Eatery pulls it all together
Uncle Bo's is one of the most eclectic restaurants I've come across recently, and that's saying a lot, given the chop-suey nature of so many local restaurants.
It's an establishment that's trying to be many things to many different people. Usually, that spells disaster, right?
Not this time.
Uncle Bo's may be part American bistro, part local-Asian bar and grill, part neighborhood watering hole, part city café, but somehow it all works. This is not going to be the place to find those with an elevated aesthetic or desire for clarity, but such souls are few in number. Bo Pathammavong, whose last job was at Ocean House Restaurant in Waikiki, seems to know what the other 97 percent wants and is happy to comply.
Bo looks a little too young to be called "uncle," but the name is meant to evoke the feeling of familial hospitality and that whole eat-til-you're stuffed backyard party vibe. You can count on sampling a little bit of this, a little bit of that, from poke to chicken wings, spinach-artichoke-crab dip, mixed greens and steak. There are even several television sets, like in auntie and uncle's living room. The main difference between home and Bo's: You'll have to find someplace else to snooze after you've stuffed yourself.
I didn't quite get the TV thing, but it does provide diversion for bar patrons -- the bar fills a quarter of the main dining room -- and those waiting for their dates to appear. If you prefer something more sedate, a back room dressed in the austere elegance of black and white offers a quiet place to chat.
Few people these days have the appetite, patience or pocketbook for a full, formal dinner anymore, and Uncle Bo's addresses this phenomenon with a complete, every-day pupu menu, with nothing over $10. During flush times, you may opt for Bo's $17 to $25 entreés, but you won't find any pressure here to go the traditional dinner route.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Uncle Bo's Pupu Bar and Grill chef and owner Bo Pathammavong holds a dish of Spicy Tuna Wraps. On the counter at the new restaurant's bar are Uncle Bo's Dynamite Shrimp and Thai-Style Steamer Clams.
Many will find the pupu menu satisfying all by itself. Start with the Thai street-style grilled chicken wings (six tiny wings for $8) and you may not progress beyond that. I could eat a basketful myself. The wings are lightly coated with an aromatic blend of lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, ginger, basil and Thai curry that is nevertheless mild enough for timid types to stomach.
There are several lettuce wraps to help nudge you toward getting your five-a-day veggie requirement, such as a spicy tuna wrap ($8) and chili-spiked firecracker shrimp wraps ($8) served with a mix of bell peppers, onions and other greens.
Bo doesn't shy from spicing things up when called for, as with Cajun-seared ahi ($10) tempered by a sweet honey glaze. I didn't think the glaze was necessary, but hey, different strokes. There's a reason honey dipping sauces keep popping up on KFC and McDonald's menus.
Elsewhere, a simple dish of steamed clams ($9) is given a local makeover, with a touch of sweet chili sauce and garlic oyster sauce added to the basics of butter, garlic and white wine.
Main-course selections include all the requisite steak and seafood selections you'd find on a hotel menu, from 12-ounce rib-eye ($18) and 14-ounce prime rib ($19) to grilled salmon ($18) and broiled teriyaki black cod (that's butterfish to you, at $17).
A generous 12-ounce serving of New York Steak in a mushroom burgundy sauce ($18) led one person to exclaim, "Wow! Is that the whole cow!," before quickly devouring it.
I went straight for the Indo-lobster ($22), so called because the lobster is from Indonesia. The name had nothing to do with the preparation, in which the sweet lobster meat is augmented with an all-American mayo-crab salad stuffing and baked with a Parmesan crust. Some people may draw a line with mayo, but I'd order this again.
Yes I do like fine food, but in Hawaii there's always room for mayo-baked seafood, just as there's always room for Spam, and any good uncle knows that.