2199 Kalia Road
Phone number (808) 923-2311
“Wow” was the first word that came to mind after taking a seat in L’Aperitif — the bar within La Mer, Halekulani’s fine dining restaurant. Glassware with art deco etchings, and tabloid-sized menus printed like a newsletter on yellowed paper made it instantly charming, like being in 1930s Paris. And in every direction, windows showcased stunning views of Waikiki, Diamond Head and the Pacific.
But for all its elegant glamour, L’Aperitif also is a playful experience with its cocktail and amuse-bouche pairing concept.
The Red Nichols Manhattan, for instance, is served with a piece of aged Parmesan cheese that has been coated with maple syrup and topped with watercress. Unusual, when you think about it, yes, but somehow it works.
On its own, the Manhattan is full of flavor, if not a bit strong (though perfect for whiskey drinkers). Hints of oak from the barrel it is stored in are balanced with an acidity from the bitters L’Aperitif makes in-house.
Together, it is an exploration of culinary expertise you most likely never imagined possible.
“It’s not about how complex you make the food; it’s about what complements it,” Halekulani executive chef Vikram Garg tells me.
L’Aperitif’s charismatic menu is a result of a partnership with Colin Field, head bartender at The Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Hotel Paris and Forbes‘ three-time Best Bartender in the World. To create each amuse-bouche, which is a one-bite hors d’oeuvre, Garg brainstormed and envisioned items he felt would go well with each cocktail.
Then, after tasting each one, he paired it with Field’s creations.
Each year, Field has returned to L’Aperitif to introduce new items to its menu — and his newest creations will be unveiled soon. Drinks like the Red Nichols Manhattan may be ordered now, as well as the Martini Meringue. It features tart flavors from a limoncello macerated in-house, topped with a petite meringue made in Halekulani’s bakeshop for an added sweetness. This cocktail will be paired with a Goat Cheese Cheesecake.
Classic cocktails, including the Miss Bonde, will remain on the new menu. Made with champagne combined with fresh raspberries that have been macerated with vodka, it achieves a delicateness that doesn’t cross the line of being too sweet.
All cocktails cost $20, which includes an amuse-bouche pairing.
And don’t be afraid to mix and match. L’Aperitif will be more than willing to accommodate requests for different accompaniments.
WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME
You’ll find head bartender Henry Kawaiaea standing behind the bar most nights.
He began working at the bar within La Mer in 1983. But until Halekulani COO Peter Shaindlin re-imagined and unveiled L’Aperitif in 2012, no one really knew about it.
Since then, he’s noticed an uptick in guests. “I like to meet people,” he says. “I like to see what they like, what they do … and then I like to make drinks tailor-made for them.”
Here, you will find personalized service. It is about the experience, not about getting drunk in a noisy, crowded place.
“I think that’s what makes it different from other bars,” he says. “That ambiance, the drinks, the quality, just the atmosphere. People enjoy this.”