Jason Genegabus

Jackie has flair to spare

IF I were still bartending these days, you'd probably describe me as a straightforward, no-nonsense type of server.

Ordering a Jack and Coke? I could have it made for you in 15 seconds or less, with a six or seven-count pour of whiskey and a quick hit of cola from the soda gun. No frills, just quick liquor.

But that wouldn't fly at Jackie's Kitchen, where everyone mixing drinks is trained as a flair bartender. Ever seen the movie "Cocktail?" If you have, then you already know what goes on inside the restaurant on the third floor of Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Owned by Hong Kong action movie star Jackie Chan, Jackie's Kitchen held its grand opening back in June after a soft opening last December.

And while you can enjoy a meal here without ever having to look at the bar, you're missing out if you don't take at least a little bit of time to stop and appreciate the skill it takes to toss a variety of bottles in the air without dropping them.

Jackie's Kitchen
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays
Location: Ala Moana Shopping Center, Third Floor (near the Mai Tai Bar)
Phone: 943-2426


WHILE THE best seats to watch the bartenders work are the 10 in front of the bar itself, most of the dining area to the left of the front entrance also provides a decent view of the flair bartending fun.

Order a drink, and the folks at Jackie's swing into action. Just picking up a bottle is no small task for these guys -- a quick flip sends it flying from the shelf into the bartender's waiting hand before he proceeds to toss it in the air again, this time catching it with the spout pointed down into a mixing cup.

Everything used in mixing a drink is fair game for a flair bartender. Not only do the liquor bottles get flipped and tossed (and sometimes dropped), but serving glasses, mixing cups, garnishes and other bartending tools of the trade are also incorporated into what could be considered a performance, depending on what drink you order.

Since most of the staff has been with Jackie's Kitchen from its inception, the time it takes for a drink to get made isn't much longer than the wait you'd normally endure at some other Honolulu watering holes. Besides, you'll probably forget about the wait because you're too busy watching the bartenders do their thing.

The flair aspect here even carries over to the way drinks are served to customers. For example, after ordering a martini during my visit last week, the drink arrived not on a tray, but balanced on the forehead of one of the bartenders!

I even had to pause for a moment before taking the glass, thinking that this guy would somehow be able to flip the drink and have it land on my table without losing a drop of alcohol. But a good martini is a terrible thing to waste, so I just grabbed it instead.

Order a drink at Jackie's Kitchen and you'll get a show too. Randy Embernate, left, and Jason Serikaku, bartenders at Jackie's Kitchen at Ala Moana Shopping Center, demonstrate their tandem flair bartending skills behind the bar.

WITH ITS high ceilings, Asian-inspired theme and Jackie Chan movie posters on the walls, there's nothing aesthetically wrong with this place. The addition of "Rush Hour" drink specials from 4 to 7 p.m. daily make it an attractive alternative to happy hours at nearby Morton's and the Mai Tai Bar.

During "Rush Hour," Coors Light and Killian's Irish Red draft beers are $2.50 each, with Skyy Vodka martinis and cosmopolitans available for $3 each.

Cheap drinks, a relaxing atmosphere and talented flair bartenders to entertain you -- sounds like a great way to unwind after work to me, or even someplace worth checking out the next time you get dragged to the mall for a shopping expedition.

How much for a Bud Light?
It's way too easy for a flair bartender to pour a beer, so I stuck to $3 Skyy Vodka martinis during my visit to Jackie's Kitchen. Six taps offer a variety of draft beer, however, and you'll want to try the 96-ounce beer tap. For $16.95, you can pour your own domestic drafts tableside.

Get things to do?
Flat-screen televisions hang throughout the restaurant, all of them playing movies that star Jackie Chan. Two suggestions -- first, turn on the closed captioning! It doesn't interfere with the picture that much, and it would allow customers to actually follow what's going on. Second, forget about movies on the television behind the bar. Sure, the flair bartenders are worth watching, but so is a football or baseball game on that nice flat-screen TV.

What about the grinds?
The Drunken Sashimi ($10.95), crab wontons ($6.95) and chicken satay ($6.95) that I tried didn't disappoint, but the sauce on the Hosin Ribs ($9.95) didn't do much for me. You might want to try the JK Stunt Team Platter ($18.95), which comes with ribs, chicken satay, crab wontons, spring rolls and shrimp dumplings. Also, a full menu means you can always order an entree instead of just pupus when you visit.

And the help?
Both drinks and food arrived in a timely manner at Jackie's Kitchen. Weekend evenings are the busiest here, so you might want to head straight for the bar if you decide to stop by on a Friday or Saturday night.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at jason@starbulletin.com with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.



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