will natives and Hawaiian-born ABCs such as myself, craving lomi lomi salmon and spam. But if you’re simply hankering for a delicious grand slam breakfast with Pacific Island characteristics, then consider WK Hawaii your tropical getaway.
WK Hawaii – Second Floor, Bldg 1, Surpass Court, 570 Yongjia Lu, near Yueyang Lu, Xuhui district (徐汇区永嘉路570号1号楼2楼, 近岳阳路). Tel: (0)21-6073-7626. Hours: 10am-5pm daily. Closest metro stop: Hengshan Road, Line 1.
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Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].