Ever wonder what the long line outside of Sweet Home Cafe was all about? I have to say that until you try their delicious variety of hot pot soup stocks, prime meats, a dizzying array of vegetables, imported Taiwan dishes, over 10 homemade dipping sauces, and their free Taiwanese style http://www.alohaupdate.com/restaurant-type/shave-ice/”>shave ice , you haven’t experienced one of the best restaurants on the island. Throw in possibly the best service in almost any restaurant that I’ve been at, and you got yourself a gem.
I’ve actually been to Sweet Home Cafe many times before. I get so sucked into the great food, that I always forget to write a review, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, this restaurant has even gotten BETTER than it originally was. I can’t say that about many places.
Due to their overwhelming following, I noticed that they opened their restaurant earlier from 4pm instead of 5pm. In addition, they no longer take reservations. Instead, there is a pen and a pad outside the door, where you write your name and wait to be seated. In addition, they graciously placed several chairs and stools outside for eagerly awaiting patrons. To top it off, when the lines are really long someone comes out and asks what kind of soup stock and meats you want, so that they can start preparing so when you finally sit down, everything is ready to go.
We arrived at 5pm, and after we signed in, we were quickly greeted and asked to fill in the sign up sheet. Within 5-10 minutes, a lady came out and took our soup and meat orders. We decided to go with the house soup, and I also ordered beef tongue, beef tripe, and pork. Within another 10 minutes, we were seated promptly, and served our waters almost instantly. As always, this place has great service. They do it with such a happy attitude, that you just feel good while eating there. Within just 1-2 minutes after sitting, our pot of house soup stock and plates of meat came out. It only takes a few minutes for the soup to boil, and during this time, we picked up some vegetables and some traditional Taiwanese fish cakes.
They also have a ton of sauces. I’m not sure exactly how many, but they probably have at least 15 different types of sauces, ranging from the typical Taiwanese sauce, garlic butter, sesame, spicy chili, and sweet garlic just to name a few. After putting our sauces into little sauce plates, we quickly started dumping all of our vegetables and fishcakes into the boiling aromatic broth. Just smelling the broth makes you salivate almost immediately. While the vegetables and fishcakes were cooking, I use this time to quickly cook my meat. Since the meats are very thinly sliced, it only takes 2-5 seconds for each slice to cook. Though they are pretty thin, they don’t really skimp on the amount you get. In fact, these 3 plates of meat actually made me very full, and I’m actually a pretty big eater. The pork was probably my favorite meat here, and it becomes very tender after a quick boil. I love dipping the pork with their sesame sauce, as it really brings out the taste of the high quality pork. I’m also a big fan of their beef tongue. If you haven’t had beef tongue before, you should definitely give it a try! It has a nice meaty taste like beef, but the texture of the meat is slightly on the crunchier/chewier side, though it is still very tender. And finally, if you like tripe, they don’t skimp here. In fact, they give you a huge pile. Though it looks slightly intimidating, once it gets boiled, it shrinks to half its size. Their tripe is less on the crunchy side and more on the tender side.
Another good thing about Sweet Home Cafe is that they give unlimited rice. In fact, they come by several times to ask if you want to have more rice. We ended up having two family sized bowls (each serving is about 4 single serving bowls of rice). I don’t normally eat that much rice, but with all the delicious food, it was a must! I have to also say that the Taiwanese fishcake was out of this world. I don’t think you can get that anywhere else but Taiwan, and this is coming from a Taiwanese who’s been to Taiwan on many occasions! Every time we visited, they always have something a little different, which makes this such a great place by allowing people to try authentic Taiwanese foods.
And I’m sure you heard about the shave ice here, oh yes! In fact, it was the BEST shave ice in Hawaii, that is if you aren’t limited to the standard syrup flavors you get around the island. But before I get into the details of the shave ice, let me say that the portion size is HUGE! It was definitely enough, maybe too much for 2 people, but it was so good, we stuffed ourselves silly! The shave ice is very very fine, and it melt in your mouth almost immediately. But it’s really the toppings that make this shave ice the best shave ice out there. Each time we visited, we were greeted with different toppings, that this one night was no exception. This time, we had strawberry mochi (it was actually plain mochi smothered in strawberry sauce), coffee mochi, coffee jelly, red beans, strawberry mini tapioca balls, and it was topped with a custard (a traditional Taiwanese thing to do with shave ice), and drenched with condensed milk. Trust me, you have to taste it to believe how great this shave ice was!
Overall, the price isn’t too bad. It comes out to maybe around $20 a head, but the free shave ice really does it for me. In addition, the service was exceptional. Our water cups were NEVER half empty, we were constantly asked if we needed more rice, and more napkins were given out when ours were used up without us even asking. All this with a cheerful attitude. Where else can you get this type of service?!
Sweet Home Cafe is THE BEST HOT POT/SHABU SHABU restaurant on the island. Authentic and delicious food paired with exceptional service puts this restaurant very close to the top of my favorite restaurants in Hawaii. Just make sure that if you want to eat here, you should go early since there is always a long line, and the parking lot gets full very quickly. Though you may have to wait 30 minutes, it really is worth the wait.
Trust me, it can’t get any better than this!!!