Stress fades at Lewers Lounge
OK, so Lewers Lounge is not a restaurant, but its new bar menu cannot pass unremarked. Like the rest of the Halekulani experience, it is a marvel of simplicity and unfussy elegance. Throw in hospitality, jazz and languid surroundings and you've got a package most restaurateurs could only dream of.
It's a place for those always on the lookout for a retreat from the crowds, a place to graze while sipping cocktails with friends in a room where you can chat instead of shouting over disc jockeys or over-amped music.
The room itself is dark and cozy, accented by candles, fireplace mesh curtains and a couple of floor-to-wall architectural "kahili." The comfort of home and old Hawaii nostalgia is reflected in low parlor chairs and loveseats arranged around coffee tables.
The new menu was created by chef Shawn Smith and Halekulani Director of Food & Beverages Sabine Glissmann to coincide with a new menu of cocktails created by Dale DeGroff, director of beverage arts in residence. Some will head straight for the martini list, which includes the mysterious Black Pearl ($9.50) combining gin, rum, cranberry juice and midnight-tinged Blavod Vodka, and Chocolate Dreams ($9.50) featuring Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka.
Share the "Out of the Box" bento, which holds delicacies such as shrimp shooters and a smoked salmon and leek pizzette.
WHEN HUNGER pangs arise, newbies might want to take their chances with the "Out of the Box" bento box selection, including a 5-inch smoked salmon and leek pizzette on a sourdough crust, sashimi, spring rolls, cheeses and shrimp shooters. At $28.50, it's meant to be shared.
Any of the above can be ordered a la carte and first on my list would be the morel mushroom dusted Angus sliders with creamy Boursin dip. For $12.50, you'll get a trio of the mini burgers cooked to a perfect medium rare on buns about 2 inches wide. The morels were negligible, but nevertheless, these were a hit with fellow diners who remarked, "All burgers should be served this way."
A duo of the salmon and leek pizzettes ($14.50) topped with a squiggle of sour cream is a close second, served with a salad of frisee and field greens, and that rare thing, a tomato that tastes like a tomato.
At this point, and because it's not inexpensive to eat here, I'd make a choice between the two cheese selections of peppered brie en croute ($12) served with spiced walnuts, dried apricots and rosemary crackers, or an ever-changing artisanal selection for two ($16) with seasonal fruits and berries.
Despite the small portions, it can get filling and you must save room for dessert. There is a standard coconut cake ($8.50) and lilikoi cheesecake ($8.50) but a night out must be fun and calls for sharing bitter- or milk-chocolate fondue for two ($12.50) featuring dippers of fruit, pound cake and marshmallows.
Just as good and beautifully presented in its lacquered box is the Chocolate Bento ($16), with sections devoted to truffles and other chocolate mignardises, two chocolate-dipped banana slices and marshmallows, mocha pot de creme and mini chocolate pyramid.
For those who never, or only reluctantly head to Waikiki, Lewers Lounge offers an opportunity to get reacclimated in a most painless way. No matter how badly your day has gone, you'll find stresses melting away the longer you linger.
Music fans can look for Jim Howard and Bruce Hamada Tuesdays through Fridays; Noly Pa 'a Sundays and Mondays; and Rocky Holmes and Lenny Keyes on Saturdays.