Liholiho Yacht Club, the new Tendernob restaurant from Ravi Kapur and the Nopa gang, is off to a banging start: last night's opening-night service was packed to the gills, with every table occupied and walk-ins clamoring for the handful of seats in the front of the restaurant. Its owners say it's already booked up through the weekend, so don't expect those crowds to abate anytime soon. Here's what we observed over the course of the first night at Liholiho.
1) A pleasant surprise in a new restaurant that has a lot of hard surfaces and a lot of people inside: Liholiho is actually pretty quiet. There was clearly some major investment in soundproofing at this place, and it's definitely paid off.
2) As is trendy these days (see also: Alta CA, The Progress), the sunny yellow-tiled kitchen here is completely open to the dining room: if it weren't for the phalanx of cooks busy plating and prepping dishes, you could easily and accidentally walk right into it.
3) Tuna was the biggest seller on night one: co-owner Jeff Hanak said the restaurant had sold out of both tuna poke and tuna belly by 8:30 pm. Other popular orders: the lamb ribs with dates and watermelon radish, and the twice-cooked pork shank with pineapple and fennel.
4) On the drinks side, no one libation led the pack, but Arrested Development fans will appreciate the Bluth Cocktail, which is made with banana liqueur. (There's always money in the banana stand.)
5) For its friends and family dinners, Liholiho eschewed the traditional invite-a-bunch-of-chefs format, instead allowing the staff to bring their families and kids, in true island spirit. "There were a bunch of kids running around. It was great," says Hanak.
6) Might Baked Alaska be making a comeback? The dessert menu features a "baked Hawaii," with caramelized pineapple ice cream and vanilla shortbread surrounded by torched vanilla royal icing.
7) Liholiho's downstairs is still under construction, but once it opens, the team is thinking of offering an entirely different menu on nights when it's not booked for private dining. It also has its own bar, and will have its own cocktail menu. Expect it in nine months or so.
8) The check comes with two full shot glasses, but they aren't booze: instead, they're a sour berry herbal tea, which is meant to aid digestion.
9) Most of the dishes on the menu are in the $12-35 range, but serious ballers will want to go straight for the furikake brioche with French onion, which arrives accompanied by an ounce of either California white sturgeon ($60) or Bulgarian Osetra ($120) caviar.
10) Finally, in the "aww" department: Kapur christened the restaurant on Wednesday morning by making breakfast there for his adorable mini-me son, Makoa, before he went to school.