First Look: Ya-Ya’s Chophouse & Seafood, a New Steakhouse in Kaka‘ako
The owners of Uncle Bo’s Pūpū Bar and Grill open a steakhouse specializing in prime meats.
Photos: Martha Cheng
“This is not your father’s steakhouse,” our server told us when introducing the menu. I may not be the right audience then, for I love my father’s steakhouse, paneled in dark wood and nostalgia. Ya-Ya’s aesthetic is more modern dance club than old library room, its bar more sports bar than cocktail lounge. In short, it looks like Uncle Bo’s Pūpū Bar and Grill, which makes sense—Ya-Ya’s shares the same owner. The food, however, hews closely to classic steakhouse fare, from seafood towers to dry-aged prime steaks to salmon (as much a staple as filet mignon).
SEE ALSO: Who Has the Best Seafood Tower on O‘ahu?
The table next to us had ordered all the big ticket items, labeled “elite/specialty cuts,” resulting in an almost comic juxtaposition of a prime 40-ounce tomahawk steak with a bone big enough to be a weapon beside a diminutive 4 ounces of Nagasaki A5—aka the most premium and marbled—Wagyu beef (and at almost equivalent prices: $99 and $90, respectively). It was Japanese and American culture, represented in meat. Which was better? Does it even matter when you can afford both?
We ordered neither, but our entrées weren’t exactly economy class—a porterhouse ($84) and lobster pan roast ($54), which fed three of us, and we still had leftovers. The porterhouse was cooked to a medium rare, just as we asked, though with an uneven sear shy of the thick, brown crust that I associate with expert steakhouses. It was, as prime meat should be, tender enough to make my companion swoon, especially the filet side. The lobster pan roast consisted of a whole Maine lobster and friends—clams, scallops and head-on Kaua‘i shrimp, succulent and in a decadent, creamy sauce akin to lobster bisque. Sides, ordered separately, include smash potatoes ($10)—baked potato fixings (sour cream, bacon, cheese and chives) meet mashed potatoes—and creamed spinach ($11) which seemed to be lacking the cream, instead a spinach purée.
Ya-Ya’s offers a separate bar menu, with nothing over $10, but it feels like walking through the first class section of a plane to get to steerage—there isn’t a single item of beef on the menu. Instead, there are chicken tacos and pork rinds.
Steakhouses—especially at this price point—are one of the few places where ambiance matters as much to me as what’s on the plate. I am not buying a piece of meat as I am a slice of luxury and tradition. Ya-Ya’s may not be my father’s steakhouse, but it’s not mine either. But if all the traditional trappings of a chophouse make you shudder or bore you, then it could be yours.
508 Keawe St., (808) 725-4187, yayaschophouse.com