I just like saying it.
Turns out, it’s actually a new restaurant in Downtown Honolulu — and I’ll be honest, the name, alone, piqued my interest. (That’s how powerful marketing can be!)
Owner Yoon Kim, who moved to O‘ahu to opened the second location of the now-closed Soul de Cuba, spent the last two years renovating this space on South King Street. And it’s beautifully done, with a modern, minimalist interior and wide-open feel. There’s a latte-colored leather banquette up against a red brick wall — so Chinatown! — and a hand-finished metal bar. We got there early — just when it opened at 11 a.m. — so it wasn’t crowded. But news must have spread because by noon it was packed.
And according to other stories about the name of this place, Kim has said he used “coq,” which means “rooster” in French because he was born in the year of the rooster. The “dumb” part is a nod to the restaurant’s logo of a rooster sitting on a bunch of eggs, which may seem dumb but is really chivalrous and strategic. (It shows his potential to be a good mate.)
Yeah. Mmm, hmm. I think he knew the name would be a talker.
But back to the restaurant.
The menu was surprisingly small — just nine items, four of which were salads.
We could only choose between two starts: the pork belly sliders ($9 for three) or the “Lil’ Tacos” ($7). Our server recommended the sliders — which was what I had wanted to order, anyway — though the tacos were tempting. Kim served these for free on a recent First Friday to debut the restaurant. (See? He’s smart!) But I went with the pork belly sliders, which came served on a sweet roll and packed with the kind of pickled veggies you’d get in a Vietnamese sandwich. So yeah, it was good.
We skipped the salads and went right to the entrees. Three of the four were sandwiches, and both of us had a sammie in mind. (Though, in hindsight, I wish I had ordered the Steak & Potatoes ($19), which features a 8-ounce seared short rib sitting in rich pan juices and paired with steak frites.)
My friend, Delo, wanted the Croque Monsieur ($13) — and wasn’t disappointed. I salivated when it arrived. Croque monsieur is simply this: a ham and cheese sandwich topped with some kind of grated cheese, then dipped in whipped eggs and baked or fried — not grilled — so that the cheese melts over the bread’s edges. It’s traditionally made with a lightly sugared Brioche bread. This restaurant does it with sourdough, using gruyere and béchamel — and it was incredibly decadent and addictive.
I opted for the Chicken Saltimbocca ($14), an Italian sandwich with chicken topped with prosciutto, sage and fontina cheese on a crispy baguette. It was good, not as good as the croque monsieur, and the bread was adequate crunchy and slightly difficult to eat. (That’s usually a sign of a good baguette, in my opinion.) But it was hard eating this after the cheesy-dreamy sandwich before. The comparison just wasn’t fair.
And as much as we had heard about the waffle fries, the restaurant stopped serving them. Instead, we got just the basic fries — good, fried, salty, all we needed — but were still bummed. Our server said since so many people are asking for the waffle version, they’re thinking about it.
So go in and ask for it, OK?
The Dumb Coq, 12 S. King St. Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then 5 to 10 p.m. daily. Phone: (808) 585-5999