Party pics: SKY Waikiki’s Grand Opening

SKY Waikiki held its official grand opening Saturday after a VIP/media preview the previous night, featuring guest DJs Brody Jenner and Devin Lucien. The much anticipated opening of the new Vegas-style club had people lined up all the way down the block, with some waiting nearly three hours get in, since it was packed from open to close.

After the madness of opening weekend, SKY will be open seven days a week with various programming, from 5 p.m. to midnight, except for Fridays and Saturdays, when it will be open until 2 a.m.

For more details and information on Honolulu’s newest hot spot, check out our Something New: SKY Waikiki.

SKY Waikiki's Grand Opening

Picture 1 of 27

Photo by Tracy Chan

Party pics: Manifest’s 6th Anniversary Party

Happy birthday, Manifest! Hard to believe that it’s been six years since the Chinatown club, headed up by young entrepreneur Brandon Reid, opened its doors on Hotel Street, promising a haven for the eclectic, artistic and intelligent. Over time, it’s also evolved into a banging hip-hop club and espresso bar, with one of the best whiskey selections in town and a full range of stiff, top-quality cocktails made by award-winning bartenders. Manifest’s success appears to be a result of being good at many things, and not just one.

Saturday’s anniversary party was themed “Casablanca,” and at least a few guests came dressed in ’40s attire. The party started at 7 p.m. with live music by The Bentos, an acoustic performance by Matt Melendez, comedians Ray Lamay & Easten, and later on in the night, #Superhandsome DJs SSSolution, Jon C and Delve. Here’s to six saucy years, and many more!

Manifest's 6th Anniversary Party

Picture 1 of 19

Photo by Tracy Chan

Something new: SKY Waikiki

IMG_9966 It’s been a long time coming, and it’s finally here. SKY Waikiki, which originally was set to open September of last year, finally opened its doors on Friday. And like that girlfriend who’s late to the party because she spent so long doing her hair and putting an outfit together, our reaction was “the results better be worth it.” Is SKY worth the wait? Take a closer look…

Here’s the schedule for opening weekend:
SKY Waikiki Grand Opening with Brody Jenner & Devin Lucien
Saturday, Aug. 29 from 9 p.m.-2 a.m.
$10, 21+, Classy clubwear/formal attire recommended

Sunset Sessions with The Green and Afatia Thompson
Sunday, Aug. 30 at 4 p.m.
$10 Cover (Free for kama’aina before 5 p.m.), 21+, Resort Casual Attire, Sundresses recommended

The Construction:

Look at that view!

Plans for SKY Waikiki date back to May 2013, when owners/operators Leighton Mau, Alika Mau, Darren Seu and Kainoa Akina announced their goals for a new venue. The four business partners also own and operate the Waikiki Business Plaza, Top of Waikiki and Waikiki Shopping Plaza.

It started with an additional deck, built out below the landmark disc that marks Top of Waikiki. When you see the inside, you’ll understand why it took so long to get ready. The inside space is small but lavish, with ambient tropical lighting behind the bar, a huge 30-foot set of screens depicting island scenes at one end, and an open-air deck at the other. While you may initially be surprised that the inside is so small, the outside lanai deck makes up for it, with gorgeous views (about a 320-degree view) of Diamond Head, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach and the mountains.

“It’s exciting that everything’s come together and it’s finally here,” said Jovan Andow, managing partner. “We’re providing a place that is upscale, yet approachable, with a stunning view, and we want our patrons who are here tonight to feel welcome to back again and again.”

Waikiki’s second rooftop lounge, SKY, does boast better views than Buho, and while it might be problematic in rainy season or on hot days, the space is versatile, equally able to host events of any kind inside or out. The venue, located on the 19th floor of the Waikiki Business Plaza and two floors below the newly remodeled Top of Waikiki is 7,000-square feet total, and is designed for a max capacity of 400 people, with three full-service bars.

The staff:

IMG_0051 Running the restaurant is Executive Chef Lance Kosaka, and in charge of the cocktail menu is Top of Waikiki mixologist Jennifer Ackrill. The team here has been in the biz for a while; Darren Seu’s grandfather William Mau is the visionary businessman who developed the Waikiki Shopping Plaza and the Waikiki Business Plaza and opened Top of Waikiki in the 1960s. Although it could be viewed as a family-run business, word from the staff is that the management puts great emphasis on building a team that works well together. Most of the staff went through five weeks of intensive training, and it shows in the way they interact with each other. It’s nice to see a bar’s employees looking out for each other with genuine care — clearing the way, spotting customers who need help, and many other small gestures that improve the flow in a crowded bar or club.

