I found out about Fendu from this little, unobtrusive ad in one of Honolulu Magazine’s food issues about three-some years ago. I remember noticing the elegant, but quiet, logo and wondered how come I had never heard of it before. I find that logos and graphics can tell a lot about a business even before knowing anything else. A well designed logo tells me that the owner likes quality, so no matter what they do, I know that I will find quality there.
Incredibly enough, in the age of virtual alter-lives, no website was given. I only had one choice: go find it and have a direct experience. I jumped into my car, put the top down and enjoyed the sunny morning drive all the way to one of my favorite areas of Honolulu, Manoa Valley, to get to Manoa Marketplace – the shopping center tucked away in the middle of the valley on East Manoa Road. That is where Fendu Boulangerie is to be found.
When I walked in I could feel myself do a Snoopy happy dance inside. My eyes told me that this was a European style bakery (yeah!) and my nose knew this was for real; that is, the kind of bakery where they do things right, with quality ingredients and without shortcuts. My eyes were popping out at all the goodies I could see and I wanted to buy one of everything: this bread, that loaf, and oh, the focaccia looks really good! Cannot miss out on chocolate croissants fresh from the oven, but the lychee danish looks good, too. And what about the muffins and scones! OMD! Did you see those desserts? I should maybe get the lilikoi cheesecake, and the chocolate mousse, but the lemon meringue mini pie looks divine, too! Oooohhh, look at that little panna cotta!
All of this felt so loud inside my head I am surprised nobody heard me. That is without considering the menu on the board listing delicious gourmet sandwiches and pizzas that make you drool just by reading the names. The friendly sales assistants are used to this and just smile, because I have heard similar comments said out loud by people in line behind me, who, like me, are unsure on what to get and and really want to get everything.
I do not quite remember now what I bought on that first day, but I know that I came away loaded enough to share with several friends. Since then, my visits to Fendu Boulangerie have been frequent, with one blurring into the other. Any excuse is good to swing up University Avenue and just let my car follow the way. I have taken quite a few friends up there to enjoy the delightful creations of chef and owner Niel Koep – definitely a master at his craft – and will continue to take more.
This is THE BEST bakery in all of O’ahu, very likely in all of Hawai’i. The bread I buy here is not only perfect in taste, fragrance and texture, but it is also the only one that my body processes without problems and weird side-effects, that does not contain any sugar and that does not give me a breath-ful of chlorine when I open my mouth to take a bite – all things that I have, unfortunately, experienced regularly with just about most of the breads in the islands. Bakers, I beg you, filter your water!
I am Italian born and raised, and besides traveling extensively, I have also lived several years in Düsseldorf, Germany. Both Italy and Germany, as well as France and Austria, are countries where breads are oh-so-good. I am sorry to say that the good bread bakeries are few and far between in Hawai’i, and after years of bad bread, it was such a joy to find someone who knew how things are done. On top of that, Mr. Koep uses only natural and wholesome ingredients, no chemicals and no hydrogenated shortenings. That in itself takes the cake – pun intended!
Originally from New Jersey, Niels Koep has been living in Hawai’i since 1990, residing mostly on Lana’i where he worked as pastry chef at the magical Lodge at Koele and its sister resort by the ocean, Manele Bay – two of the most beautiful Four Seasons resorts in the world, with the Lodge being one of my favorite places anywhere.
Fendu Boulangerie has been open since March 2009 and this unassuming bakery has soon gathered a fan base, with people coming from all over the island. I am one of them. The European style shop is small, but clean and well organized, and it fronts a spacious kitchen with a brick oven set-up where Mr. Koep and his assistants create their magic for the delight of retail clients as well as several catering accounts.
There is a daily bread set-list that features Hearth Baked Whole Wheat Bread, French Sourdough, Multigrain Bread with Flax Seed, American Harvest, Sweet Onion “Naan”, Pain Fendu, Baguette, Petite Baguette, and Parisian. Then each day of the week features a special bread: Ciabatta on Mondays, Rustic Calamata Olive Bread on Tuesdays, Sundried Tomato Cheese Bread on Wednesdays, Focaccia di Recco on Thursdays, Walnut Raisin Bread on Fridays, Hamakua Farms Mushroom Bread on Saturdays (yum, will have to go get me some of that, maybe tomorrow morning), and Buckwheat Fig Bread on Sundays.
Chocolate Croissants are one of their best sellers, but then how can you resist Lychee, Pear or Blueberry Danish, or an Apple Turnover? And the Muffins and Scones are just the right size so you can have two with your coffee, or maybe one of each. I am not a big cookie eater, but I hear the ones from Fendu are divine and keep people coming back for more.
I have also tried their yummy pound cakes and sweet breads, which vary with the seasons and the creative flair. These come in different sizes to suit your need, and stay fresh for three to four days – not that they ever get past day three at my house!
The desserts are perfectly sized portions of heaven, just right for one person. I am warning you though: if you take home an assortment thinking that each person will pick one, know that everyone will want a bite of each, so prepare a lot of spoons and forks, and keep a few knives handy to slice up the mini cakes. I have seen this happen every time!
Possibly my favorite dessert is the Lychee Flan, and for two reasons: 1. flans, creme caramels, baked custards with caramel are my absolute favorite dessert; 2. lychee is my favorite fruit. No matter whatever else I buy, I always come home with a lychee flan that does not get shared with anyone.
