John Heckathorn Reports...
(page 6 of 9)
“You expect the Havana chili to be hot.”
“Truly. But not the Original Sloppy Joe sandwich.”
“Have a Barbados potato boat,” said the younger. “This is bar food, is it not?”
“Better than Hooter’s.”
The waitress wore black—T-shirt, shorts, running shoes. “Whaddya drinking?” she asked.
“There’s a list of house drinks,” said the younger.
“Stick to beer,” said the older.
“I’ll have the mix of Piña Colada and Old Island Rum Runner. It’s called A Pain in the Ass,” said the younger.
The drink was red and white. The red was too bright, the taste was too sweet, the liquor burnt the tongue and mouth. “Whoa,” said the younger.
“This drink is insincere,” said the older. “The bartender did not mix it. It came from a slush machine.”
“Yes,” said the waitress. “And next door, at Fat Tuesday, there are 20 machines. After you pay your bill, you must go there. They will give you free samples.”
They walked past the men’s room and found themselves at the bar. The barmaid was tall and friendly and poured many samples into small plastic cups. One was called Purple Passion. It had bourbon and 151 proof rum.
“It tastes like a grape popsicle,” said the old writer. He felt a moment of sadness. “In Key West, Papa drank double daiquiris with no sugar.”
“Papa would not drink in this place,” said the younger. “Even if it is clean and well-lighted.”
“Let’s not talk about it,” said the older. “For us, it is only necessary to go back to our work.”
On the Arrival of Alan Wong and Sam Choy
“Brave New World,” Dining, September 1995
Honolulu just became a better place to eat. Under normal circumstances, restaurants come and restaurants go. The ones that have any real or lasting impact are few and far between. This month is different. In Alan Wong’s, Sam Choy’s and Cliquo, we suddenly have three new restaurants that alter the landscape. It’s as if Roy’s, 3660 On The Rise and the Swiss Inn had opened in a single month, instead of years apart.
In part, this restaurant revolution was anticipated. For the last four years, the Hawaii regional cuisine chefs have been transmuting multicultural local food traditions into the highest of high-end restaurant meals, using the best available local meats, fish and produce. The trouble with this movement is that 80 percent of it has happened on the Neighbor Islands, while 80 percent of the population lives on Oahu.
So for years, it’s been whispered that Hawaii regional cuisine leaders like Sam Choy and Alan Wong were on their way to Honolulu. By the time they opened, they were already classics, restaurants to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries in. It helped that both men knew what they were doing.