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First Look: Sky Waikīkī Opens

After more than a year of anticipation, Sky Waikīkī finally opened its doors this past weekend, with the best view in town.


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Photos: Kelli Bullock 

 

When it comes to high-end nightclubs, Honolulu has sadly been in short supply for years. So when spectacular renderings of a rooftop club with panoramic views of Waikīkī and Diamond Head surfaced a couple of years ago, the town’s night owls perked up their ears.

 

It took longer than expected for the club, called Sky Waikīkī, to open, but, this past weekend, it finally welcomed its patrons. And it was impossible to miss.

 

SEE ALSO: Photos From the Sky Waikīkī VIP Event

 

More than two dozen security agents dressed in black lined the sidewalk outside the Waikīkī Business Plaza at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 28. They ushered cars between orange cones scattered along Seaside Avenue separating the road from a valet parking entrance, and made sure pedestrians didn’t bump into the black crowd-control stanchions and dividers.

 

More security personnel gathered near the front entrance, pacing and keeping clear the main hallway into the Plaza. Up the elevator normally reserved for the Top of Waikīkī restaurant, servers and hostesses offered glasses of Dom Perignon once the doors opened.

 

The view from the lanaī at SKY Waikīkī.

 

Sky Waikīkī spans the entire 19th floor of the Waikīkī Business Plaza, just beneath the Top of Waikīkī and divided into two parts: an intimate nightclub adorned with tropical lounge lighting, a Martin Audio sound system and a video wall 30 feet high; and the real superstar: a wraparound cantilevered lānai outside, overlooking Kalākaua Avenue with an incredible view beginning at Diamond Head and spanning nearly the entire the Waikīkī coastline.

 

At the media reception, owners Kainoa Akina, Alika Mau, Leighton Mau and Darren Seu introduced the venue, their latest project more than two years in development.

 

“We knew there has never been anything like this in Waikīkī, or Hawai‘i for that matter,” said Sky Waikīkī managing partner Jovan Andow, “but to finally see it come alive was breathtaking.”

 

Deconstructed Mai Tai.

 

OK, the view is great, but how are the drinks? At each of the three bars at Sky Waikīkī, bartenders poured 10 different specialty cocktails crafted by Top of Waikīkī mixologist Jen Ackrill, using house-made syrups and ingredients. Most range from $11 to $13, including the sweet and spot-on “Deconstructed Mai Tai,” featuring Pyrat XO Caribbean rum, Gifford’s orgeat and orange curacao, topped with a thick mai tai foam; and the “Seaside Sling,” with Bombay gin, Cocchi Americano, pear Liqueur and Tahitian lime bitters, served with lime oil and a Maytag blue-cheese-stuffed Castelvetrano olive—a cocktail one imagines James Bond ordering on holiday.

 

Other cocktails, such as the “Iolani Cooler,” a hibiscus-infused Square One organic cucumber vodka, poured with lime juice, Angostura orange bitters and mint, could’ve been a bit stronger, and the “Bonfire in the Barrio,” with El Jimador blanco tequila, Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, lime, salt and Bittermens Hellfire tincture could’ve had more of a spicy bite, but perhaps after six drinks, we may have simply been eager for more spice (and more alcohol).

 

Peruvian potato salad served on a scoop of lettuce. 

 

Sky Waikīkī has not yet finalized its food menu, which is being designed by executive chef Lance Kosaka, but the bite-size pūpū being served on Friday offered a good preview (keep in mind that everything is still in development and may look totally different once it’s in the form of a full entrée). Selections included tomato soup with Parmesan foam, a creamy, bright orange tomato puree served in tall plastic shot glasses; big cubes of miso butterfish with puffed wild rice; popcorn shrimp featuring garlic, shallots and real popcorn, complete with furikake and a little mayo; and a Peruvian potato salad with sweet potato and egg, and served bite-size on a curved scoop of lettuce.

 

Other pūpū were equally delicious although a little unusual, such as the generously cut lamb chop “lollipops.” Both sweet and spicy from a honey glaze and Tunisian harissa chili pepper paste, the chops were delicious but somewhat tricky to manage in a stand-up setting. Maybe they’ll be more manageable once diners have the luxury of a table and chair. Also interesting: the garlic chicken sliders, featuring juicy pieces of lightly breaded garlic chicken on soft dinner rolls—but also stuffed with mac ’n’ cheese? The creamy cheese sauce worked well, but the macaroni seemed confused, lost and quickly slipping out of the sandwiches. But, at the same time, it’s mac ’n’ cheese, which is always a good call. Why not?

 

‘Iolani Cooler.

 

“Why not?” seems to sum up the Sky Waikīkī experience well. Why not create an outdoor lounge with top-notch food and drink selections for locals and tourists alike, install a state-of-the-art entertainment system and build a beautifully decked-out lounge and nightclub above Honolulu?

 

In the shadows of legendary Hawai‘i nightlife eras past and the wake of losing local attraction landmarks like the International Marketplace, why not create an incredible destination that helps put Waikīkī back on the map? If last Friday at Sky was any indication, perhaps things are looking up.

 

SKY Waikīkī, 2270 Kalākaua Ave, Sunday through Thursday 4 p.m.–12 a.m., Friday and Saturday 4 p.m.–2 a.m., 979-7590, skywaikiki.com

 

Join us for Cirque du Cuisine! Dine on circus-inspired dishes from 13 award-winning restaurants under the stars in Waikīkī at the 2016 Hale ‘Aina Awards Celebration. Get your tickets to the event now.

 

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