Waikiki has to be one of the most touristy areas on the planet, with people from across the globe spilling over sidewalks. The Honolulu hotel and shopping district sure has its share of chains, but hidden in plain sight are some focused culinary specialists. On our most recent trip to Hawaii, we were staying at the Waikiki Parc Hotel, and around the corner, a strange sight caught my eye, a flashy green La Marzocco espresso machine. Spotting top-flight coffee equipment signaled serious coffee at VG Gallery Studio Cafe in Taipei, and that same indicator led to some of the best coffee we’ve had in Hawaii, at Gorilla in the Cafe.
Korean actor Bae Yong Joon opened his glass-fronted cafe in July. He also owns a restaurant in Seoul called Gorilla in the Kitchen and respects the animal’s health and strength. The interior features reclaimed wood walls and houses the aforementioned La Marzocco, two Mazzer grinders, a Bonmac pourover coffee bar, and a healthy retail presence. The gorilla also serves shave ice, but we were happy to enjoy that Hawaiian treat elsewhere.
We started with 100% Hawaiian Hand Pourover, roasted by Pahala-based Isla Coffee.
A menu near the register features seven different selections, which might include Maui Red Catuai, Ka’u Washed Typica and Kona Magarogype. It’s not often to see the coffee varietal featured so prominently on a menu. Clearly, the gorilla enjoys educating customers.
A barista named Sam filled me in and prepared my coffee. Maui Mokka Peaberry ($4.66) promised “flavors of lychee, hibiscus, rose, orange and chocolate.” It was bright, and fairly floral, but does anybody ever really sense exactly the same tasting notes as the label dictates?