Wings, Quesadillas and a Maserati: Artizen’s New Happy Hour
Welcome to Honolulu’s quirkiest budget happy hour.
It’s not the strangest thing in the world to find a happy hour inside a car dealership, but it’s up there. Artizen by MW shares a space with Velocity in the luxe Symphony Honolulu condo tower, but the food comes from upscale MW Restaurant upstairs, and despite the address, most of the six happy hour dishes are $6. So hello, chicken wings, boiled peanuts and Maseratis!
We show up on Tuesday, Day Two of happy hour, and order all six dishes. We also confirm rumors of a 2 to 5 p.m. happy hour at MW—which is not on its website, but which we liked at the old MW on Makaloa Street. That puts two happy hours at this corner of Ward and Kapiolani: the one upstairs, which is limited to the bar and has crab cakes and cocktails, and the one spread out on our table, which has neither. Finally, when we go up to pay, we find out chef-owners Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka have comped the food bill.
So what are we eating in the company of Jaguars and Ferraris? Here’s a look.
Happy hour is a lot more brown than we expect, but then again, this is the first time Artizen’s even doing happy hour. You might recall it started out as a casual-chic Downtown café with counter service, which it still is here if you minus the cars. Glasses of Beaujolais ($8) and Honolulu Beerworks Kewalos cream ale ($4) aside, there is a huge dissonance in plunging your paws into a pile of Shake and Bake chicken wings ($6) when you’re sitting next to a red Maserati—but you should. The wings’ delicate, crunchy crust comes from crushed Corn Flakes; it protects a tender, juicy interior. A total steal, especially with Ludovico Farms chicken.
Quesadillas this week (there’s a weekly quesadilla, $6) are stuffed with smoky pulled Mountain View Farms pork and provolone and cheddar cheeses. Super-thin tortillas are grilled to just crispy—could be crispier, actually—for a warm, floppy, flavorful pūpū.
The surprise hit of the fried baby tako ($9), which is pretty much like local-style tempura, is the wasabi koji dipping sauce. It’s not cheap tubes of green-dyed fake wasabi that flavor it, but the sweeter, more nuanced real thing. You could dip your skinny yukari fries ($6), sprinkled with salty dried shiso flakes, in this, but the fries come with their own shiso dip with a hint of honey.
Kim chee poke ($10 today) is market price, cubes of fresh ‘ahi sweetened by a spicy-salty sauce with crunchy daikon and bubu arare. A total beer chaser. So are the boiled peanuts, a generous bowl of chilled jumbo peanuts in the shell ($6) which taste like … boiled peanuts. This is what you get at the point in your happy hour when you’re just downing the beers and reliving all your carport pau hanas and Monday Night Football games.
Pau hana—I mean happy hour—at Artizen is local-style chill. If you sit outside on the patio along Ward Avenue, or you sit inside facing mauka, you‘ll forget you’re in a car showroom. See below.
Two more things: This is a weekday pau hana from 4 to 7 p.m., and there’s self-parking on the ground floor of Symphony (enter from Kapiolani Boulevard) until 5 p.m., when valets for MW and Artizen arrive. The signs imply that valet service starts at 4, but don’t be like us, crawling through the structure with other confused drivers, just park if it’s before 5.