Pau Hana Patrol: Chez Kenzo
BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
After catering to Japanese tourists and a faithful local following in Waikiki, former co-owners of Genius Lounge have opened a new spot in a much more convenient location.
Chez Kenzo Bar & Grill, operated by Ken Kawasaki and Kenzo Tokeshi, opened in February. It’s in a unique part of town — not quite Makiki, but not quite “Korea-moku,” either.
CHEZ KENZO BAR & GRILL
1451 S. King St.
About a half-block Diamond Head of the intersection of South King and Keeaumoku streets, the best way to describe its location is by employing the kamaaina tactic of using places that no longer exist. Remember where Honolulu Police Department headquarters used to be on King, before it moved to Alakea Street and reopened as Hale Maka’i in the early 1990s? Across the street from that location is a Bank of Hawaii, which shares the same parking lot as Chez Kenzo. Another way to describe it is the old Verbano space.
Happy hour at Chez Kenzo runs from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, making it a great choice for after-work drinks for lots of people leaving office buildings in the area. It’s also fantastic for residents of the surrounding neighborhood, who can stop in for drinks and/or dinner without breaking the bank.
Don’t be dissuaded by the paid-parking box or Chez Kenzo’s blacked-out windows, which make the place look more like a hostess bar than a neighborhood lounge. For the time being, parking is free in the lot for customers of the bar. And if you’re heading to Chez Kenzo for happy hour, you’ll wind up being thankful for the heavily tinted windows that dim the room just right during the late afternoon hours.
Inside, about a half-dozen seats are available at the bar on the makai side of the room. A no-man’s-land of three bar tables (we’re told chairs have been ordered and are on the way) separate the bar from traditional dining tables and a private room. During happy hour this buffer of sorts keeps the dinner crowd away from those at the bar who may be focused more on Chez Kenzo’s two television screens than meaningful conversation with a date.
More than 100 items are on the menu here, and you’re sure to discover hard-to-find dishes available at few other bars in town. During happy hour a respectable lineup of pupu choices will run you just $6. Drink specials range from a very affordable $2 for sangria or sake shots to $5 for a flight of sake or sake-tini.
On a recent visit we ordered a Sensy Sake Cocktail ($4 during happy hour) made with watermelon, apple and peach liqueur topped with cranberry juice. It tasted like an adult fruit punch and went just fine with a heaping plate of antipasto ($6) and a four-cheese pizza ($6).
If you have a little more to spend or just like the taste of scotch and bourbon, skip the drink specials and ask the bartender for his recommendation. While not discounted, prices are fair for brown drink here, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find bottles here that you can’t get at other bars in town (e.g. Springbank 12, Auchentoshan 18, Nikka Taketsuru 12, Four Roses Single Barrel). They’re very generous with pouring samples, too!
With its central location in town, plentiful free parking and a value-packed happy-hour menu, Chez Kenzo is definitely worth consideration when planning a pau hana outing with co-workers or just grabbing a quick bite after a long day in the office. You might just find yourself having so much fun, you’ll end up staying well past 7 p.m.
Jason Genegabus is entertainment editor/online at the Star-Advertiser. Food and drink consumed during Pau Hana Patrol visits are paid for by the Star-Advertiser.