Lani Kai: Early Reactions

Lani Kai: Early Reactions
Zagat Buzz

This past Saturday night was a cozy one for newly opened Lani Kai. Julie Reiner's tropical cocktail bar hosted a lively crowd of thirty-somethings from across the city, all of whom fancied a weekend drink or two (or three, four, five). While everyone huddled around the bar sipping Mai Tais and Pacific Swizzles, we stood on the street assailing exiting diners to get their immediate reactions on what they just drank.

While stepping out for a cigarette, Shannon, a tall blonde, discussed the Loan Palm (gin, ginger syrup, melon, basil, and lime juice) with us. "The drinks are really, really strong here, and it's absolutely beautiful inside." