808 Kapahulu’s side alcove gives off VIP aura
Shochu-based drinks set it apart from neighboring bars
Kapahulu Avenue is an impressive stretch of asphalt when it comes to cocktails. Even if you don't count Formaggio, just a stone's throw away at Market City Shopping Center, there are more than a half-dozen places worth stopping in for a drink.
808 Kapahulu Fusion Dining and Bar
Location: 808 Kapahulu Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 6 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Each spot is unique for one reason or another, from the well-worn confines of Karaoke Hut to the flamboyant fun you'll find at Hula's Bar and Lei Stand. And that's what makes 808 Kapahulu Fusion Dining and Bar worth a visit -- the drinking experience here is unlike any other in the neighborhood.
YOU COULDN'T miss 808 Kapahulu when the restaurant first opened in November of last year. Sandwiched between a tattoo/piercing shop and a Chinese restaurant, it's definitely a cut above in terms of style and sophistication.
Lots of wood and glass provide an upscale feel in the intimate dining room. At the bar, five chairs afford a kitchen view that's slightly obstructed by empty glasses and various liquor bottles. This perspective has you facing away from the rest of the room, which can get pretty boring after a while.
Instead of sitting indoors, opt for one of three tables located in a small alcove to the left of 808 Kapahulu's front entrance.
While the rest of the restaurant is enclosed, this area is open to the sidewalk and removed enough to have a slight VIP-like vibe. It's also perfect for those who want to smoke, or if you tend to get a little more rowdy than the cute couples in the main dining room might be comfortable with.
My advice? Call ahead and make a reservation for six, and specifically request those particular tables. Trust me, it'll feel like you have the joint to yourself!
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Along the long line of watering holes on Kapahulu Avenue, 808 Kapahulu Fusion Dining and Bar offers an upscale experience with its sophisticated decor.
ONCE YOU get situated, be sure to ask for the drink menu, a laminated page filled with dozens of libations. Most are priced in the $4 to $6 range.
No matter if your favorite drink is vodka, whiskey, beer or wine, there's something on the list worth trying. Kirin is the sole draft beer option, and there are a number of shochu-based drinks available.
Speaking of shochu, I'm surprised more bars in Honolulu don't offer this particular liquor. My lime soda ($5) was easy to make, with a dash of lime juice and lemon-lime soda in a highball glass, and even easier to drink.
Oolong tea, green tea, grapefruit juice and Calpico are other options, or just ask for a couple of shochu shots straight up in a sugar-rimmed shot glass with a lemon wedge on the side. Just be careful, or you'll end up standing on one of those wooden chairs, yelling "Banzai!" at passing cars.
UNFORTUNATELY, what originally aroused my curiosity about 808 Kapahulu is no longer a viable option. Management recently gave up its late night hours in favor of the lunchtime crowd, introducing a new "Cafe Menu" in the process. It always seemed to me the best time to drink here would be after midnight, when the dinner crowd is long gone and traffic is much lighter than earlier in the evening. The current 10 p.m. closing time limits it to being a decent weekend warm-up spot for the W Honolulu or SKYLiNE crowd.
One other thing to keep in mind -- owner Taka Kijima is currently in Japan attending to business matters, so the restaurant will remain closed until next week. 808 Kapahulu will resume normal business hours on Wednesday.
How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly paid $3.50 for a can of Bud Light, served in an unchilled glass. Cocktail classics like the gin gimlet ($6), sidecar ($6.50) and Boston Cooler ($5) are also available.
Get things to do?
You're drinking in a restaurant -- other than the home theater-style sound system, there's nothing else but the passing traffic on Kapahulu to keep you entertained. Bring a group and get the party started!
What about the grinds?
There are a number of dishes on 808 Kapahulu's dinner menu that are similarly priced to what you'd find at other bars. Try the steamed chicken with spicy miso sauce ($8), creamy chicken and mushroom pot pie ($8), or salmon carpaccio with wasabi pesto ($9). Even the oven baked miso butterfish ($11), grilled lamb chop ($12) and ribeye steak ($15) are affordable if you're splitting the bill with friends.
And the help?
Service can be spotty at times, even if you're sitting at the bar. Inadequate staffing led to confusion over drink orders and extended periods of staring at empty glasses. Not good.
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend. E-mail Jason Genegabus at firstname.lastname@example.org
with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.