Serious partiers


POSTED: Friday, June 26, 2009

Lots of party promoters talk about owning their own venue, but few will ever turn those dreams into reality.





        1272 S. King St.

Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily


Info: 596-0700 or tsunamihawaii.com




There's a reason for that. Some promoters are more about the fame and fortune than stacking chips and building a business that will last. Others have more fun living the party lifestyle rather than planning for the future and focusing on the bottom line.

That's not the case at Tsunami, a new lounge concept that opened earlier this month on South King Street between Piikoi and Keeaumoku. The five-person hui of investors behind the establishment can trace its roots back to the local bar and club scenes, where they still promote weekly parties on Friday and Saturday nights. They also lease out space at Bar Seven (the former Venus Nightclub).

With the new bar, Tsunami's owners aim to bridge the gap between the college-style, liquor-soaked parties some of them are known for and a more sophisticated, classy vibe suitable for young professionals who are now pushing 30 and aren't into the shenanigans that might have been fun a few years ago.

“;We didn't want it to be too flashy,”; said co-owner Bryan “;Yosh”; Yoshida. “;(We wanted) a place where you feel comfortable socializing and drinking.”;

THE NEW Tsunami might not be “;too flashy,”; but its a definite upgrade over the decor at the bar's predecessor, the former Club Tsunami inside Samsung Plaza.

The old location was a nondescript space that could get pretty crowded during football season and Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views. With approximately 4,000 square feet on King Street, the new Tsunami just about doubles the real estate available for customers.

Walk inside the main entrance and you're greeted by the DJ booth and a large room filled with comfortable-looking couches, bar tables and the bar proper. A second, smaller room is home to five dart machines and a number of flat screens dedicated to sports coverage on ESPN.

“;That's more for people who just want to hang out, play darts and watch sports,”; Yoshida said. “;It's for the guys, but a lot of girls end up playing, too.”;

Yoshida said the owners were going for a “;modern decor”; in the main room, so they did most of their furniture shopping at Inspiration.

The result is a room full of couches with articulating backrests that surround about a half-dozen tables in the middle of the room. Flat screens on this side show more female-friendly programming, with one TV over the bar dedicated to a slideshow of food specials and upcoming events.

THOSE WHO remember Osake Sushi Bar and Lounge, or who've spent time at Kochi or Bar 35, should feel right at home on the couches at Tsunami.

It's a little brighter during pau hana early in the evening, but on weekends the lights are dimmed and the aforementioned DJ booth is put to good use. It was standing room only around 10:30 p.m. on a recent Friday night, with DJ K-Smooth (who arrived home from Japan earlier that day) spinning a mix of current and old-school hits and the Tsunami staff rocking a “;naughty secretary”; look of white tops, short black shorts and black boots.

According to Yoshida, Thursdays and Fridays are the early favorites among the late-night crowd. A number of recent visits showed that Tsunami is already building a pau hana following on weekdays as well.

And instead of focusing mostly on fried foods, as they did at the old location, the new lounge concept relies on a diverse menu developed by a former executive chef at Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab.

Aaron Fukuda spent 12 years in Iwilei under the watchful eye of Sam Choy before making the move to join the staff at Tsunami. His creativity led to the introduction of a number of items unique to the new lounge, including Tsunami's signature teriyaki fries ($6), torched hamachi sashimi ($12) and pipikaula carpaccio ($10).

During recent visits, friends raved about the poke ball ($10), a furikake-encrusted ball of rice that's filled with ahi poke and cut into quarters. The kalua pig quesadilla ($8) and deep fried moi ($12) were also deemed to be winners.

“;Our pork chops are pretty good too,”; added Yoshida. “;Everything on the menu, we tested it and I don't mind eating it at any time.

“;We're not going for a four-diamond award or anything like that. We just want the food to look good and taste good.”;

On that front, the crew at Tsunami has definitely succeeded. But not only does the food look and taste good—the bar itself and the customers it attracts should also keep people coming back again and again.


Barfly appears every last Friday of the month in HILife. E-mail Jason Genegabus with suggestions of bars to visit.