Pau Hana Patrol: Uahi Island Grill
BY NINA WU / email@example.com
When it comes to pau hana choices, sometimes you have to think outside the box.
UAHI ISLAND GRILL
131 Hekili St. No. 102
As in, not a place with a sleek, bar area, nor some venue in oceanside Waikiki and not one of the major restaurants in town.
Try Uahi Island Grill in Kailua town, a charming little bistro on Hekili Street across from the Pali Lanes parking lot.
Happy hour means $1.50 to $2 off all appetizers on the menu, a 25 percent discount and bargain prices on a handful of local and imported beers if you show up just before dinnertime.
The prices here are reasonable to begin with, too, so you can enjoy the discount and order off the regular menu without going over budget.
We started off the evening with a round of appetizers including sauteed mushrooms, which arrived hot in garlic butter and bacon juices topped with parmesan on a platter ($6.50 during happy hour, $8 regular). They were pretty filling on their own.
The calamari ($8 happy hour) was pleasantly different from the usual fare, with large O-shaped pieces dredged in furikake and panko, resulting in a really crisp combination to dip into hot sauce.
Poke is not listed on the happy-hour menu, but still available served fresh in a bowl nestled among greens ($9).
We appreciated being offered chopsticks for the poke because, after all, poke just isn’t the same when consumed with a fork. Beer was served up in a cold glass, and the chardonnay was chilled.
AS FAR as the view goes here, there’s no sunset over the ocean (though Kailua Beach Park’s just a little over a mile away) — just the sidewalk and street outside. We admired a Tesla Model S electric sedan pulling up to the curb. Parking was easy to find, and free, curbside.
There are just about a dozen tables in the small space, but they’re set against a clean, contemporary decor and it doesn’t feel cramped at all.
The overall vibe is casual yet chic. This is a place where you can have a conversation while enjoying your wine.
The menu is pretty varied for a small restaurant, and I like the use of local ingredients, including North Shore greens and Big Island beef. The culinary reach ranges from Korean steak to Thai curry to kalua pork with kale.
If you are getting warmed up for dinner, your reasonably priced choices include an Irie chicken salad ($9.85) or varied specials, which included lemongrass Kauai shrimp with two sides ($12.75) on the evening we went. The shrimp was served whole, in case you prefer it that way, with two sides, and the sauce good enough to lick off your fingers.
Salads and sandwiches, including the tamarind burger ($7.50), are served all day. I enjoyed the tangy glaze of the beef patty served in a Vietnamese, banh mi-style French baguette, along with carrots, cucumbers and lettuce.
If there had been room for dessert, we would have tried one. They sounded indulgent — especially the malasada sundae (a hot malasada with Waialua Estate dark chocolate-dipped bacon and lehua honey). But alas, after the big plate of mushrooms and everything else, there wasn’t room.
Though I’ve always known of Uahi Island Grill as a great lunch spot, I never realized there was a happy hour. What a pleasant surprise.