Pau Hana Patrol: Indigo offers upgraded menu
In today’s fast-moving world, it’s often the new and trendy that gets the most attention.
The process is simple. Just think of something no one else is doing — in Honolulu, at least — and slap together a blog and a few social media accounts, and with enough grass-roots support you should have crowds of people lined up to buy your product or try your service.
INDIGO RESTAURANT & BAR
1121 Nuuanu Ave.
Easy, right? Just kidding. Being an entrepreneur is tough work. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to open a successful business. But that’s not what you’re thinking about when it’s time for a pau hana cocktail after a long day at the office.
Still, it’s impressive what chef Glenn Chu has been able to do with Indigo Restaurant & Bar in Chinatown. His establishment is definitely not new and trendy — it opened for business in 1994 — but ask anyone who works in downtown Honolulu and they can tell you about Indigo’s $4 happy-hour martinis. Before places like thirtyninehotel, Nextdoor and Bar 35 opened their doors and it was still a little too sketchy to have a drink at Smith’s Union, Indigo was really the only pau hana game in town for its first decade in business.
As Chinatown’s popularity has grown, Indigo has continued its fight to stay relevant in a neighborhood that has grown to include a lot more competition in the past 10 years. During happy hour, however, the rules don’t really change too much. Keep the vibe casual, the drinks cheap and offer something for customers to eat. Still, the execution is what’s important — and that’s where Indigo promotions director and resident mixologist Jason Rod comes in.
Rod has worked in Chinatown for eight years and returned to Indigo in 2010 after stints at Nextdoor, the Row Bar, the Ocean Club, Cheesecake Factory Waikiki and Oceans808. This time around, his title of resident mixologist instead of bartender means he has a lot more influence over what gets listed on the drink menu — which is a very good thing.
Sure, you can opt for a straightforward Bombay gin or Fris vodka martini; at $4 during happy hour, you’re sure to get plenty of mileage out of these drinks. But take a trip into Rod’s creative mind and sample a Ginger Citrus Blast finished with a splash of Midori, or a Tony Soprano made with Tuaca and amaretto. Chocoholics will want to order the Triple Espresso or Like Water for Chocolate martinis; other solid bets include the perennial favorite lychee martini, Lemon Drop and Wild Blueberries. In addition, six new cocktails will be introduced this month; Rod said last week that even more are in the works.
To go with the drinks, Indigo offers a variety of $6 pupu that are pretty standard fare, yet tasty nonetheless. Items like poke shooters, fried calamari, goat cheese won tons and lumpia-wrapped shrimp are good starters; those with bigger appetites will want to go with the Kobe beef or kalua pig sliders.
Rod also shared his favorite pupu pick: Chicken Bamboo Sticks and an order of Vegetarian Bao Buns. Just grab a chicken skewer and remove the stick before adding the protein to the veggies already inside the bun, and you’re good to go! Another tip? The entire menu is available even if you’re not eating in the main dining room, and a new selection of small plates is expected to debut soon.
Pau hana customers have a choice between Indigo’s Green Room, its Lanai Bar or a new lounge area that replaced about eight tables overlooking the courtyard adjacent to the Hawaii Theatre. New couches provide a contemporary look to the space, and an upgraded sound system means new entertainment options during happy hour. Starting this week, Indigo will offer live Hawaiian music from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, while the Green Room continues to feature live acoustic music from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
If you haven’t been to Indigo for pau hana lately, now is the time to make a return visit. With an upgraded drink menu, new pupu choices on the way and a brand-new space to kick back and relax after work, this Chinatown landmark doesn’t appear to be slowing down. More than 4,000 martinis are expected to be served during tonight’s First Friday festivities — make plans to stop by and try one for yourself!
“Pau Hana Patrol” sends reporters out in search of rewarding happy-hour haunts. Visits are paid for by the Star-Advertiser.
— Jason Genegabus / firstname.lastname@example.org