After months of waiting … and waiting … and waiting, chef Lee Anne Wong’s newest restaurant is finally opening to the public Friday night. It seems quite fitting that the name is Hale Ohuna (which means “secret house” in Hawaiian), since her trial runs Sunday and last night were for insiders only, and invitees were forbidden to post anything significant on social media, much less blog about it.
Usually someone from Frolic might bust in and get some early food shots, but since we are dealing — ahem — with one pushy Chinese broad to another, the best we can do is give you a peek at what it looks like inside.
Hale Ohuna is in the former Salt space, which is still owned by Kevin Hanney of 12th Avenue Grill and has the same urban, loft-like layout. The first floor has a long bar and features spirits near and dear to Lee Anne’s heart, like top-notch whiskies (many Japanese) and exclusive sakes not found in Hawaii. There’s also certain beers and some other items that are exclusive to this restaurant, thanks in part to Lee Anne’s contacts in New York.
One of the main things Lee Anne did was transform the walls with pops of color and texture from local artists, curated by Sarah Tamashiro. The art you see all over the restaurant is fresh, contemporary, and for sale, making it as much of a Hawaiian art gallery as it is a modern noodle bar. A lot of the wood furniture — done by Daniel Anthony and other local woodworkers — has a rustic look but feels refined and ergonomic when you sit on it. The custom lighting was done by local artist Mark Chai, all unique art pieces in themselves. And yes, the furniture (within reason) and the lighting is for sale, too.
It’s still a hale, so Lee Anne brought the rest of the space to life with photos and pieces from her own home, so you feel like you are in a longtime kama’aina house. (See if you can find the one of her dressed as a mouse for Halloween.) Here’s a look at the space, the art, and the thought behind Sarah and Lee Anne’s process.
My favorite spot is the Green Room, a little hideaway on the second floor.
Inside, you’ll find more furniture by Daniel Anthony and lights by Mark Chai, with vintage sounds (thanks to Hungry Ear Records) giving it a very exclusive, “hidden opium den” kind of ambience. You don’t need a secret password to get in, either.
Hale Ohuna opens on Friday, September 4 at 5 p.m. for dinner. See you there!
3605 Waialae Ave. (formerly Salt)