Basalt opened as part of an new-concept food court space in Waikiki run by ABC Stores in the fall of 2017. Under the direction of executive chef Keith Kong, who succeeded Kelly Degala last year, and chef de cuisine Gary Matsumoto, it’s evolved for the better.
Since I visited Basalt a year ago, the happy hour menu has been expanded, improved and made far more valuable.
Basalt can be found at the back of Duke’s Lane Market & Eatery. The court offers fast-food counter service, liquor and groceries/convenience items to go in spaces surrounding a casual grouping of tables.
Duke’s Lane, 2255 Kuhio Ave. (validated parking available at Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, 349 Seaside Ave.)
Happy hour: 3 to 6 p.m. daily
>> Adobo chicken wings, $8
>> Spicy kampachi poke, $8
>> Rotisserie Duck Empanadas, $5
>> Baja fish taco, $5
>> Cheeseburger, $5
>> South Pacific Sangria, $6
>> Well drinks, $5
A bar separates Basalt from the foregrounded spots, but also makes the restaurant a little hard to eyeball if you’re just walking by. A host station for the restaurant is at the right of the bar.
Sit inside at comfortable tables or outside in a section of the Duke’s Lane lanai that is reserved for the restaurant. If you’re focused on drinks or want to catch a game on TV, there are screens at the bar.
The decor is straightforward — functional, not show-offy. Plates, walls and counters are the color of basalt — gray-black —i giving the space a solid, cool (lava-tube cool) feel.
During happy hour, if the trades are blowing, it may be pleasant to take one of those lanai seats. At 6, live music begins.
While there’s some disconnect between the neon-lit counters up front and the elevated menu at the tables behind the bar, any reservations you may have about the quality of Basalt’s menu will disappear once you taste the food.
Tasty treats on Basalt’s pau hana menu, available from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, include some show-stoppers. All happy hour items are served in the same portions as on Basalt’s dinner menu.
The Spicy Kampachi Poke ($8, regularly $13) is served as a scoop in the middle of some oversized, attractive shrimp chips, atop another scoop of thick avocado mash. This pupu is generous, making it great for sharing, but if you were stopping in solo, it might be enough to tide you over all by itself.
I’m now a devotee of Basalt’s Rotisserie Duck Empanadas, which would definitely be a meal for me if I was dining alone. The two empanadas are just right — a bit crisp, a bit chewy, and filled with a good amount of duck — and served with pickled vegetables, watercress and a delicious dollop of avocado lime crema. Can’t stop thinking about this one, at just $5 (regularly $10). What a deal.
The Baja Fish Taco, $5 for one, is a happy hour specialty and worth venturing in for, with beer-battered local fish, a heap of creamy slaw and pico de gallo on a flour tortilla. Another winner.
All the above items jostle in my remembrance as favorites from the happy hour menu, but they also have to compete with Basalt’s Adobo Chicken Wings & Crackers. You have to be in the chicken wings state of mind to really crave this, but if you are, it comes with a bonus, the “crackers” of cracklin’ skin from the chicken, which are oh-so luscious, whether dipped in the garlic chili sauce or not.
Flatbread pizza ($7 or $8 during happy hour), a hamburger and teri burger ($5 or $6) from the Spitfire Rotisserie & Flatbread and Ono Burger Bar food counters out front are still available, and they’re good. I love that Ono Burger uses locally sourced meats, since I’m trying to concentrate on Hawaii-grown fare.
Still, unless that is exactly what you creave, I’d suggest leaving pizza and burgers for another time when you’re grabbing a quick bite. (This is completely different advice than I would have given last year.)
Take advantage of the Basalt kitchen to savor restaurant specialties at a savvy price.
Since I’ve discovered this new menu at Basalt, I’ve been back twice, and each time I’ve been drawn to the attractions of the restaurant’s South Pacific Sangria ($6), on the craft cocktail menu for happy hour. The great taste comes from strawberries, citrus and yuzu stirred into the mix; the real secret of the drink, however, may be the fact that it is spiked with both white wine and vodka, so that the alcohol taste is subtle but the effect is not.
A Basalt Mai Tai, Moscow Mule and Cool Burn cocktail — gin, lime, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, muddled cucumber, simple syrup and jalapeno for good measure — all $6, round out the drinks options.
Well drinks and house wines are $5; beer is $3 or $4.
Basalt has come into its own under the direction of Kong and Matsumoto. Both chefs have long experience at working high-volume restaurants — most recently, Duke’s Waikiki for Kong and the Hawaii Convention Center for Matsumoto — and bring a deft touch to serving up specialty fare here, exceeding expectations.
Happy hour fare is delicious, generously served and well-priced, making Basalt a true find in the heart of Waikiki.