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Chai’s Island Bistro Bids a Fond Farewell

By Alana Folen
December 2, 2012

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As 2012 comes to a close, so does the run of Chai’s Island Bistro at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Famed for its Pacific Rim cuisine and live entertainment, Chai’s Island Bistro has been enthralling guests from across the globe night after night, and celebrity chef and owner Chai Chaowasaree is nostalgic to see this chapter come to an end. The restaurant is set to officially close its doors Dec. 31.

“We decided to close Chai’s Island Bistro because our lease is up and Aloha Tower Marketplace will be going through some major renovations,” Chaowasaree says. “After almost 15 years at this location, this place is full of memories. I would be lying if I said I’m not sad. I’ve met so many wonderful people, many of whom have become my friends and a part of my family.”

Yet, the news of the closing doesn’t completely damper Chaowasaree’s spirit. He plans to continue serving up his award-winning cuisine through year’s end, including a slew of appetizers such as Fresh Ahi Katsu with Wasabi Curry in a Chinese Spoon, Gravlax Salmon Roulade with Cream Cheese and Crab Meat, Roasted Butternut Squash and Lobster Bisque Shooter, Alaskan King Crab with Roasted Garlic Aioli, and Kataifi and Macadamia Nut Encrusted Jumbo Black Tiger Prawns.

Entrees that will be forever etched into the minds of Chai’s Island Bistro’s loyal patrons also include Grilled Beef Tenderloin Wellington with Mashed Hawaiian Taro and Merlot Demi ($40) and Grilled Fresh Mahi Mahi with Thai Red Curry Sauce, Steamed Rice and Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas ($35).

Then to end your meal on a sweet note, delight in Heart Shaped White Chocolate Gelato with Fresh Raspberry Guava Puree ($9) and Chocolate Crunch Bar with Fresh Exotic Fruit ($10).

“If you order family-style with the Special Group Dinner Menu: Three-Course Dinner ($55 per person), you’ll have the chance to sample a little bit of everything,” Chaowasaree shares, noting that the special menu showcases the temptingly delicious aforementioned items.

An award-winning chef who initially learned the art of cooking from his parents in Bangkok, Thailand, Chaowasaree has much to be proud of.

“Chai’s Island Bistro has won so many awards throughout the years, appeared on many national TV shows and in national magazines. I also was selected as a chef for Hawaiian Airlines and I wrote a cookbook,” he says. “But the best reward is when my customers leave happy and satisfied. Often times they will tell me, “This is the best meal I’ve had in a long time.’ The thing I am most proud of is having earned the trust and support of my customers.”

It’s Chaowasaree’s undeniable talent and humility that has earned him the respect of top local entertainers as well. Headlining acts such as Willie K., Danny Couch, Jerry Santos, The Cazimero Brothers, Melveen Leed and more draw in big crowds as they take the stage serenading dinner guests with their pristine voices. According to Chaowasaree, these talented musicians have greatly contributed to the success of Chai’s Island Bistro.

“I must send a big mahalo to all of my entertainers. They have supported us since we opened and continue to support us to the end. I will be sad and in tears when we have to say goodbye,” he says. “Once we announced the closing of the restaurant, many of the entertainers called, and we made sure to let them know that they can perform here one last time.”

Hapa’s Barry Flanagan was among the first to call Chaowasaree and offer his support.

“Hapa was the first group to perform at Chai’s when we first opened,” Chaowasaree recalls. “And there’s no better way than to have them perform for our closing.”

Chaowasaree encourages everyone to enjoy a last hurrah at the establishment and capture the inviting melodies of Jerry Santos on Thursdays, The Brothers Cazimero on Fridays and Danny Couch on Saturdays. In addition to these class acts, Bruce Shimabukuro will perform Dec. 3, kumu hula Manu Boyd Dec. 4, Melveen Leed Dec. 5, Teresa Bright Dec. 7, Willie K. Dec. 10, Makana Dec. 11, Jake Shimabukuro Dec. 18 and Hapa Dec. 30. All performances start at 7 p.m.

“This is your last opportunity to be up-close-and-personal with these entertainers. You are just a few feet away from them. Normally when you go to their concerts, you would be several hundred feet away,” Chaowasaree adds.

As one door closes, another one opens, and the closing of Chai’s Island Bistro is in fact a turning point to new beginnings for Chaowasaree. Come next February, Chaowasaree is scheduled to open a new restaurant called Chef Chai at Honolulu Pacifica building on Kapiolani Boulevard.

“The new restaurant will be smaller, but more intimate,” Chaowasaree explains with a smile. “The decor and food will be more modern. You’ll just have to wait and see, but I personally guarantee that you will love our new restaurant.”

And in the spirit of giving, Chai is presenting his patrons with much more than impeccable song and cuisine. For one time only through the end of the month, you can purchase a $50 gift certificate for the price of $25 redeemable at Chef Chai in the coming months.

“Also, if you come for dinner this month, we will give you a Chef Chai gift certificate worth $20. Don’t miss it,” Chaowasaree says.

Chai’s Island Bistro

Aloha Tower Marketplace
1 Aloha Tower Drive, Honolulu
Dinner served nightly 4-10 p.m.