Pau Hana Patrol: Eleven44 beckons deal hunters

Apr. 24, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Happy-hour food specials include vegetable samosas and beef skewers. The spread's vegetarian options are especially tasty. (George F. Lee / glee@staradvertiser.com)

Happy-hour food specials include vegetable samosas and beef skewers. The spread’s vegetarian options are especially tasty. (George F. Lee / glee@staradvertiser.com)

BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com

Eleven44, born from the ashes of BambuTwo and theVenue, sensibly merges two rooms previously occupied by those ventures.

With a slick and integrated modern design, cool with blue light and two metallic bars (one in each room), VIP seating and tables for two along one wall, the spot is primed to hold a nightlife crowd but is still comfortable for couples and small groups during pau hana.

Intimate, boothlike black-leather couches are angled against the front windows, allowing for a view of the sidewalk parade. There are a few seats outside, too, with faux greenery providing a light barricade between customers and passers-by.

ELEVEN44

1144 Bethel St.

528-1144, eleven44hawaii.com

Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays
» $5 premium well cocktails
» $6 wine
» $4-$5 bottled beer ($1 off)
» $4 tapas

The hot spot, still owned by Downtown/Chinatown tastemaker Dave Stewart (Brasserie Du Vin, Bar 35), has upped its game when it comes to food and drink — for instance, featuring top-shelf liquor in its cocktails, including those offered at happy hour.

Yet the prices are uber-reasonable: I visited twice and each time had a date for two for under $25, including two drinks and three appetizers.

On both visits, the drinks, food and service were friendly and consistent, but I did need to try the spot twice to see what it was like when there was a buzz.

My first try, on a Tuesday, saw a place that was pretty empty, with music echoing against the walls and a drunk guy outside on the sidewalk causing most of the excitement.

My second visit on a later weekday was more lively, featuring a happy group circulating and chatting animatedly around the bar.

Both visits held their charms, though — chief among them the bargain grinds and liquor.

Eleven44's lounge area features comfy booths. The Chinatown spot, whose appeal spans both happy hour and late night, also offers a few seats outside. (George F. Lee / glee@staradvertiser.com)

Eleven44′s lounge area features comfy booths. The Chinatown spot, whose appeal spans both happy hour and late night, also offers a few seats outside. (George F. Lee / glee@staradvertiser.com)

During pau hana, eleven44′s limited but satisfying tapas are just $4 — normally $6.

I tried the savory vegetable samosas with curry, cucumber and a cilantro creme, and the lamb gyro lavosh wheels, juicy and filling with tzatziki sauce and hummus, during one visit.

On another trip I sampled the vegetarian lavosh, with mushrooms, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomato pesto, arugula and fromage blanc.

All were good and fresh, and I’d definitely order them again — especially the vegetarian options, which simultaneously felt light and filling.

I also tried the beef skewers, tangy and pungent after being marinated and grilled, and the hearty hummus, served with pesto and lavosh chips. They were good, and tasted even better given the price.

Other tapas choices are crabcakes and a spinach and artichoke dip, served warm with lavosh chips.

Beyond the happy-hour menu, fancy cocktails such as the Agony & Ecstasy (a blend of sweet, sour and spicy, including tequila and mango; $12) and the Abunai (“translates to ‘risky’ in Japanese,” the menu helpfully explains), with Absolut Citron, Tanqueray, mango rum, orange liqueur, fresh citrus and a lychee puree ($9), beckon with bold allure.

Social events such as the “Party After Art” (piggybacking on ARTafterDARK, the Honolulu Museum’s last-Friday monthly) and First Friday with Foundation are building a fan base, too.

There’s no pau hana dress code, but you’ll probably feel most comfortable if you’ve raised your game to “smart casual.”

Early and late, eleven44 offers refreshing options for a customer seeking a cool and sophisticated watering hole that’s not too pricey.

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