We're not going to Hukilau Sports Bar -- it's coming to us
THREE Hawaii expats with three Hawaii-themed restaurants in Northern California are bringing the eatery home, in partnership with businessman Duane Kurisu, a Star-Bulletin investor.
Hukilau Sports Bar & Grill is to open May 28 in Executive Centre on Bishop Street.
The expansion is a far cry from the 15-seat Hukilau da Bar set up within Isuzu restaurant in 2000 by Al Omoto, Kurt Osaki and Eric Tao, as a place to hang out in San Francisco's Japantown. It outgrew its space, and by 2001, Hukilau opened as a restaurant and bar at Masonic and Geary -- later expanding with two more locations in San Jose and Palo Alto.
The team is still in its infancy as restaurateurs, Osaki said, "but we enjoy doing it because of the whole concept of bringing Hawaii people together, with people from outside Hawaii who enjoy the aloha spirit."
The guys want guests to feel welcome and comfortable as if they were hanging out in a friend's Hawaii garage -- you know, wit' cracker-can tables and shoyu-bucket seating -- not that the restaurants are thusly furnished.
"You don't need the best chairs or silverware," Osaki said. "People don't care about the seat they're sitting on, but the people they're sitting around and the experience -- the whole, experience."
Osaki tries to take Kurisu to new restaurants when he visits, but Kurisu wants to go to Hukilau, he said.
Hukilau Honolulu will be dressier than uncle's garage, given its downtown location and beyond-plate-lunch fare. The executive chef is Jason Takemura, formerly of Chai's Island Bistro and several California restaurants.
It also will be a showcase for Hawaii-connected sports milestones, given Kurisu's and Osaki's sports endeavors. Kurisu owns sports radio KKEA-AM 1420 and is a minority owner of the San Francisco Giants. Osaki's SFO-based branding company, Osaki Creative Group, designed the "H" logo for UH, has worked with many college and professional teams, and companies such as Aloha Shoyu, Big Island Candies and Hawaiian Host.
The team is gathering memorabilia with help from Art Suehiro, author of "Where Hawaii Played," about Honolulu Stadium and from the Columbia Inn collection, Osaki said.
The stage used for sports-talk shows on Kurisu's ESPN 1420, also will be used for Hawaiian music, a mainstay of Hukilau in NorCal. Likewise, winners of the annual Hukilau SFO poke contest will take on local contestants at Hukilau Honolulu.
Hukilau will serve breakfast, lunch, pau-hana pupus and dinner Monday to Friday and dinner-only on Saturdays.
Breakfast will range from $5 to $10; lunch, from $8 to $15; pupus from $5 to $10 and dinner, from $12 to $24, said Osaki.
The sports theme means chicken wings are de rigueur for the menu, which also may incorporate Takemura's California-fied treatments of artichokes and crab cakes, alongside Hawaii regional cuisine.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, 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 at: email@example.com