Japan crepe chain to open shop
By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
A popular Japanese fast-food franchise plans to expand to Hawai'i in a move that promises to give many local residents and visitors a different view — and taste — of crepes.
Crepe House Uni plans to open at the Pacific Beach Hotel in April, establishing only its second location in the United States after one that opened recently in Davis, Calif.
The chain produces crepes beyond the bounds of those with which most U.S. citizens are accustomed, piling the extremely thin pancakes with a wild variety of ingredients — from red bean paste or portobello mushrooms to unbaked cheesecake — and wrapping the filled crepes into a cone for eating on the go.
Among the nearly 60 menu choices at Crepe House Uni: potato egg (mashed potatoes with egg slices), jumbo hamburger (1/4-pound hamburger patty with bacon, cheese, lettuce, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, tomato, ketchup and mustard) and the Hawaiian (Canadian bacon, pineapple, lettuce and mayonnaise).
Other combinations include ingredients more typically found on pizzas or in breakfast omelettes, as well as the more common fruit toppings.
Roland Shar, a vice president and home loan manager at Central Pacific HomeLoans, is establishing the chain in Hawai'i as franchisee. "This product is extremely popular in Japan," he said.
Shar said Crepe House Uni has close to 75 shops, mostly in Japan, Singapore and South Korea, where the crepes are typically sold as street food. In France, where crepes were born, people also eat crepes on the go, though those are traditionally folded over in quarters.
In Hawai'i, the crepe cafe business is not a crowded field. One popular establishment in Kailua is Crepes No Ka 'Oi, a sit-down cafe that opened in late 2008 and sells a variety mostly in the dessert and breakfast categories.
Shirokiya a couple of years ago brought in another Japanese crepe franchise, Marion Crepes, for a limited engagement. There also was a crepe kiosk at Waikele Premium Outlets called Crazy Crepes, though it has closed.
Crepe House Uni will operate out of a 400-square-foot space for takeout orders. Shar is negotiating a lease for a second location at Ala Moana Center; he hopes to open in the summer. Opening a total of eight to 10 locations in the next three or four years is Shar's goal.