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First Look: Kissaten Bar and Lounge

Food, coffee, cocktails—this new Waterfront Plaza spot has it all.


Wandering the dusky grounds of Restaurant Row on a Saturday evening, there’s little indication that much has changed.

But that might be changing.

It’s now called Waterfront Plaza — though for a lot of locals it will always be Restaurant Row, just like Daiei was Holiday Mart until it became Don Quijote, at which point we gave in and started calling it Daiei.

Things have closed at the Plaza. A lot of things. But Restaurant Row has always had commitment issues. Restaurants come and go. Mostly go. Ruth’s Chris, Vino and Hiroshi have been holding it down, and keeping us coming; we think (hope) they’re in it for the long haul.

And now a newcomer, with a bar, long hours, big-screen TVs, coffee and even breakfast, has found a home at the Row.

Kissaten Bar and Lounge, the third location for the Kissaten brand, and the largest of the three, opened for business on March 1. The concrete wilderness feeling of Restaurant Row is about as ambient as the place gets, and the kitchen and bar have some opening jitters to work through, but the 10-by-10-foot projection television screen is a good distraction.


The new digs come with an extensive new menu that also features a few of the bestsellers from the flagship Piikoi location, including the truffle mac-and-cheese ($8.95) and the tomato bisque ($5.95). There’s also a bar. A real bar, not a coffee bar (though they have that too).

For the month of March, Kissaten is celebrating its opening with $1 well drinks, and to that we raise a glass. We were tempted to offer $3 for a vodka cran if they agreed to add three times the vodka. But, for a buck, who’s complaining? And a few dollar drinks in, who cares? At that point, what really matters is what’s for dinner.

The steamed manila clams ($12.95), swimming in a salty sake reduction studded with green onions and tiny perfect cubes of Portuguese sausage, is a good choice, and if someone can convince them to serve the dish with a baguette? Yes, please.

Kissaten’s take on a Nagasaki staple, Tokuro Rice (literally, “Turkish” rice, though there’s nothing Turkish about it; $8.95), is a heaping plate of steamed, buttered rice and a nest of linguine all topped with chicken katsu and smothered in a brown gravy-tomato sauce hybrid. For someone used to plate lunches, the gravy takes a minute to get used to, but the katsu is spot on and the mountain-o-carbs is perfect for a late-night post-party bite. The late-night menu, available until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, is heavy with bar-food staples, including fried rice, wings (get the salt-and-pepper wings), onion rings, fries and, if none of those sound right, just wait around for a few hours until they start serving breakfast at 8 a.m. (7 a.m. on weekdays). And then order the POG pancakes with a side of bacon ($5.95).

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night menu items from $5 to $16.95, Kissaten Bar and Lounge, Waterfront Plaza, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., across from Nocturna and M nightclub, 593-7090, kissatencafe.com.

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