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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 7, 2005

Pau hana pals and pupu, with side order of song

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Leimomi Gabriel, left, and Holly Gasper, both of Pearl City, enjoy karaoke at the Aku Bone lounge.

Photos by Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Lorentia "Rent" Nihoa of Waikiki entertains friends at the bar when her turn for karaoke comes around.

Aku Bone

Lounge & Grill

1201 Kona St.

Open 6 p.m.-2 a.m. nightly


Remember Irene Cara?

A petite brunette singing her lungs out at Aku Bone Lounge & Grill sure did. Sitting at a large table, karaoke microphone in hand, while the rest of her friends dug deeply into plates loaded with pork chops and fried chicken oblivious to her impassioned rendition of "Out Here On My Own," she sang as if auditioning for Paula, Randy and Simon.

She finished the song with note-for-note perfection, put the mike down and smiled demurely at the scattered applause. Then she commenced tearing the meat off a pork chop like a hungry construction worker at lunch hour.

I liked Aku Bone's laid-back, local-style atmosphere — neon beer signs and strung twinkle lights, ceiling fans, mismatched tables and chairs, and a life-size papier mÅchÚ surf bum in a hammock hanging from the rafters. I liked the sociable patrons who applauded every singer and were concerned about our after-hours plans.

But spend even five minutes at Aku Bone and you'll quickly discover that what the place is really all about is the pupu.

Aku Bone's pupu menu isn't the largest you'll find in town. What it is, though, is that kind of terrific only-in-Hawai'i menu of grinds that instantly waters the mouths of anyone born local, while converting Mainlanders to the wonders of sardines and onions.

Miso salmon and butterfish? Got it. SautÚed prawns? Yup. Laulau, poi, chop steak and Alaskan king crab? Yes to all four.

Just bring an appetite.

Our order of pulehu aku belly arrived heavy with bite-sized pieces of fish, rolled in a mixture of flour and simple seasonings and deep fried. Juicy and so full of flavor that a side of chili pepper water went unused, we couldn't believe the generous serving was just $5.

Likewise, the half-order of pork chops we were served could've easily sated the three large guys on the table next to us who stared it down hungrily. Dusted with flour and seasonings, Aku Bone's thick-cut chops are pan-fried and served on a bed of sauteed mushrooms, garlic and onion. Tender and juicy enough to rival up-the-street-and-around-the-corner Side Street's, our half-order was just $6.

Our pupu trio finished with an order of poke freshly made with chunks of deep red 'ahi in a brew of green and round onion, sesame seed, shoyu and (kiss the chef) lots of limu. It was market priced, but the half-pound serving was delicious and filling.

Josh Anderson, middle, of Waipahu and Frank Everett of Hawaiçi Kai chat at the bar beneath the papier mache figure in a hammock.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Pupu prices ranged from $5 each for almost half of the menu items to $18 for a full rack of hibachi-grilled lamb or steamed Island moi.

A diverse mix of ages and pau-hana types — twentysomething girls discussing horoscopes, downtown office workers, fiftysomething aunties in aloha prints, etc. — kept Aku Bone busy on the Friday night we stopped by. They sang, they ate and then sang some more.

Service could've been more consistent, but I'd be hard pressed to think of anything else that really disappointed.

"You guys can't go home yet. The night's still young," said a guy on a neighboring table as we stood up to leave. He and his friends had offered us a sampling of their hibachi-grilled steak; we had offered them some of our pork chops.

Somebody cue up "Fame."

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.

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A pair of nightclub fund-raisers for victims of the recent tsunami in Asia would appreciate your attendance. Pipeline Cafe will host its T.E.A.R. Concert Sunday with performances by Jake Shimabukuro, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, Native Blend, Thick Tubes, Hawaiian Pride, Inoa'ole and more. Tickets are $10; the show runs from 4 to 11 p.m. All proceeds will be donated to the East-West Center Tsunami Relief Fund. More information at 589-1999. The community-conscious crew at Unity Crayons will turn its previously scheduled Ska A Go-Go live show into a fund-raiser for the American Red Cross South Asia Disaster Fund. On the bill are Black Square, Pimpbot, Ex-Superheroes and 5th Freedom. The Saturday night all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. at Coffee Talk; your entire $5 donation goes to the Red Cross. More information at 255-4662.


Club Pauahi will lose one of its best (and longest-running) parties after tonight when promoter Richard Li closes Rebel Rebel! The monthly free-form love fest for devotees of live and DJed indie, '80s mod rock, Brit pop and electroclash has always been one of the town's unique after-hours scenes. So don't miss its '80s-themed live tribute band farewell with Quaker Oates (Hall & Oates), Boys Don't Cry, You ... (The Cure), Georgina Michaels (Wham!) and Smithers (The Smiths). As always, $5 gets you in. From 9:30 p.m.


The Maharaja Ultra Lounge opens tonight and Saturday at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, second floor. DJ Scott Stubbs (Las Vegas) spins house, hip-hop and Top 40 in the elegant new club. 10 p.m.-4 a.m.; 23 and older. ... Feng Shui celebrates its first b'day Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki's Ciao Mein restaurant, from 9:30 p.m., $10.