THE NIGHT STUFF
Ocean Club Friday nights include good food, eclectic blend of sounds
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer
Just like the last time I showed up with friends about three years ago, tables inside and out were crowded with boisterous cliques of downtown co-workers and friends, mixed in with a few birthday and going-away partiers.
With music turned down to near-background levels, the focus is still squarely on food, drinks and conversation mostly office gossip ("Our manager is such a [expletive] loser!"), and gossip in general ("Her boyfriend is such a [expletive] loser!").
The music has changed a bit, though.
Swing and cocktail nation movements were making brief Hawai'i appearances during our last visit, long after becoming passe on both coasts, and the soundtrack was as frothy as a tropical drink topped with a paper umbrella. Think new- and old-school big band, electronic tiki tinkling and (as Sinatra once put it) songs for swingin' lovers. (Perry Como's "Papa Loves Mambo" was spun twice!)
The soundtrack this time was just as engagingly eclectic, but still sadly relegated to backdrop status. Ocean Club's trippy set list included an Alanis Morissette cover of "King of Pain," Elvis Costello and Burt Bachrach tackling "I'll Never Fall In Love Again," Jimi Hendrix's gorgeous "May This Be Love" and a couple of old-school (think Michael Stipe before male-pattern baldness kicked in) REM songs.
I enjoy hearing myself talk as much as much as anyone else, but I would've appreciated having Ocean's smartly-selected mix cranked up a bit louder. Not so we could dance, mind you, but just because it was that good.
Ocean's seafood-heavy pupu menu sports a decent selection of items that, at half-price until 8 p.m., were a bargain. The Pacific Crab Dip ($3.95) was tasty and heavy on crustacea, but deserving of a better bread than the semi-toasted French loaf that came with it.
Ocean's poke appetizer offered a generous helping of deep-red 'ahi in a tasty shoyu concoction mixed with crunchy limu, onions and cucumbers. The total for all of this, another appetizer and drinks? An entirely reasonable $21.75, with tip. The crowd was still keeping the kitchen busy after pupu kicked up to full price at 8 p.m.
Conversations vanished from the aural forefront and older patrons slowly drifted to the doors when the lights dimmed and the music cranked up for the early-evening dance crowd at 8:30 p.m. The floor was still filling when we left, moved by a mostly pedestrian best-of-'90s mix (Bobby Brown, Ace of Base) with the occasional moment of current sweetness (Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By").
"It's kind of become a habit for us ... before going to Wonderlounge," said Lynne Kawachi, from '!=ina Haina, discussing Ocean Club's Pau Hana Friday while negotiating a cosmo in one hand and a coconut shrimp in the other.
"The food is cheap, and the crowd is older and mellow. And our husbands know that no one really macks on anybody here."
But they still approve of Wonderlounge?
Got a night spot or club event we should check out? Reach Derek Paiva at email@example.com or 525-8005.
What: Pau Hana Fridays Ultimate Cocktail Hour
Where: Ocean Club, Restaurant Row, 531-8444
When: 4:30-8 p.m. Fridays
Cover: None until 8 p.m. ($5 cover 8 p.m.-4 a.m.)
Younger than 21 OK?: No. Be at least 23.
Age of crowd: mid-20s-late 40s
Dress code: Fashionably casual. No hats, shorts, slippers, sandals, athletic attire, torn or ripped jeans.
Attire we saw: Office wear, casual and mildly dressy. On women: work dresses, casual blouses and tops, pants, jeans, flats. On men: dress shirts, solid tees, polo shirts, aloha shirts, jeans, khakis, dress slacks.
Our arrival/departure: 7 p.m./9 p.m.
What we ate/drank: Pacific crab dip, spring rolls, poke, whiskey sour, cosmopolitan ($21.75 with tip)
Peak crowd while there: 175 to 200
Sample music: Before 8 p.m.: "All This Time" (Sting), "Fly" (Sugar Ray). After 8 p.m.: "Straight Up" (Paula Abdul), "Missing (Todd Terry Mix)" (Everything But The Girl)
Dancing?: After 8 p.m.