Jaysen Ridout and Sylvia Ocampo are making mahalo magic; at the end of March, they opened Pandan Leaf Cafe on South Commercial at 1120 Royvonne Avenue SE.
Try not to feel the aloha with a lunch of crinkle-cut fries topped with kalua pork, furikake, “adobioli” (that’s adobo plus aioli), teriyaki sauce and green onions served on a bed of shredded cabbage ($4). The KimGogi version includes Korean-style bulgogi beef with kimchi, cilantro, and cucumber.
The couple first launched their Hawaiian fusion food business in 2015 as vendors at Salem Saturday Market. They got a food truck and worked the lunchtime circuit before opening a brick-and-mortar called Keeaumoku Hawaiian Grill at 268 South Main Street in Independence in December 2016. Though a second Keeaumoku location in Albany’s Heritage Mall has thrived, they closed the Independence location a year later.
For their next business, said Ridout, “I just wanted to get back to where I started.”
“There is such a diverse culture that exists in Hawaii and the Philippines,” Ridout said, “I felt limited in Keeaumoku.” A partnership between him and his father, Keeaumoku focuses on traditional Hawaiian plate lunches. Even though a sign on the rooftop of the new Pandan Leaf Cafe rooftop reads “Hawaiian Cafe,” the new restaurant blends Korean, Japanese and Filipino flavors into the Hawaiian format.
There’s kalua pig and loco moco, chicken adobo and crispy chicken katsu, each available with rice and mac salad (or sesame slaw). A regular plate will run you $7, a large one $9. Dine-in at the cafe’s handful of colorful, oilcloth-topped tables or take your order to go through the restaurant’s (formerly Berry Smooth) drive-through window. On weekdays from 11 a.m to 2 p.m., there’s a daily $6 lunch special.
In addition to these classics, expect to see wildcard mash-ups like a chicken adobo banh mi, or the Frickin’ Chicken, a Korean fried chicken sandwich with sesame slaw from the couple’s food cart days. Ridout hopes to offer both as menu additions in the coming months.
The dish most exhibiting this culture-blending spirit available now is called Ono Bombs ($4). Imagine a Spam musubi deconstructed and re-imagined as a deep fried rice ball. Sushi rice, pieces of crispy Spam and a crispy exterior served on sesame slaw and topped with sriracha mayo and furikake, a rise seasoning with seaweed and sesame.
If you’re feeling extra hungry, indulge in one of the restaurant’s three mixed plates for $10. Each one includes a combination of two of the meats and they’re named to honor the nicknames of Ridout and Ocampo’s three children.
The Boi Boi includes chicken katsu and kalua pig, nine-year-old James’ favorites. The Chachi Plate, for 8-year-old Cecilia, includes chicken katsu and chicken adobo. Ten-month-old Aldous is still too little to choose his favorites, said Ridout, but the Baboy Plate of kalua pig and chicken adobo seemed like a good place to start.
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Pandan Leaf Cafe
Where: 1120 Royvonne Ave SE
Hours: Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sundays
- multiple stairs lead up to the restaurant entrance
- there is a drive-through window
Information: Pandan Leaf Cafe (Facebook)
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