The desserts can vary depending on chef Niel’s creativity, but there are some signature ones that I see all the time: the aforementioned Lychee Flan is one, as are the Lilikoi Cheesecake and the Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries. Then there is always chocolate in one or two forms (cake, mousse or zuccotto), Mini Tarts, Macaroons and more. Not every time, but frequently, I have seen (and enjoyed) their divine Mini Apple Crumble Pie – which you can also order in a large size – and Mini Lemon Meringue Pie.
The ones you see in the photos are the ones I purchased this time and took home to photograph in proper lighting and without the shield of the glass counter. Such a hard job!
The breakfast and lunch menu has regulars flocking here from all around. Everything is tempting and it is just a matter of what you feel like eating that day. The bread can’t be beat, and all the food is prepared fresh, with the best ingredients and care. I have had lunch several times here, and breakfast a couple of times, as well as taken both to go.
I have thoroughly enjoyed their Fendu Breakfast Panini (Eggs, Basil Pesto, Shallots, Fresh Mozzarella and Prosciutto di Parma) $7.50 and the Petite Croissant and Egg Sandwich (Egg, Bacon, Munster Cheese) $5.25 for breakfast (see images further down), and the Vegetarian Special Panini (Japanese Eggplant, Hamakua Farms Mushrooms, Bell Peppers, Sweet Onions, Fresh Tomato, Herbs, and fresh Mozzarella Cheese, grilled on whole wheat bread with Balsamic vinaigrette) $8.25 several times for lunch, as well as a couple of their rustic gourmet pizzas.
Other choices in the Breakfast Menu are a Bacon, Egg & Cheese Panini (with fresh Tomato, sweet Onions, Munster, Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses) $7.25; and a Petite Croissant Sandwich (with oven roasted Smoked Turkey and/or Black Forest Ham, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Mayonnaise, Dijon Mustard and Provolone cheese) $5.25.
Choices in the Lunch Menu include, among others: Ground Wagyu Beef Sandwich (1/3 pound of ground Wagyu Beef, pan seared then served with Tomatoes, sweet Onions, Pickles, Mayonnaise and fresh farm Greens) $9.50, to which you can add Provolone, Swiss or Cheddar cheese for $0.75; Chicken Cordon Blue Panini (tenderloin Chicken sandwich grilled with Black Forest Ham, sweet Onions, Mayonnaise, Gouda and Swiss cheeses and farm Tomatoes) $8.50; Basil Pesto Chicken Panini (Chicken tenderloins sautéed with Hawaiian salt and black pepper – grilled on their Rustic Bread Bun with Bacon, Mayonnaise , fresh Tomato, Shallots and Goat Cheese) $8.50.
The pizzas come in two sizes, 8″ and 14″ and here are some of the ones featured: Classic Tomato sauce, Pecorino, whole milk Mozzarella, and Parmesan with fresh basil $8.25/$13.50; Five Gourmet Cheeses (Pecorino, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Vermont White Cheddar and Gorgonzola) $9.25/15.25; Smoked Turkey Breast Pizza with sautéed Shallots, Tomato sauce, Bacon, Mozzarella and Brie Cheese $10.25/$16.25; Basil Pesto & Goat Cheese Pizza (Macadamia nut, Garlic and Basil Pesto, fresh Tomato and Goat Cheese) $11.25/$18.25; Vegetarian Delight Pizza (Japanese Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Sweet Onions, Zucchini and fresh Herbs) $10.25/16.25;and, my favorite, Hamakua Farms Mushrooms Mania (Alii, Oyster, Shimejii, and Shitake Mushrooms with cracked Black Pepper) $11.25/18.25.
When am I going to learn to not write these articles near lunch or dinner time? Now I am hungry!
Grumbling stomach aside, the breakfast sandwiches are available from 7:30 am to 10:30 am, and the lunch sandwiches and pizzas from 11:00 am till around 2:30 pm.
Besides gourmet sandwiches and pizzas, Fendu has recently started featuring take-out comfort foods; items like Chicken Pot Pie (Fully cooked single crusted pie with white and dark meat Chicken, Purple Sweet Potato, green Papaya, Hamakua Farms Mushrooms, and Shanghai Cabbage) $11.75 regular size/$6.75 petite size; and a Japanese Eggplant “Lasagna” (Japanese Eggplant layered with Tomato sauce, Basil, fresh Mozzarella, Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses) $9.75 regular size/$5.25 petite size. And for those who desire something lighter there is the Local Farm Salad: pesticide free Manoa Valley Greens with fresh Tomato, Carrots and choice of dressing for $7.25.
I have been hearing through the grapevine that Niel Koep is considering expanding the take-out menu and I am very curious to discover what the new additions will be.
Cold drinks are available from an in-store refrigerator, though the only coffee available at the bakery is American drip coffee from a pump thermos. However, the shopping center where the bakery is located features a Starbucks and a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for people like me who prefer espresso style coffee. Who knows, maybe one day Mr. Koep will expand and add a full coffee shop section.
Tables are available outside where your dogs are also welcome and, if you happen to be there around eight in the morning, you can enjoy a side of talk-story with the regulars with your breakfast.
2751 Woodlawn Dr., Suite 5-119 (Manoa Marketplace Shopping Center, next to Long’s) – Honolulu, Hi 96822 l 808-988-4310 l website
And if you are looking for more good food while on O’ahu: