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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 15, 2006

Luxurious Veranda offers disappointing service

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Local jazz queen Betty Loo Taylor performs on a recent evening at The Veranda in The Kahala.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: The Kahala Hotel & Resort, 739-8888

Hours: 2 p.m.-midnight daily

What to wear: Resort casual is the dress code. But many patrons on the evening we stopped by went dressy or casually dressy.

Age of crowd: 30s-60s

The entertainers: David Swanson, 7:30-11 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; Kit Samson, 7:30-10 p.m. Sundays; Betty Loo Taylor, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Mondays-Tuesdays

Swanson's soundtrack included: "Stardust," "Let's Fall in Love," "Unforgettable," "Route 66," "The Look of Love," "Teach Me Tonight"

Afternoon tea: From 2 to 5 p.m. daily

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The Veranda, next to the main lobby, is the resort's only lounge, and provides drinks and pupu in addition to the musical entertainment.

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It's a few days later, and I'm still trying to understand why my partner in Night Stuff and I were treated with such indifference at The Veranda.

The airy, tropical jazz lounge's home is The Kahala long recognized as one of the world's premiere luxury resort properties. Presidents, royalty and celebrities have checked in. Countless Honoluluans still check out Hoku's the resort's exceptional fine-dining restaurant when special occasions call for inspired Hawai'i regional cuisine and impeccable service.

The Veranda is the resort's only true lounge with a full menu of wines, champagnes, premium spirits, interesting cocktails and a small selection of appetizers from neighboring Hoku's. It is also the longtime home of local jazz queen Betty Loo Taylor, pianist Kit Samson and, more recently, the consistently smooth and inventive jazz pianist/vocalist David Swanson.

Drinks and pupu are priced at a premium. The room's varnished wood floors, cozy klatches of tropical wood furnishings and tapered floor-to-high-ceiling draperies are designed to recall the elegantly comfortable porch of a large plantation home.

On the evening we stopped by, The Veranda had attracted a couple dozen dressy thirty- to sixtysomethings local folks just out of Hoku's, resort guests and a couple of groups celebrating birthdays.

So why did our server not greet us with at least a "Hello" when she darted by and all but tossed the bar menus on our table at the start of our evening? Why did she not offer us at least a polite "Thank you" when she dashed by an hour later and tossed our check on the table? Why were we virtually ignored in between both?

And why would anyone want to spend $30 our bill for two cocktails and a single appetizer for the kind of shockingly indifferent service one might expect from a roadside diner in Monument Valley?

The Veranda left me less upset than sorely disappointed.

Props, then, to the classy and talented Swanson for saving our evening with his consistently crowd-pleasing skills at the keys, his vocalese and his smile. Dressed in black and cutting an elegant figure behind the lounge's baby grand, Swanson seduced patrons with a familiar menu of pop standards made sweet by his graceful talent.

Couples at the birthday tables occasionally took to the floor fronting Swanson for dancing with the women wrapping feather boas around their guys, and most sporting goofy, tiny, multicolored flashing LED pins.

The Veranda's full menu of tropical cocktail inventions and 18 martini creations was interesting enough. I enjoyed my sake-and-lychee martini ($9) and its blending of smooth vodka and sake with a sweet spike of lychee juice.

A trio of champagne cocktails caught our eye early on as we pondered ordering a second round. But considering our server checked on us just once in an entire hour, we decided ordering again wouldn't be worth the effort.

We chased down another server to get our check and finally got it 10 minutes later, with no apologies.

No one on staff was vocally rude to us at any point in the evening. But then again, being vocally rude would've required some attention to us on our server's part.

I seriously considered giving The Veranda another chance for this review. Would service be more attentive and friendly on another night? Would I wind up forgetting this mostly disappointing first one?

I decided against it.

A lounge like The Veranda on a luxury resort property as legendary and near universally lauded as The Kahala should've gotten it right the first time.

Even the drive-through staff at my neighborhood McDonald's thanks me for stopping for my morning caffeine fix.

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.