Chai’s Island Bistro

Live music and fantastic food make this bustling night spot a must-visit

Good news: You don’t have to wait until the weekend anymore to spend a night out on the town! Enjoy fine food, marvelous live music and the company of friends on a Monday, Tuesday, or even Wednesday if you like. Chai Chaowasaree, owner and executive chef of Chai’s Island Bistro, says Wednesday is the most popular day to head to his fine dining establishment at Aloha Tower Marketplace, with a little help from the Brothers Cazimero.

Robert and Roland play their legendary music live onstage every Wednesday night, at the perfect volume for diners at both inside and outside tables to hear. Walking into Chai’s, it’s easy to see why the 10-year-old restaurant continuously draws in guests. At Chai’s, it’s all about the experience – the slightly dimmed lights, the large glass doors open at the front entrance allowing for views of the surrounding city at night, the mouth-watering menu, the comforting chatter of surrounding diners, and of course, the nightly lineup of popular and talented Hawaiian entertainers, including the famous Cazimeros.

“I’ve known Rob (Cazimero) for a long time. I look at who’s the best and contact them,” says Chaowasaree, adding that “Entertainers want to perform here. They want to support us, because we support Hawaiian music. Friends come to see them play, relatives. Every group has their own followers.”

At Chaowasaree’s other restaurant, Singha Thai Cuisine in Waikiki, which just celebrated 20 years of business, he also has created a unique dining experience, featuring the Royal Thai Dancers as nightly entertainment. When he opened Chai’s, which features Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Chaowasaree also wanted to have the right accompanying entertainment, which he says had to be Hawaiian and had to be entertainers of the best quality – acts that people would normally pay to see. At the time, Chaowasaree recalls, the Brothers Cazimero and HAPA were among the most popular, so he got them on board, and both acts still perform regularly at Chai’s. Other regular entertainers are Raiatea Helm, Amy Hanaialii Gilliom, Melveen Leed, Makana, Maunalua, Jerry Santos and Bruce and Jake Shimabukuro. Check out Chai’s website, www. for the current month’s entertainment lineup.

“These are all the best,” Chaowasaree says of the restaurant’s musical acts.

Aside from the entertainment, the food – oh, my goodness the food! – is the reason to head to Chai’s. Chaowasaree describes his cuisine as similar to Alan Wong’s or Roy’s because all three have similar backgrounds. He makes changes to the restaurant’s menu about every six months, only changing 20 percent, making sure to keep the popular dishes. The chef even has added some unusual edibles to the menu over the years, including rabbit, snake and frog’s legs, which he confirms do taste like chicken. Chaowasaree makes sure to use local ingredients for all dishes, unusual or not, by buying from local farmers and taking advantage of their fresh items.

Dinner is served nightly from 4 p.m., and once you set foot inside, your full evening begins, with food served and drinks delivered at a comfortable pace, allowing for breaks in between courses and time to enjoy the music.

“We don’t rush our guests. The table
is yours,” says Chaowasaree.

Your dinner experience will begin with, if you like, an appetizer or two. Some popular choices include the combination platter (Alaskan king crab cake, fresh ahi katsu, kataifi mac-nut encrusted jumbo black tiger prawns), salmon tartar and the chef-recommended baked stuffed quail.

Chaowasaree says all the entree selections are popular because customers’ tastes vary, and some like meat dishes, while others prefer seafood. A big seller, however, is the fresh Chilean sea bass with lobster cream sauce, as well as the steamed Chinese-style fresh whole moi with ginger and green onions and the grilled beef tenderloin with fresh shiitake mushroom demiglace. Enjoy your meal with a glass (or bottle) of chilled sake or red or white wine. The pinot noir Au Bon Climat pairs well with the beef tenderloin, and the Chardonnay Trefethen nicely accompanies the sea bass. Chaowasaree keeps a stock of about 20 varieties of vodka, perfect for making martinis.

Saving room for dessert means savoring every satisfying bite of the white chocolate amore truffle, chocolate pyramid or even the crème brulee sampler.

So when should you take your night on the town? Chaowasaree says come anytime!

“Every night is different,” he says. “It depends on who is performing, (but) we’ll be a full house no matter what.”

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