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Pau Hana Patrol: Happy Valley pleases
BY RYAN SENAGA / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
There was something always faintly bohemian or hippie-ish about Monsarrat Avenue. Yes, Chinatown has a lock on all the artists, but perhaps it’s the mix of coffee shops close to KCC, the gourmet market and the little boutique stores that gives the street a light scent of North Beach in San Francisco. A very light scent. The next Beat Generation, or even neu-hippies, probably won’t be born here, but one wouldn’t be surprised to find a Moleskine in someone’s purse or backpack. So as the sun sets on such an unassumingly stylish area so close to touristy Waikiki, alcohol should be imbibed.
Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza
Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza somehow feels at home in this light, boho neighborhood: It’s a quiet Italian restaurant right on a relatively busy street with lots of foot traffic. But the atmosphere in the establishment is anything but brooding and melancholy. Cheerful murals decorate the walls with colorful palm trees and, of course, a valley. The tables have the de rigueur red checkerboard tablecloths and the lighting, while not dim, is still a touch romantic.
During happy hour here, there are no food specials. Pau hana benefits apply only to beverages, but the prices are great. Bottled beers include Budweiser and Bud Light at $1.50; Heineken, Kirin Ichiban, Asahi Super Dry, Long Board, Fire Rock and Big Wave at $2.50; and Asahi Black for $3.50.
Since it’s a pasta place, wines might be a more fitting option, though. The house red and whites are $3 during happy hour, and that’s a good price, too. Kendall Jackson Pinot Noir is $7, while the Fetzer Pinot Grigio is $5.
There’s even a reduced happy hour corkage fee: $20, down from $25.
It’s not exactly a rocking happy hour experience, nor is it supposed to be. One can imagine a group of co-workers having an end-of-the-year party here or staff having an informal meeting with iPads in hand. The Glenn Frey, Big Mountain and other easy-listening singles playing on the speakers are never loud enough to interrupt conversation.
Even happy hour-ing solo might be a nice, peaceful option. If you get a window seat, you can see all the Monsarrat traffic go by. There are plenty of joggers and dogs during this time of day around here.
Happy Valley is set up for dining, so food should be ordered. Because the menu has a Japanese and Italian fusion flair, I checked out less traditional items.
THE PASTA with Cod Roe Cream Sauce & Calamari ($14.98) seemed an adventurous decision that turned out to be pleasantly subdued. Instead of seeing tiny orange fish eggs dotting the spaghetti, the roe was mixed into the sauce for a subtle flavor, though the cream was a touch heavy. The calamari was adequately chewy and came in big, generous chunks.
The Karaage Chicken & Broccoli pizza ($12.98) seemed like the most Japanese choice to make, and it certainly was exactly how it was described. Cubes of chicken, fried Japanese style, seasoned with soy sauce, garlic and ginger, were laid out with broccoli on a cheesy thin crust. The flavor, while initially unique and slightly sweet, eventually began to taste a little bland.
That shaker of red pepper on the table came to good use.
(Note: The pizza comes with a slicer, not pre-sliced. This may not be safe for the drunk and/or culinarily disadvantaged.)
Other interesting items on the menu included Marinated Carrot Salad ($4.98), Marinated Smoked Salmon Salad ($9.98) and Happy’s Pink Sauce pasta — their homemade tomato sauce and cream ($9.98).
Fans of Angelo Pietro and Kit n Kitchen will probably be familiar with this type of fare and be more than comfortable with the dining options.
Service was prompt, friendly and relatively speedy.
The restaurant shares a tiny lot with a yoga space upstairs, and pau hana parking there is hard to come by. There is usually street parking along Monsarrat and a block or two into the residential area.
The atmosphere at Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza is more comfy than “happy.” Still, if one is in the area, it’s a fine place with affordable dinners to find happy hour.