First look: Lucky Belly, a new Honolulu ramen restaurant and bar



The last time I talked to Dusty Grable, a partner in the new restaurant Lucky Belly, he was the front of house manager at Formaggio in Kailua. We were talking about Formaggio's Dining in the Dark, where you wear a blindfold to dinner. It was supposed to heighten the senses, I remember him saying. For my dining companions and me, the dark simply brought our neuroses to light: we felt claustrophobic; we clutched our wineglasses for fear of knocking them over; we were frustrated at not knowing what the hell we were eating.

This new project, Lucky Belly, is much more promising.

In the two years since we last talked, Grable has been busy. He moved to San Francisco, "a city that lives and breathes food, where you can't help but learn about food and beverage," worked at Gary Danko, a San Francisco institution, and ran the beverage program at Ame, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the St. Regis. He moved back to Honolulu in early May because Jesse Cruz, previously the chef at Formaggio, where the two met, had found a space for the restaurant they had always been talking about.

It used to be Mini Garden; it has never looked better. The floor has been ripped out and is now polished concrete. It turns out the dividing wall was hiding a brick wall—it has now been exposed.

The restaurant is still in its soft opening phase, with a limited menu that calls to mind Momofuku (what doesn't these days?). The focus is on the "chef-inspired ramen," as Grable calls it: a Lucky Bowl ($8) with the usual sort of ramen fixings (bean sprouts, wakame, soft-boiled egg); Belly Bowl ($12), stocked with pork belly, smoked bacon and sausage; and Shrimp Kimchee Bowl ($12).

Lucky Belly is currently open for lunch, Monday through Saturday. From Thursday through Saturday, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., it will open up the takeout window, with a short menu of $5 items like kimchee shrimp fried rice and pork belly bao.

Grable and Cruz plan to officially open Lucky Belly in mid-July with dinner service and a bar focusing on sake and whisky. Grable hopes that soon, "people will say 'let's go drink sake at Lucky Belly' the same way people drink beer at Bar35."

50 N. Hotel St

 

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