Pairing Comfort Food And Fine Wines

When Rodney Uyehara moved from Waikiki to Chinatown to open HASR Bistro, he imagined he’d be trading his fine-dining menu for something a little more rustic.

The idea was to create a simple, French-inspired lunch and dinner menu offering approachable, affordable dishes to complement the fine wines sold next door by HASR Wine Co. owner Terry Kakazu, also co-owner of HASR Bistro.


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HASR Bistro’s Rodney Uyehara with his Veal Cheeks.

(HASR stands for Highly Allocated, Spoiled Rotten.)

The reality, however, is turning out to be a little different.

“People have followed us from The Bistro and from Beach House,” Uyehara says, “and they want the same kinds of dishes that we did there.

“They are not asking for steak and pork chops,” he adds. “They’re demanding them.”

Here, he breaks into a typical Rodney-sized grin and laughs.

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Uyehara worked at the prestigious Aureole Restaurant, New York, under Charlie Palmer before returning to Hawaii to continue his career.

He’s undoubtedly one of Honolulu’s most charismatic chefs, and his move from the fine-dining rooms of Waikiki to an unpretentious bistro downtown has brought him closer to customers – and to the food he loves best.

“What Terry and I thought was that initially we’d just do this good comfort food in this casual environment,” he says. “Turns out it’s looking like 70 percent of the fine-dining dishes I’ve always done!”

So as the restaurant celebrates its grand opening on Jan. 20 with a party to welcome friends, family and customers old and new, Uyehara is getting ready to roll out a whole new HASR Bistro menu. And it doesn’t look much like the simple pastas and salads he first imagined.

“Our customers are coming for dinner and looking for lobster, steak and pork chops, and a lot of classic dishes,” says Uyehara, “so I guess we’re going to give them what they want.”

Try HASR at lunch and you’ll find organic chicken confit, escargot, salads, a variety of pasta dishes, house-made burgers and a Dungeness Crab Reuben that comes with melted cheese on grilled focaccia topped with tarragon aioli.

And, yes, there’s Chef Rod’s famous French Onion Soup, a dish that’s followed him from The Bistro days.

As evening descends, HASR transforms from daytime sunny hues into a casual, intimate dining room; and the courtyard that fronts both bistro and wine store lights up the corner at Pauahi Street.

Wines by the glass are hugely popular, or guests can check the nightly specials, then take a few steps into HASR Wine Co. to buy a their own bottle – with no corkage fee.

And if the bistro is a natural progression from the wine store, then Uyehara’s menu is a natural progression from fine dining to classic comfort food.

Look for a host of new menu items to debut this week as the charming bistro enjoys an official opening, having found its place in bustling, vibrant Chinatown.

With the combination of Uyehara’s food and an immense selection of rare and lovely wines next door, a trip to HASR Bistro should delight.

31 N. Pauahi St.,
533.HASR (4277)