Local Experts Share Their Tips for Selecting the Best Wine, Beer and Liquor To Go With Popular Cuisines

Your cheat sheet for BYOB dining.

Photo: David Croxford

 

BYOB is usually great for the budget, but bad for discovering new tastes. When faced with a wall of bottles and overwhelming pressure to select the right wine or beer for a crowd, chances are you’ll default to an old favorite or ultimately safe sip (hello, chardonnay) on the way to your reservation.

 

Don’t play it safe. Go bold, uneasy oenophile. To steer you right, we turned to three experts known for their knack for selecting the best wine, beer or liquor to go with popular BYOB cuisines.

 

The Experts

Timothy Golden, OWNER  |  Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room

Dusty Grable, BEVERAGE DIRECTOR  |  Merriman’s Hawai‘i

Kerry Ichimasa, ASSISTANT WINE DIRECTOR  |  Alan Wong’s

 


The Bottles

We photographed the wine and liquors from:

Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors Wai‘alae, 3496 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 735-7100, tamurasfinewine.com

The beer can be found at Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room and other beer retailers.

Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room, 675 Auahi St., (808) 369-0688, villagebeerhawaii.com


KOREAN

White:

Korean food is a challenge to pair with wine as there are so many intense flavors and aromas to deal with. What you have to focus on is what you’re having as your main dish instead of all of the banchan (side dishes). For meals that feature a spicy main dish, a dry, light riesling would be my suggestion. You could try the Gunderloch, Jean Baptiste or the Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling from New York.—KI

 

Rosé:

Goon mandu, or fried mandoo, with Champagne is delicious. I like a refreshing rosé such as Billecart-Salmon Rosé when it comes to mandoo. The fried crunch and effervescence go hand in hand but the rosé will hold up to any meat filling.—DG

 

Liquor:

Although Ken and Yomiko Hirata were trained in a more traditionally Japanese shochu style, we’re more than lucky to enjoy their Hawaiian Shochu Co. Namihana Shochu with not only Japanese food, but also Korean, too!—DG 

 

Hwayo 25 Soju is great with Korean food and I like mine slightly chilled, served neat.—KI 

 

Beer:

Traditionally, only super light and almost flavorless lagers are served with Korean food. But with all the exciting flavors going on—sweet, salty, spicy, smoky and sour—there’s so much more your beer could be offering. New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire Amber has a touch of malty sweetness that works well with marinades but has just enough hops to cut through any garlic or spice. Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale is an ideal pairing for kalbi, adding a touch of bready sweetness and toasted nuttiness to the whole mix.—TG

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Choi’s Family Restaurant, 1289 S. King St., (808) 591-1184

Ireh Restaurant, McCully Shopping Center, (808) 949-6000

O’Kims, 1028 Nu‘uanu Ave., (808) 537-3787

Sikdorak, 655 Ke‘eaumoku St., #108, (808) 949-2890

So Gong Dong, 745 Ke‘eaumoku St., (808) 946-8206

 


GREEK

White:

Greece was once one of the foremost producers of wine. It is surrounded by the Aegean Sea to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, the Cretan Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. As such you’ll find that the white wines are light, crisp, whimsical and fun … like Moscofilero from Domaine Skouras.—KI

 

Red:

My favorite red-wine-producing region in the world is the Northern Rhône of France. There, syrah is king. Northern Rhône Syrah and gamey lamb are a match and any excuse to drink Northern Rhône, I’m stoked. An older Cornas by Noel Verset from 2006, his last vintage, would be a night to remember.—DG

 

Beer:

Greek food and a fresh, uber aromatic hazy IPA are a match made in heaven. Try Honolulu Beerworks’ Surf Session IPA or Heretic Brewing’s Make America Juicy Again. The massive tropical fruit aromas and flavors from these beers, coupled with their moderate bitterness, make them an ideal pairing with gyros, lamb, fresh salads and herbs. Hazy IPAs have a softer, pillowy body that allows the hop flavors to shine through without being overly bitter or harsh.—TG

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Greek Marina, Koko Marina Center, (808) 396-8441

Olive Tree Café, 4614 Kīlauea Ave., (808) 737-0303

Yamas Mediterranean Cuisine, 1020 Keolu Drive, Kailua, (808) 263-4075

 


 

THAI

White:

Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling may be one of the best values out there and is a great answer to som tam, a spicy green papaya salad, which is also very cool and refreshing.—DG 

 

You want something with great aromatics, nice acidity, some sweetness and not too much alcohol. Dr. Loosen Blue Slate or Joh. Jos. Prüm from Mosel, Germany, are surefire winners.—KI

 

Liquor:

Match mango with sweet sticky rice and Royal Tokaji Late Harvest. This Hungarian late harvest, a sweeter dessert wine, would be a lovely addition to the traditional Thai dessert.—DG

 

Beer:

Stone Brewing’s Tropic of Thunder Lager has the light body you want in a lager, with an explosion of awesome tropical hoppy aromas. The fruity aromas—think pineapple, mango and lime—complement all of the wonderful herbs and spices in Thai dishes. The dry, snappy finish is the perfect way to cut through all of those flavors, as well.—TG

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Thai Issan Cuisine, Market City Shopping Center, (808) 735-4152

Thai Lao Restaurant, McCully Shopping Center, (808) 943-4311

Siam Palace Thai Restaurant, 730 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 732-7433

Phuket Thai Hawai‘i, 401 Kamake‘e St., (808) 591-8421

 


 

ITALIAN

White:

