Shogunai Tagine Cafe
From left: Zeus' Glory, kofta sandwich, chicken tagine
We are no strangers to finding food in out-of-the-way places. A seafood spot on an industrial fishing pier, any hole-in-the-wall in Kalihi. None perhaps so odd as Shogunai Tagine Cafe. Close to downtown, yet completely hidden, unless you live in Honolulu Park Place. You go to the apartment building, check-in at security, who will let you in, follow the path between the pool and the fitness center, and then arrive at Shogunai's counter.
Chef Kamal Jemmari, born in Morocco and previously chef at Soul de Cuba, is also partners in the Shogunai taco truck, which parks most days in UH Manoa. The food is better at the cafe. Best is Zeus's Glory ($8.75), similar to a gyro, with heavily-spiced minced lamb, tzatziki and blue cheese crumbles, folded into pita bread. The kofta sandwich ($11.95) presses beef meatballs (can they still be called meatballs if they're more rectangular than round?), blue cheese and paprika oil in bread. The effect is almost that of a piroshki: a crusty outside and bready interior stuffed with meat. The flavors are mostly Mediterranean, so I'm perplexed by the use of blue cheese instead of classic feta, which I think would provide a salty counterpart to the meat and bread without the overpowering funk of blue cheese.
The chicken tagine ($13) lacks the brightness of other tagines I've had, but the long-simmered chicken thighs are tender and moist and the fried string beans and saffron rice a good complement.
Honolulu Park Place, 1212 Nuuanu Ave., 626-5032, shogunaitacos.com