Thursday, August 1, 2002

For those who left
their heart in Hawaii

In San Francisco, Hawaii-folks and aloha-shirt-wearing poseurs can board a cable car with the musical intention of "going to a Hukilau," and actually wind up there.

At Hukilau Da Bar there is live music every Aloha Friday. "On any given Friday night, it's just like your garage," said co-owner Eric Tao. "Girls from the different halau just get up and hula."

Tao is one of three local boys who own the joint; the others are Campbell High School grad Al Omoto, who is part-owner and general manager, and Kapaa High School grad Kurt Osaki, president of Berkeley-based Osaki Design Inc. Tao describes himself as a retired attorney who does real estate development and asset management.

After a three-month hiatus earlier this year Hukilau reopened in bigger digs on the corner of Geary and Masonic streets.

The first Hukilau was part of the Isuzu restaurant in Japantown.

"We totally outgrew it," said Tao. "We went from a bar that sat 15 people and now have a restaurant that seats 70."

Omoto was appropriated from the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco where he served as a purchaser. He still deals with some of the same vendors for the new venue.

"The three of us basically all decided we wanted a place where friends could come and hang out," with local foods such as poke and Spam, Omoto said.

Chef Carlos Yah is Mexican but learned about appealing to a Hawaii palate working in a Japanese restaurant for eight years.

"Kurt actually told him how to do some of the gravies," Omoto said when asked about the authenticity of the brown gravy for drowning the loco moco.

One of the popular items Yah serves up is a Kalua pig quesadilla topped with salsa, which Tao described as "totally California-Hawaii."

Pacific Management Consultants Inc. Chairman Steve Hirano popped in during a recent visit to San Francisco and gave it a glowing endorsement, calling it a "must stop for locals," where "everything is reasonable compared to California prices and the portions are humongous," he said.

The homesickness of ex-pats is temporarily sated by the Hukilau, Omoto said. "They pretty much come here to have a piece of back home, to have their fix of Hawaii and then they go back to the regular grind."

Beyond that, Tao said, "Being from Hawaii is already cool, but Hukilau gives ex-pats a chance to say 'let's go to my friend's place and I'll show you what it's like,' That's what makes us happy as owners. We just wanted a place that feels like home."

Come Aug. 31 Hukilau will give ex-pats a chance to go away, staging the San Francisco preliminary for the annual Sam Choy Poke Festival.

"We're working with Aloha Shoyu and Sam Choy," Tao said, "and the winner of our poke contest is going to be flown back to Hawaii as a contestant."

Brief balance

Eventually Shawn Ching will have to decide between news briefs and legal briefs.

Ending weeks of speculation in local newsrooms, KITV President and General Manager Michael Rosenberg announced yesterday that Ching, the sole weekend anchor, will take over the weekday 6 and 10 p.m. anchor slot vacated by Dan Cooke last month.

In addition to his news duties, Ching has one more year of law school ahead of him.

"He's going to finish law school and pass the bar and hopefully for all of us never use it, except during salary negotiations," Rosenberg laughed.

Ching starts his expanded gig Aug. 12.

The weekend anchor position will be filled on a regular basis when former KGMB-TV reporter and anchor Mahealani Richardson joins KITV in late September. She is currently working out her contract at KGW-TV in Portland, Ore.

Ching is a Roosevelt and University of Hawaii graduate with bachelor's and master's degrees in political science.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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