TK Yamada, who spent more than a decade working and roasting for other cafés, now has his own spot with an extraordinarily pleasant lānai.
“Beyond Van Gogh” Just Upped the Game with Charcuterie and Starry Night Cocktails
In the Hawai‘i Convention Center lobby: three Van Gogh-themed cocktails plus fruits, cheese, charcuterie and live music on weekends.
Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is the first free-roaming, open-to-the-public event at Hawai‘i Convention Center since the pandemic began, so to mark the occasion, 1801 Café in the lobby has debuted—what else?—Van Gogh-themed cocktails. Since the popular exhibit has been extended through Sept. 26, that gives you two months to sip drinks named after some of the Dutch painter’s greatest hits.
I grab a chair at the bar and peruse the menu. I have a private hosted tasting, since Frolic’s sister publication HONOLULU Magazine brought the traveling exhibit to Hawai‘i, so I take my time. There are wine and beer offerings, specialty blueberry and strawberry lemonades ($2.75), and coffee and tea options. Foodwise, in addition to sandwiches, salads and snacks, there are two small plates—fruits and cheeses ($6.25) and cheeses and charcuterie ($8.25)—that are good for pairing with wine. I start to feel like I’m really at an art reception instead of waiting for my reserved time slot to the exhibit.
On the menu of $9 themed cocktails, Starry Night catches my eye. A refreshing berry sip with vodka, sweet and sour triple sec, grape juice and soda topped with blueberries and lime, it turns out to be my favorite, sweet with blueberry and grape notes and just a hint of fizz. There’s also the Almond Blossom, made with nutty amaretto, orange juice and soda; and The Imperial with vodka, pineapple, orange and cranberry juices topped with soda and lime.
On a Friday afternoon the ground floor lobby is a lively but relaxed scene, with couples and friends lounging, and a few families with curious small children waiting for their reservation time. After a cocktail and charcuterie plate with some new friends, I head into Beyond Van Gogh. I’ve heard and read so much about it by now, but nothing is quite like the experience of walking through it myself. I spend about an hour inside, taking in the panels that document the course of the great artist’s life, then watching the larger-than-life art show projected onto the walls, columns and floors of the huge exhibit room, set to Van Gogh’s own words and a moving musical score that takes in everything from gentle classics to “Starry, Starry Night.”
At this point I remember to try to spot the paintings that inspired the Almond Blossom and Imperial cocktails as well. Afterward I head back to the bar to decompress and meditate on what I’ve seen. It’s evening, and on Friday and Saturday there’s live music at 1801 Café from 6 to 9 p.m., played by one of the Convention Center’s talented employees, Kai Adarna. I order some red wine. Adarna’s warm, soothing voice and guitar complement the contemplative mood I’m in, offering a brief respite before I head back out into the world.
Café hours are Sunday to Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The bar opens at 3 p.m. daily.