Seafood, fish dishes and cream-based sauces are best with white wines. Try a Falanghina, Feudi di San Gregorio.—KI

 

Red:

Paprika-crusted ‘ahi from the Mediterranean with olive tapenade would be just right for a Sella & Mosca Cannonau from Sardinia or a Malvasia by Birichino from Monterey.—DG

 

Red:

Full-bodied reds [such as] Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella are the most appropriate and suitable for red meats and aged cheeses.—KI

 

Bubbly:

Sparkling wines work great to start the meal off; for example, Ruggeri Prosecco.—KI

 

Liquor:

Espresso-soaked tiramisu with Kōloa Coffee Rum Liqueur from Kaua‘i would work.—DG

 

Beer:

Go for a Belgian-style saison like Saison DuPont. Its vibrant peppery aroma with touches of lemon zest and freshly cut grass are fantastic with lighter pasta dishes. Its higher fizzy carbonation can cut through thicker red sauces with ease.—TG

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Mediterraneo, 1809 S. King St., (808) 593-1466

Soffritto, 73 S. Pauahi St., (808) 524-4064

Win-Sputino, 2929 Kapi‘olani Blvd., (808) 732-1888

 


 

CHINESE

White:

With things like chow mein, lo mein or chow fun you come across strong soy sauce or sesame flavors, so I like an herbaceous and crisp sauvignon blanc to cut right through them. I enjoy Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.—KI

 

Red:

Hoisin plum sauce with crispy duck skin in bao and A. Rafanelli Zinfandel from Sonoma is pretty good.—DG

 

Bubbly:

Lambrusco comes into play again with Sichuan pepper. Try the Cleto Chiarli Grasparossa Lambrusco with Sichuan chicken feet.—DG

 

Liquor:

Paradise Ciders’ Kickit Ginger semisweet cider would be a nice complement to a spicy and gingery beef black bean stir-fry.—DG

 

Beer:

Chinese dishes and sour beer are soulmates. For dishes that are a bit heavier, like roasted duck or pork, look for a dark sour like Duchesse de Bourgogne. The wonderful deep sugary fruit notes of cherries, figs and dates are contrasted by a strong acidic, almost balsamic vinegar flavor that matches up nicely with any fatty or salty dish. For dim sum and lighter dishes look for a lighter, fruitier sour like Wittekerke Wild … aged in large oak barrels to allow it to pick up a slight lemony tartness and acidity.—TG

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Dew Drop Inn, 1088 S. Beretania St., (808) 526-9522

Little Village Noodle House, 1113 Smith St., (808) 545-3008

Moon Garden, 578 N. Vineyard Blvd., (808) 843-1868

Spicy Pavilion, 100 N. Beretania St., (808) 888-8306

 


 

BURMESE/INDIAN/NEPALESE

White:

With fermented tea leaf salad, try New Zealand sauvignon blanc, especially one with a little funky character like Greywacke Wild from Marlborough. It’s a wild fermented sauvignon blanc that has all the citrus and herbaceousness that is essential for a salad, but the fermented tea leaves will be elevated with the wild funk found in this wine.—DG

 

Beer:

Island Brewhaus Paka Bock—rich, malty and smoky made with smoked barley—paired with a smoky Indian eggplant, baingan ka bharta, would be good.—DG

 

A general rule of thumb is the hoppier and more bitter a beer, the more it will accentuate the heat from food. A Belgian witbier, like Du Bocq’s Blanche de Namur, has a touch of coriander spice and a soft wheat base that won’t flare up any spices from the food. Hints of citrus in a Belgian wit will add nicely to any Indian dish, while the carbonation will help cut through the richness and help cleanse your palate.—TG 

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Café Maharani, 2509 S. King St., (808) 951-7447

Café Taj Mahal, 3036 Wai‘alae Ave., #4, (808) 732-6496

Dagon, 2671 S. King St., (808) 947-0088

Himalayan Kitchen, 1137 11th Ave., (808) 358-7158

Rangoon Burmese Kitchen, 1131 Nu‘uanu Ave., (808) 367-0645

 


 

JAPANESE

White:

A fruity Spanish white like Palacio de Fefinanes Albarino would also make a nice match.—KI

 

Bubbly:

Gosset Brut Excellence and tart, salty ume is something I love.—DG

 

With sashimi and sushi try a Champagne/sparkling wine or even a nice rosé like J.Lassalle.—KI

 

Rosé:

If you want something still, the Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel rosé would be amazing.—KI

 

Liquor:

NamiHana again is simply delicious and a great way to enjoy local shochu with anything. Try it with Okinawan sweet potato tempura as it’s made with North Shore sweet potatoes.—DG

 

Beer:

With such delicate flavors you don’t want a beer that will overpower or cover anything up, especially raw fish. A German-style Kolsch, like Gigantic Brewing’s Kolschtastic, has the perfect combination of being light-bodied and crisp, yet with vibrant floral and fruity aromatics that can accentuate the gentle flavors of any Japanese dish. The ale is light and crisp like a lager, but has a touch more body that is perfect when devouring silky and fatty raw fish.—TG

 

WHERE TO BYOB

Asuka Nabe + Shabu Shabu, 3620 Waia‘alae Ave., (808) 735-6666

I-Naba, 1610 S. King St., (808) 953-2070

Kats Sushi, 715 S. King St., Sute 105, (808) 526-1268

Mitch’s Fish Market & Sushi Bar, 524 Ohohia St., (808) 837-7774

Morio’s Sushi Bistro, 2443 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 596-2288