Coming Soon to Honolulu’s Drinking Scene: Bar Māze in Kaka‘ako
Justin Park and Tom Park bring on chef Ki Chung, most recently of Aubergine in Carmel, for their newest bar.
Three years after they first looked at the sliver of a space—a patch of dirt hemmed in by unfinished walls at the time—Justin Park and Tom Park are finally preparing to open Bar Māze. The owners of Bar Leather Apron hope to debut the new spot in The Collection condo building in Kaka‘ako by the end of July. Bar Māze’s chef, Ki Chung, who recently helmed Michelin-starred Aubergine in Carmel, California, where dinner costs $205, moved to Hawai‘i last week and is spending his first few days on the island meeting farmers.
The Parks’ vision has evolved from a neighborhood whiskey bar to a drop-in, standing izakaya-style bar to an omakase, fully integrated drink and food experience. If the final concept sounds a little hazy, it’s because the Parks are in uncharted waters. “We use the term ‘pairing’ because that’s a concept that people understand,” says Justin.
Tom says, “But it’s more than a pairing. [Justin and Ki] are going to really work hard to integrate cocktails and food in a way that no one’s ever done.” They envision courses where you can’t tell where the drink ends and the food begins, or where a cocktail or plate only finds balance in the other.
In a press release, Tom says Bar Māze will “go beyond the idea of pairings like a red wine to complement a dry-aged steak, where those two things are independent and not created to match. Instead, it was the thought that the cocktail and the dish wouldn’t be complete without each other; the ingredients and the textures of the food and the drink are equal parts of the whole experience and created specifically to go together.”
So instead of what usually happens in a restaurant, where dishes are created first and then a bar program developed to match (or the two operate independently), Justin and Ki will work in concert to design each course.
While the Parks initially wanted a drop-in, more casual bar, the pandemic and its social distancing precautions forced them to rethink that business model. So when Bar Māze opens, it will be reservation only, with the omakase ($125 per person) offered at the counter fronting the (tiny) open kitchen and bar, and an a la carte menu offered in the mezzanine lounge.