New Chef, New Happy Hour at Waikīkī’s TBD
‘Ahi tostadas, crab cakes and Australian wagyu sliders highlight a new lounge menu.
With the departure of opening chef Vikram Garg, TBD, the cozy restaurant in the Diamond Head Lotus Hotel, is undergoing changes whose end result is still, well, to be determined. To start, the dining room wall facing Kapi‘olani Park has been opened up, refreshing the space with natural light and a welcome breeze. And new chef in residence Bryan Byard recently launched a bar and lounge menu featuring what he likes to describe as “modern hapa Hawaiian cuisine.” We were invited to stop by for happy hour and sample the new offerings.
Byard is the former executive chef of Kūhio Avenue’s Laylow hotel and its restaurant, Hideout Waikīkī; he’s also a veteran of Bay Area kitchens and the former Sheraton Kona Resort. Craft cocktails are by expert barman Brian Loesche, formerly of Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar. The drinks arrive first. The Butterfly Effect ($18) employs the crowd-pleasing purple of butterfly pea tea layered atop a mix of peppercorn-infused gin and yuzu with a floral hint of jasmine. Citrusy notes from the peppercorn are pleasantly harmonizing. I also try the Dew We or Don’t We ($18), which mixes house-made honeydew syrup with mezcal and feels unexpected. In addition, a bergamot liqueur, lemongrass and shiso make for a refreshing and herbaceous take on the smoky spirit.
Food is generously portioned—so much so that I glance at the next table to see if this is the norm. It is. Two Maine-style crab cakes ($26) topped with dollops of citrus aioli and local pea tendrils are the size of large ice cream scoops. I could share, but I won’t. Filler and panko are sparse and not missed amid the lumps of blue crab.
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A simple but satisfying arugula salad ($22) and ‘ahi tostadas ($25) arrive next. Local tomatoes, fried shallots and aged balsamic top a mountain of greens beneath a snowy dusting of parmesan. The tostadas are a trio: Thin, crispy wonton disks hold chunks of Hawai‘i Island ‘ahi, wasabi aioli and avocado purée. This plate especially screams pau hana with friends.
Other favorites from our sampling include a simple preparation of beautiful blue New Zealand mussels ($24), intensely tasty kung pao Brussels sprouts ($14) topped with pickled Fresno chilies and peanuts, and a tender cast-iron seared prime skirt steak with maitake mushrooms and a yuzu ponzu ($42). And the Australian wagyu French onion sliders ($26). A play on the soul-satisfying soup, these babies are far better than they look—toasted brioche buns, melted gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rich, velvety veal jus for pouring or dipping. Served with a side of house-pickled vegetables, this is “I’m not sharing” good.
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Amid all the dishes, the furikake french fries ($12) and garlic baguette ($10) fade into the background, but how could they not? I also wasn’t severely taken by the dessert preparations ($13) and would go with another cocktail instead. Happy hour is a slim window from 5 to 6 p.m. where you can get $2 off of food and $3 off beer, wines by the glass and the Mai Tai. So, gather up your work buddies or besties, reserve on OpenTable, and pro tip: Request a window table. And stay tuned for more offerings that are still TBD.
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 to 8:30 p.m, happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m, 2885 Kalākaua Ave. 2nd floor, (808) 746-5785, tbdhawaii.com, @tbdhawaii