Bar Report: Nobu Waikiki
Left: Pineapple Mezcal; Right: Acai Punch (non-alcoholic)
In Waikiki Parc Hotel, 2233 Helumoa Rd., 237-6999
Nobu Waikiki exudes urban luxe in its lounge and cocktail menu. The Nobu brand is famous for its fresh and sophisticated Japanese-Latin American fare, a sensibility that carries over to its cocktails. At Nobu Waikiki, a Hale Aina Gold winner for Best Cocktail, bar manager Kenny Lum has also added his own concoctions with fresh island ingredients, making his bar unlike any other Nobu in the world (though you'll still find Nobu classics on the menu).
Drinks are in the $14 price range, but to enjoy Nobu more affordably, go during happy hour, from 5 to 7 p.m., when select cocktails are $8 and hot and cold lounge tapas start at $6 per order.
A sleek and modern oasis, shielded from the commotion of Lewers and Kalakaua streets.
Nobu Waikiki’s back bar is stocked with an array of premium spirits and liqueurs that bests many Honolulu bars. Highlights include Whistlepig Rye, a hard-to-find rye whiskey aged in double barrels for a minimum of ten years; Zirbenz, an Alpine stone pine liqueur that can make for a mean Manhattan variation; and El Dorado demerara rums, which hail from Guyana and make for otherworldly tiki drinks.
Whether you’re a vodka drinker or whiskey lover, you’ll find a drink to suit your tastes, from the refreshingly light Grapefruit on the Rocks, made with Belvedere Grapefruit vodka, fresh pink grapefruit juice, elderflower and ginger liqueur to the darker Kin Ka, made with Japanese whiskey and sweetened with Benedictine and Carpano Antica.
For something more tropical, order Lum’s own creation, a Pineapple Mezcal, a smoky, tangy blend of hot and sweet, thanks to muddled, toasted pineapple, Serrano peppers, cilantro, mezcal and yuzu juice.
Put your drink choice in the bartender’s hands, and, with Lum’s team, you’ll be well taken care of. I’ve been served a Sundance Kid, with pisco, agave, yellow Chartreuse, lemon and mezcal, a drink that made me want to run away to South America. For $14, a small price to pay for beauty.
Left: Maitake fries; right: soft-shell crab maki
Lum used to run the acai bowl truck Aloha Bowls, which served some of the best acai bowls in town (and definitely the prettiest). So if you request something non-alcoholic, you might get the Acai Punch, a blend of acai, coconut water and strawberries, more smoothie than punch.
Maitake fries ($9), tempura-style maitake mushrooms served with dipping sauce and shichimi pepper, make regular potato fries seem bland in comparison. Also a hit: the soft shell crab maki roll ($15), wrapped in a thin sheet of daikon.
Free parking (up to four hours, with validation) can be found in the garage just beyond Nobu's entrance.