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The Early Word on Polynesian Newcomer Lani Kai

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Krieger, 10/11/10

Lani Kai, Julie Reiner's Polynesian/Hawaiian bar (but not tiki, she'll have you know), opened last week in the space formerly occupied by Tailor. Reiner explains on the menu that this is a blend of her two favorite places - Hawaii and New York. The menu sure reads that way - Mai Tais and Hawaiian Iced Teas highlight the drinks menu while the food includes poi doughnuts, ahi burgers, tuna poke, and duck potstickers. This, of course, is the season for similarly themed openings with Hurricane Club and Painkiller, both Polynesian/Hawaiian in origin, having opened. Is three a crowd? To the early word:

The "Feeling the Tradewinds" News: Yelper Keoni B., apparently a Hawaiian, sure thinks this is the real deal. "I had to try the Tuna Poke. So Ono! Brought me right back home, I could feel the tradewinds on my face. I followed with the grilled octopus salad wich was very nicely dressed and cooked perfectly. I ended with one of the pork buns....go and get one of these now! Go get 2 or 3 of these, they are Awesome! Messy, but worth it with sweet and sour going on!" He finishes up with a nod to the place being a respite from the coming winter. "A definite must go especially with the in-climate weather coming our way, it will transport you to paradise." [Yelp]

The Great News: Yelper Kathryn Y. samples a few of the drinks on the menu and likes them all to varying degrees. "Leilani's Fizz was fine, looked gorgeous, and had wonderful garnishes. Yet it didn't have as much staying power as the more powerful Isle of Islay Swizzle. Who knew that blended scotch went so well with coconut? Absolutely delicious and garnished with a few cubes of grilled pineapple. Even better was the Planter's Punch served in a large bowl with a bunch of fresh, fragrant mint, crushed ice, orchids, and four long straws. Really wonderful attention to detail here. But my favorite of the night was the Pacific Swizzle: white rum infused with rosehip, lemongrass, and hibiscus tea, lime, passionfruit. Cool, refreshing, not too sweet." [Yelp]

The Great Drinks, Bad Music News:Zagat Buzz visits on day one and shares some early observations. For food, they point out that there's only one dessert option but it's one that most people won't be unhappy with. "The sole dessert option, poi doughnuts, uses a dense, fried batter to put an accessible, Mainland spin on a well-loved but divisive Hawaiian favorite ($8). When’s the last time you said no to a doughnut? Exactly." For the drinks, they note the totally expected reliance on rum but that it's not all they have for the club-goers. "To be expected, rum is prevalent, but it’s certainly not the only option, with other drinks being made from pisco, gin, scotch, tequila and more. Secondary ingredients represent a Pacific influence, with coconut, pineapple juice and lemongrass appearing more than once on the menu. Early whispers suggest the drinks are strong and not overly sweet – often the complaint with rum-based creations." The music, though not terrible, sounds oddly off for a Polynesian-themed bar. "A mix between ambient lounge music and recognizable hits like The Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” played at a reasonable, audible volume." [Zagat Buzz]

The "Work of Art" News: Drinks for the House stopped by during the opening party and while he didn't have a chance to sample the food, the drinks certainly left a good impression. " To my surprise - I got a scotch cocktail. The cocktail's presentation portrayed a work of art I almost felt bad drinking it! (but not so bad I wasn't going to!) The passion fruit juices blended with the scotch created an illustrious smokey fruit flavor... we were offered a gin punch, served in a giant bowl with four straws... yes please! Delicious fruit juice/gin blend and, again, beautiful presentation... most exciting cocktails I'd had all day!" [Drinks for the House]

The Bad News: Eater commenter Lia is not impressed with the menu: "sorry, but what kind of hawaiian-themed restaurant doesn't have spam on the menu? even mcdonald's serves spam there! no filipino anything, no korean anything—other than the use of the word "pupu" and the poi donuts, i have to say the dishes are exactly like what you'd see at any other generic pan asian fusion place in new york or anywhere else in the us." [Eater Comments]

The Twitterific News: TheHungryTiger has good news regarding his drink but not so much with the food - "the Crystal Skull is so very worth it! (the Pu Pu, not so much)". RKlas, too, is a fan of that drink- "Had the delicious smokey crystal scull". KellyNealPhoto puts an artistic spin on the drinks, saying "the new Lana Kai in Soho where the drinks are strong and tall." [Twitter]
—Gary Wong

Lani Kai

525 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013 (646) 596-8778 Visit Website

Lani Kai

525 Broome St., New York, NY