Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, October 1, 1999

Aaron’s a bright spot
in Honolulu’s night life


By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


WHAT Honolulu needs is a place where people who are looking for something other than hard rock, hip hop and reggae can go for late night dining and dancing. The music must be modern but not played so loudly that it prevents casual conversation. The menu should provide a fine dining experience with food service past midnight. The service must be impeccable. Ideally there will be both valet service and self-parking.

Isn't that the wish list of most people over 30? Honolulu has had a place like that for 15 years. Now that Nicholas Nickolas has morphed into Aaron's and improved on the concept, there's a reason for people who've felt burned out on Honolulu's nightlife scene to take the 36-floor trip to the top of the Ala Moana Americana Hotel to check out what Aaron Placourakis has done with the nightspot that is now his namesake.

Bullet Aaron's Atop the Ala Moana
Bullet Where: Ala Moana Americana Hotel
Bullet Hours: 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 a.m. closing other nights.
Bullet Parking: $5 valet and self park.
Bullet Call: 955-4466

Aaron's fulfills all the specifications in fresh style. It is first a fine dining restaurant that offers a mixed American and Continental menu with Asian and Mediterranean nuances.

The ambience is lighter and brighter than before. The entrance to the private makai dining room is now glass; an unimpeded view increases the room's sense of spaciousness. A new 2000-bottle wine "cellar" showcased in glass surrounds a smaller private dining room near the mauka end.

The big booth to the left of the entrance is still the place to be conspicuous. The window tables across from the band are prime real estate for dancers and people watchers. The area tucked away between the stage and the bar is also convenient but more discrete. One of the best things about the layout is the fact that things get progressively quieter toward the ends of the room.

And then there's Nitegroove. Despite all the doom-and-gloom commentary in recent years about "no live music" around town, Placourakis points out he's had a band ever since The Summit became Nickolas Nicholas 15 years ago. Nitegroove has fit into Aaron's along with restaurant staffers Scott J. Osterhout, Skip Lambert and Al Souza III.

Core members of Nitegroove are Marvic Esquibil (keyboards), vocalist/go-go dancer Sunway and bassist Mike Times.

Esquibil has extensive credits as a local recording studio musician. His finesse with synthetics serves Nitegroove well in giving the band the full sound necessary for a pop dance group. Sunway's recording credits go back to her 1991 cassette maxi-single, "Promise Me," and her work at Aaron's leaves no doubt she should be recording now.

Times is one of those delightful discoveries -- he hasn't been on the local scene all that long but he and Sunway are a strong team as the featured vocalists.

The selections range from current (Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle") to recent Top 40 hits ("How Do I Live") to disco-era oldies like "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and "I Will Survive."

Aaron's is already a place where entertainers stop by to sit in. Michael Paulo joined Nitegroove for the late set after his show with Al Jarreau and the Honolulu Symphony last Saturday.

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