Three more stops on the Mai Tai Tour
We celebrated Mother’s Day at the Blue Note. They had a brunch and a performance by comedian Frank DeLima. We started off Bloody Marys. Mary Fran had a kalua pork burrito and I had the musubi sampler. Musubi is a Japanese rice cake often served with Spam and wrapped in seaweed. The sample had three: one spam, egg, avocado, and fish (I think mahi mahi); one Spam and egg; and one Spam, egg, and bacon. The dipping sauces were soy and a cheese sauce. They were delicious, but more than we could eat.
Frank DeLima’s show was hilarious. He is a long-standing comedian in Hawai’i. We first heard him in 1974 on a stopover going back to Thailand. He was performing at a place called The Noodle Shop and was just starting out. He is a genius at ethnic humor, particularly the type of humor he calls plantation humor, in which he makes fun of the different ethnic groups in Hawai’i. It’s hugely popular in Hawai’i because the locals like making fun of themselves and each other. However, if you are new to Hawai’i you probably would not get most of it. We did not get any of it that first time. It was only after being in Hawai’i awhile that we caught on.
We finished up with mai tais of course. The Blue Note’s are not as sweet as the others, which I like. Flavorwise, Blue Note’s is one of the best.
Yesterday we hit the Mai Tai trail again in search of that elusive best concoction of light rum, dark rum, and fruit juices. The first stop was Duke’s in the Outrigger. Duke’s, of course is named after the legendary Duke Kahanumoku, the ambassador of surfing and aloha. First off, Duke’s is always crowded. If you plan on lunch or dinner, you can expect to wait a long time. If you just want drinks, you can go directly to the bar and hope to find an open table or one where folks are leaving. We got lucky. Just as we got into the bar, the TV was showing the final leg of the Kentucky Derby. We watched long-shot, Rich Strike win, and then got our own long shot. A table opened on the edge of the lanai. We were close enough to hear the performer, Steven Iglesias, who did some contemporary and Hawaiian music on his acoustic guitar. He was good. We hadn’t heard him before, so we were glad to hear him.
The mai tais were good, though I thought they could have been stronger.. Better than SKY bar, slightly below Cuckoo Coconuts. The view from Duke’s is great. You have a clear view to Diamond Head and you’re right on the beach. Surfers off shore, other beach activity right in front of you. We had Duke’s nachos with kalua pork, which was more than enough for two. I’m ranking Duke’s mai tais on a par with Coconuts. They both have ambience—one is a good beach bar and the other is a classic tiki. They both have music. I like the performer at Coconuts better than Iglesias, but on a different day, I might have a different opinion. Duke’s brings in a lot of performers with several shows a day. More on that below.
Another disappointment on the tour. As with the Royal Hawaiian Band, we had looked up the dates for Jerry Santos and marked them on the calendar before leaving Texas. As with the Royal Hawaiian Band, we learned when we got there that he wasn’t performing. He was supposed to be at the Paradise Lounge in the Hilton Hawaiian Village. However, we discovered that the Hilton hadn’t fully returned from covid. They weren’t doing weekend fireworks yet and the hostess didn’t expect Santos to return until the fireworks returned. Why are they linked? I don’t know. The hostess said a lot of people have been disappointed that he was not performing.
Always flexible when it comes to music and mai tais, we went to the Tapa Bar in the Hilton. It, too, was crowded, but we lucked out with two seats at the bar. The mai tais were good. They were stronger than Duke’s mai tais, The performers were a brother/sister duo backed by some other musicians. They call themselves Kaiona. They did a mix of classics, contemporary and Hawaiian, including some hulas. We thought they were great. i would definitely hear them again.
I looked up Kaiona. They are often on the schedule at Duke’s. If you’re visiting Duke’s it will be worth your while to catch them. Another regular at Duke’s is Henry Kapono. He is more rock and blues (think Stevie Ray Vaughn) than Hawaiian. We heard him this afternoon after leaving the Blue Note.
Mai Tai Ranking
So far, I’m putting the Blue Note mai tai at the top for flavor. The entertainment, although not music per say (DeLima did some song parodies) was hilarious and superb. It’s hard choose between Cuckoo Coconuts, Duke’s, and Tapa Bar. CC and TB are about equal in flavor and music, but CC has better atmosphere. CC and Duke’s both have atmosphere and music, but CC’s mai tai was stronger than Duke’s. SKY, in my opinion, was mediocre in flavor, had no music, and the view wasn’t much..