One of Waikiki’s swankiest hotels has turned to a veteran of Chinatown’s food and drink scene to help open two new restaurants and a bar eight floors above the hustle and bustle near the intersection of Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues.
Dusty Grable made a name for himself with a successful trifecta of Chinatown establishments, helping develop and run beverage programs at Lucky Belly, Livestock Tavern and the Tchin Tchin Bar. More recently, he honed his talents even more with stints at Amuse Wine Bar inside the Honolulu Design Center and the new Merriman’s Honolulu.
Now he’s landed at the Ritz-Carlton Residences, where he is general manager of three new food and beverage options: modern French restaurant La Vie and its connected bar/lounge area, aptly called The Lounge, as well as the open-air Italian trattoria Quiora.
While the cocktail programs at the restaurants have yet to be finalized, that’s not the case at The Lounge, where Grable has hired some of his former staff from previous establishments to help him. And while the Ritz might have a reputation for being a bit pricey, Grable is working hard to establish a separate identity for his operations that will make them destinations worth seeking out on their own.
“We want people to say, ‘Let’s go have a drink at The Lounge,’ rather than just, ‘Hey, let’s go drink at the Ritz,’” said Grable.
Initially catching the eye are the prices, and not because they’re ritzy. At a time when $20 craft cocktails are the norm, Grable has made it a point to price the drinks reasonably at $14 each. That doesn’t mean skimping on ingredients, though; try one of the “Timeless Classics” like a rye Old-Fashioned, cosmopolitan or sazerac, and you’ll be served premium pours from brands like Knob Creek, Hangar 1 and Cognac Park.
And since you’re in Waikiki, there’s no shame in ordering a mai tai or chi-chi here. Even straightforward drinks, like a whiskey smash or pisco sour, are elevated with the use of calamansi limes and hibiscus syrup, respectively.
But the menu really shines when you pick something from the “Inspired Cocktails” section of the menu. Grable, surprisingly, didn’t contribute a single recipe to the opening lineup of drinks here, instead relying on his staff to deliver.
And they do — the Smoked Roots beautifully melds the smokiness of El Silenco mezcal with the viscous mouthfeel of fresh olena agave and fresh local ginger, while a hit of yuzu juice provides a necessary touch of citrus tang that ties it all together.
I also loved the Paradise Cidy, made with locally produced Paradise Cider and Guiffard banana liqueur. The cider used here is made with prickly pear, which gives the cocktail a slight tinge of spice without any associated heat. This one is a fantastic cocktail with low alcohol by volume that will let you enjoy a drink without feeling too wasted afterward.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences are at 383 Kalaimoku St. Call 922-8111.
NOW IS a good time to visit Tap & Barrel, Lanikai Brewing Co.’s tasting room at 167 Hamakua Drive. Co-founder and CEO Steve Haumschild has his brewery firing on all cylinders these days, pumping out a number of delicious brews that can be enjoyed on-premises or taken home in a growler or bottle.
I was tempted to visit last month when LBC introduced its new Interplanetary Ale, or as I’ve grown accustomed to yelling out at random while enjoying a pint of the stuff: SPACE BEER!
Haumschild has really elevated the local brewing game with his use of yeast strains found in nature to make beer, but Lanikai Brewing’s Interplanetary Ale takes things a step further … into the stratosphere, to be exact.
Last year, Haumschild befriended a couple of NASA research pilots who stopped in for a few drinks at his brewery. Soon after, he talked the pilots into taking an exposed petri dish along the next time they took their aircraft for a spin at 70,000 feet above Earth, to prospect for wild yeast.
The resulting beer, which debuted last month in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, is definitely drinkable. But the story, to me, is a little better than the brew. It starts off as an inoffensive, middle-of-the-road ale, but there’s a funkiness on the end (one LBC beertender described it as “overripe fruit”) that’s just too much for me.
Haumschild acknowledged his space beer wouldn’t make everyone happy, but he also reminded me why it’s so much fun to be in the beer business — if one beer doesn’t work out, you can always make another.
And that’s exactly what LBC is doing this summer with heaters like the Haleakala American wild ale, brewed with fresh strawberries, or Dat Hazy Faka New England IPA, made with tango fruit, a mandarin orange hybrid. I also like how Tap & Barrel rotates new beers in every few days, then teases fans on social media with constant photo updates to ensure a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out). I had been itching to visit for weeks before finally making it down last month.
Want to make yourself jealous (or just thirsty)? Follow LBC on Instagram or on Facebook. Also, mark your calendar to head down and celebrate Tap & Barrel’s second birthday on Aug. 30 starting at 5 p.m.
CONGRATS TO the Myna Bird Tiki Bar’s Atticus Hood, who won $2,000 and bragging rights among International Market Place bartenders when he took top honors in the second annual Battle of the Bartenders competition.
Hood beat out Eating House 1849’s Teves Freitas and Flour & Barley’s Tony Hollinrake with a more “bespoke” version of the classic mai tai. His drink, The Crystal Dagger, used a blend of three local rums that he infused with coconut oil and mixed with his own pandan orgeat and lime acid.
Using lime acid instead of lime juice also allowed Hood to showcase pineapple rum pearls he made for the drink.
“I wanted to change up the presentation and do something really unique,” he explained. “Using lime acid allowed me to stir the cocktail and not cloud it at all.”
CONGRATS ALSO to Hood’s boss at the Myna Bird, Andrew Woodley, as well as Encore Saloon’s Sarah Stephens for being named to the list of top 100 bartenders in the 13th Annual Most Imaginative Bartender Competition presented by Bombay Sapphire.
Next up for the two is a local visit by one or more contest judges, which is new to the competition in 2019. Sometime before the end of the month, they’ll be visited at their own bars during normal business hours and asked to create their entries for the judge(s).
After being evaluated on the balance, flavor, imagination and appearance of their drinks, among other factors, judges will select 36 semifinalists to advance to regional competition. From there, 12 national finalists will be selected and flown to London for four nights to prepare for the finals in Chicago next February, with $25,000 going to theoverall winner.
Good luck to both!