In Search of the Perfect Crème Brulee
I asked my friends, who live on the North Shore of Oahu, to join me at Kincaid’s (formerly Horatio’s), a local restaurant in the Ward Warehouse Shopping Center in Honolulu, HI. Initially, I directed them to the wrong location, but eventually we met at the far west end of the shopping mall and took the elevator to the top floor. This stop was in honor of my mother who has raved about the “burnt crème” (crème brulee) at Horatio’s since she and my father lived in Honolulu some 20 years ago. When I say she raved, I mean raved. She has her own copy of the recipe. And she orders every crème brulee on every menu in every restaurant she goes into in search of a dessert that comes close to the fabled burnt crème from this restaurant overlooking a small Hawaiian harbor. She always shakes her head and declares, “This is good, but not as good as Horatio’s.”
We were directed to a table by the window; maybe this had been Mom and Dad’s favorite table. The three of us were between meals and this was a dessert stop, not meal stop. We’d indented to head back to the North Shore before the afternoon traffic made it all but impossible to get home. So we declined the lunch menu and asked for dessert menus.
I was finally here at mom’s legendary Hortatio’s to order the much-raved-about dessert. But where was the burnt crème? Now it’s called “Berries and Cream”. Could it be the same dessert? Our waitress, Rhonda, has worked at Kincaids/Horatio’s for the past 17 years remembers the old menu. Yes, she assured us, the burnt crème is the same recipe that my mom and dad savored years ago and this signature dessert is still made fresh on site every day.
Horatio’s/Kincaid’s is a member of the Restaurants Unlimited Group. The corporation owns more than 50 restaurants from Hawaii to Minnesota. Now that the restaurant is owned by a corporation, just how different could their burnt crème be from all of the varieties of crème brulee that fill dessert menus? I was skeptical.
Each of us ordered a different dessert and extra spoons for sharing. In a few minutes, Rhonda brought us a fresh key lime pie (made from Florida key lime juice) accompanied by a light lemon sorbet; a pear/rum bread pudding, and the mythical burnt crème.
I took a bite and was transported to crème brulee nirvana. This dessert was all mom had claimed and more — and the best dessert among the three (not to slight the other incredible sweets at our table). The burnt crème comes in a wide, low dish, which maximizes the light “burnt” crust of sugar that isn’t burnt, but perfectly caramelized. The crispy top is the just the right accent, providing an ideal contrast to the thickest, richest crème I have ever tasted. My friend politely (and thankfully for me) took only a small spoonful. She turned to me with wide delighted eyes and declared it the “richest ever” and vowed to return and order one for herself.
Even though it is longer trip from the mainland, I, too, will be back to Horatio’s/Kinkaid’s linger over their exceptional “burnt crème.” Next time, I’ll bring my mother, sit at “their table,” and savor the richness of a dessert that has passed the test of time and has left a second generation raving.
And, Mom, thanks for the tip.
Kincaid’s in Honolulu is located at 1050 Ala Moana Blvd in the Ward Warehouse (corner of Ward and Ala Moana); phone 808-591-2005. They are open for lunch from 11-4; dinner from 4-10 and, for dessert, any time you are there.