Drinks and Pupu in Hawaii

Pupu on the Rocks: You can’t always judge a great drinks and pupu place from the outside.

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Cafe Duck Butt. Skip the Korean tacos, go for the Korean fried chicken.

I assumed that Duck Butt got its name because someone was deaf to its overtones in English, much like the Chinese restaurant, Fook Yuen.

“No,” said Gene. “Duck Butt is the way you praise a woman’s a** in Korean. As in, ooh, look at the Duck Butt on that girl.”

Life is an education.

There were eventually four of us, the better to work our way through the menu during the 5-to-8 p.m. happy hour. The pupu at Duck Butt, we soon realized, were Korean style.

With a modern spin. Having learned from lunch trucks, Duck Butt makes a big deal of its Korean tacos, a variety of flavors, pork, kalbi and so forth. The problem: No matter which meat you try, the tacos all taste like only two things, tortilla and hot sauce. Skip.

Fortunately, there’s better to be had.

Appealing ginger pork slices, a little sweet as they often are in Hawaii.

Some tasty, not-too-thick jun, red with kim chee, perfect with drinks.

Finally, a drum roll, please, Korean fried chicken.

Duck Butt’s chicken does not perhaps rise to the heights of Choon Chun Chicken BBQ’s, but it is real Korean chicken. The Koreans have perfected this American dish, using smaller chickens, deep-frying them twice, uncoated, so that the skin is wondrously crisp. It’s served simply with a salt-pepper mix and daikon cubes. Did we like it? We ate one whole chicken and ordered another.

You couldn’t ask for more. The waitress even warned us that it was five minutes before the end of happy hour, so we could order a round of drinks before the price went up.

The price tag on the evening was $150 with tip, but there were four of us, we’d ordered, ahem, more than one bottle of soju, a few vodka sodas and, for the young woman in our party, a sweet blue cocktail called AMF. I am not sure whether I want to know what that stands for.

 

Tsunami

1272 S. King St., (808) 596-0700, Monday-Friday 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday - Sunday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Free parking behind the restaurant, major credit cards, tsunamihawaii.com.

 


Poke Balls from Tsunami, the size of a softball.

Photo: Alex Kamm

Someone suggested I try a King Street lounge called Tsunami. Lots of positive reviews on Yelp. That will teach me to trust Yelp.

It fit my criteria. Blank façade on the outside, windowless. Inside was another matter. Tsunami has nightclubby pretensions—black leather couches, coffee tables, big-screen TV monitors, waitresses in short shorts and boots, a sort of blue glow to the lighting.

Trying too hard, I thought.

Same with the menu. It’s much the usual Honolulu pupu, dressed-up, fancy presentations that didn’t quite live up to their looks.

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,September

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