Pau Hana Patrol: End-of-day Oasis
Pau hana at Ruth’s Chris delivers delicious food and a warm ambience at a good price
I’ve been trying to eat light lately, but when I saw that the Ruth’s Chris Steak House in my “neighborhood” — that is, near my workplace — had hoisted a banner touting pau hana 5 to 7 p.m. every day, all thoughts of “diet” went out the window.
That got me into the right state of mind to enjoy a pau hana at Ruth’s Chris, ’cause eating at this restaurant is a lush experience, even with the seafood-only options offered during my visit.
Ruth’s Chris is a traditional, masters-of-the-universe kind of place, to my mind: stately, ultracomfortable in a leather-and-polished-wood fashion, and dedicated to the proposition that you should feel important, pampered and satisfied at the end of a visit. The restaurant chain did not climb to its dominant position in most major cities by taking a cavalier approach to food and service. I could get behind the idea of enjoying the restaurant’s appetizers and drinks at a sweet discount — half price, for the food items offered.
Waterfront Plaza, 500 Ala Moana Blvd.
My local Ruth’s Chris takes an exacting approach to preparation and presentation. I like that. The cordial, careful service was especially appreciated, given that I showed up at the restaurant’s lounge slightly rumpled after a day at work.
From the minute I walked in, I felt like everyone had been waiting for me. What a treat!
Wait staff at Ruth’s Chris have a charming balance of attentiveness, informed intelligence and dignity; I’d guess that it’s a competitive job, and I appreciated the staffers’ professionalism.
The bar, which seats maybe a dozen, and the small lounge area started to fill up shortly after 5 with knowledgeable local business people and a smattering of tourists and wanderers who spied its comfortable vibe.
At this time of day, afternoon sun slants through the bar and lounge area, giving the space a nostalgic glow. A cone of crispy, home-cooked-style potato chips was already on the table. Ah, just thinking about it makes me thirsty.
YEAH, but how was the food?
It was rich!
I’d sampled Ruth’s Chris appetizer of buttery, grilled shrimp before, and I could confidently say that it is glorious. (Just put those cholesterol counts out of mind for today, shall we?) So I went for variety, sampling the Oysters Rockefeller, sashimi and calamari, all discounted during happy hour.
Last week, when I visited, only seafood items were on the happy-hour menu, but pau hana specials are subject to change, or you can mix it up and order other items from the lounge menu.
Oysters Rockefeller comes out flaming to your table. Now if that doesn’t say, “You somebody,” what does? After the show is over and the flames die down, the appetizer is a nice mix of spinach, bacon, creamy sauce and large, fresh oysters, warm but not overcooked.
The calamari is not extraordinary, but it is good — lightly battered, and served with a chili or tartar sauce. It goes well with white wine or a Stella Artois on tap, also on special for pau hana.
Sashimi is a test for local restaurants, especially during pau hana, and Ruth’s does it well — it’s chilled, but not to the point of interfering with the ahi’s luscious taste, and complemented by a heaping portion of ginger that might help you digest the tangy cheese spread served with flatbread that is offered as you peruse the menu. There’s little to no “fat free” business going on here otherwise.
We shared three appetizers among three people, and once we factored in the drinks, crackers, spread and potato chips, all were quite satisfied at under $20 each. Not bad! I may be heading back down there again today, unless all those seats fill up before I can meet my deadline in the office. The restaurant offers the appeal of a rewarding sanctuary on days when I can work up the time and appetite to do it justice.
— Elizabeth Kieszkowski / email@example.com