The drinks:

DSC05686Amanda: “I loved the Iolani Spritz signature cocktail, made with hibiscus-infused organic cucumber vodka with lime juice and a splash of soda.”

Tracy: “The Pineapple Gangster, with Belvedere Vodka, Amaro Montenegro, pineapple juice, mole bitters and egg white fizz on top sprinkled with grated cinnamon, was totally my style.”

Liquor to SKY is supplied by Southern, but the cocktails are created in house by the Top of Waikiki head mixologist Jen Ackrill from Top of Waikiki, formerly of Rye in San Francisco and very briefly Salt Kaimuki, and her team of experienced bartenders. One thing you’ll find here that is worthy of a sophisticated craft bar are the custom syrups and other house-made ingredients. Average cocktail prices aren’t cheap, but they’re reasonable for craft cocktails, at $11-$13. The bar also offers very limited draft beers on tap for $5 and house wine for $8.

The food:

foodAt the soft opening, food was served in bite-sized bits, but it’s expected that more substantial dishes will be offered later on. If you’ve ever dined at Top of Waikiki, expect a small-plate pupu-style menu of the same caliber that includes dishes like truffle flatbread pizza and ahi poke with avocado mousse, popcorn shrimp with real popcorn and the ahi and tofu “panna cotta” salad (pictured).

The programming:

djAlthough its emphasis will be more clublike on Friday and Saturday nights (expect to see lots of celebrity guest DJs here, as well as well-known local Top 40 club DJs like Compose, Anit and Toma), the management is aiming for more of the rooftop bistro lounge vibe. SKY will be open seven days a week, from 5 p.m.-midnight, except for Fridays and Saturdays, when it will be open until 2 a.m.

There will likely be a cover charge on weekend nights, but already SKY is trying to make locals feel welcome, with perks like getting in free for the first hour, something that other upscale Waikiki clubs like Addiction have failed to do.

The crowd:

DJ Brody Jenner and DJ Devin Lucien

DJ Brody Jenner and DJ Devin Lucien

It’s rumored that SKY is aiming to capture locals who currently frequent places like M, Trump and Addiction, as well as out-of-towners looking for an upscale establishment with a great view. As things settle down, it’s likely that the lounge will form a solid fan base though, and not just because of aggressive marketing, but because of the merits of a fantastic view, exclusive but comfortable feel, friendly staff and solid food and drink menus.

Here are more photos from the VIP opening Friday night, with celebrities Brody Jenner, Devin Lucien, Victoria Justice and others, a guest appearance by the Red Bull Skydivers and the food and drinks!

Something new: SKY Waikiki

Picture 1 of 58

Photo by Melissa Chang


Guide to the Great Waikiki Beer Festival

glass-of-beer-1328545-1279x1884The inaugural Great Waikiki Beer Festival happens at the Hilton Hawaiian Village this weekend, with a paired Brewer’s Dinner on Friday, the big beer event with 100 brews on Saturday and a “recovery day” Brewer’s Brunch on Sunday.

Without further ado, here are some beers to look for plus a guide to the events.

The Beer

Nothing wards off the summer mugginess like an ice-cold beer. There’ll be 100 local and national craft brews to try at this weekend’s fest.

A word to the wise: Seriously, don’t even try to sample all 100. You won’t remember your favorites. Here’s a few picks to start you off:

Sierra Nevada Experimental Hop Harvest draft – OK, you got me. I’m a sucker for anything that says “experimental” or “beta.” The Hop Harvest line sierra nevadafrom Sierra Nevada showcases whole cone hops with a zesty, fresh IPA aroma steam-distilled from wet hops.

Aloha Red Ale – A smooth, refreshing, malty red ale from the now-retired 580 N. Nimitz Highway brewery by Sam Choy’s, this was one of my favorite ales to pair with poke and fried foods. Approachable flavor for those looking for something in between light and dark beers.

2 Towns – Ginja Ninja – An astonishing offering from 2 Towns Ciderhouse in Oregon, this is a stealthy bit of deliciousness made with fresh apples and pure ginger root that will creep up on you with a bite and then disappear in a flashy fizz.

Deschutes – Twilight Summer Ale – An award-winning golden-hued ale with a malt body led by bold Amarillo hops.

Green Flash – West Coast IPA – Did you know that there’s only so much bitterness human taste buds can register? Green Flash is notorious for going beyond that, with an IBU (International Bitterness Unit) level in this complex Double IPA that’ll blow your mind if you think about it too hard, but that still feels good on your tongue. For the serious lover of IPAs.

Maui Brewing Company – Kihei Kolsch – What makes a Kolsch a Kolsch? The term Kölsch was first officially used in 1918 to describe a stylistically kihei kolschunique beer that had been brewed by the Sünner brewery in Cologne, Germany since 1906. Kihei Kolsch shares the traits of this esteemed German style with a crisp and flavorful straw-yellow brew made with light European Pilsner malts, a blend of traditional German noble hops and spicy, citrusy hops from the Pacific Northwest.

Belching Beaver Brewery – Peanut Butter Milk Stout – Like a chocolate and peanut butter candy bar in a bottle. A mild, creamy brew that’s surprisingly refreshing for a stout. One of my all-time favorite beers that I’ll never turn down.

Gigantic Brewing Company – Ginormous Imperial IPA – The name pretty much says it all. If you’re looking for an IPA with big flavor, you’ve come to the right one. Developed in a secret testing facility deep in Portland, Ginormous is powered by seven mighty hops. His mission is simple: deliver a massive hop punch to those in need.

MEHANA – Mauna Kea Pale Ale – An easy drinking, refreshing pale ale that pairs GREAT with Thai or Indian food (although you’re not likely to find either at this weekend’s festival), this ale, named for Big Island’s majestic mountain, is a dry, well-balanced brew with lots of up-front hoppiness and malt.

Honolulu Beerworks – Pia Mahi’ai Honey Citrus Saison – A fruity tribute to the classic Belgian farmhouse ale style, this local saison is brewed with locally grown oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, lemongrass and Big Island Honey for a smooth, unfiltered, slightly spicy finish.

Square Mile – Spur & Vine Cider – Especially in this summer heat, we’re seeing an increase in popularity of hard ciders. Spur & Vine puts a Northwest twist on the classic American hard apple cider, with Galaxy hops, a cold conditioning brewing method and aromas of peach, melon and honeysuckle with less hoppy bitterness.

Traveler Jack – Traveler Jack-O-Pumpkin Shandy – For those who will always take the road less traveled, just to see what will happen. Balanced right between brightly refreshing and seasonal spice, Jack is brewed with fresh pumpkin, for a delicious dark-hued, Shandy-inspired beer that’s still light enough to finish off a few.


The events

All events take place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. For tickets, call 947-7955 or visit the Luau Desk in the main lobby.

Friday, Aug. 28 : “Taste of the Aina” Brewers Dinner – 6-9pm
Rooftop Garden – Mid-Pacific Conference Center
Tickets $120, must be 21+

A five-course menu of locally sourced ingredients paired with select beers from Hawaii’s top breweries. Local brewers will be on hand to talk beer and brewing and share the art of beer pairing. Live music by Kamuela.

Saturday, Aug. 29 : Great Waikiki Beer Festival – A Celebration of 100 Beers, 6-9pm
Great Lawn fronting the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, Must be 21+
Tickets $80 or $90 at the door, $100 for Early Access with 5pm entry, 15 percent military discount
Ticket holders can purchase additional 4-oz tastings for $2

The big beer event, celebrating 100 beers. Live entertainment by Anuhea, Backwards Shaka and Kailua Bay Buddies. Tickets include 10 4-oz beer samples, food, live entertainment and complimentary validated self-parking.

Sunday, Aug. 30 : Rehab Beer Brunch – 9am-3pm
Tropics Bar & Grill, beachfront Hilton Hawaiian Village

Recover from the weekend with a Brewer’s Brunch featuring island brunch favorites, $4 beer selections and Bloody Marys. No reservations required.


anuheaThe Entertainment

Kamuela will be providing the music on Friday at the Brewer’s Dinner.

Saturday, August 29 is the big event, with the giant celebration of 100 beers, plus live entertainment by Island favorite Anuhea, along with Backwards Shaka and Kailua Bay Buddies.


The lowdown

This isn’t just a great place to drink craft beers and try amazing food, it’s helping out a good cause.
“The goal is to provide support to Hawaii’s Wounded Warriors and their families, offering them respite from the difficulties of their injuries and transition from the military,” said Scott Hamilton, Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Director of Food and Beverage. “The Wounded Warrior units we are supporting include Warrior Transition Battalion, Tripler Army Medical Center and Wounded Warrior Battalion West – Charlie Company (Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii). Funds will go to support activities for all branches of services, including Wounded Warrior Family Days, Military Balls and other events.”


Party pics: Isle9 Fvck Cancer Showcase

Berlin met Honolulu in Friday night’s Isle9 block party, which encompassed eight bars in Chinatown with guest house and electro DJs from Germany; fire spinners; live music and more. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go toward helping both Daniel Gray and Christa Wittmier in their respective fights against cancer.

Isle9 Showcase: Fvck Cancer

Picture 1 of 20

Photo by Tracy Chan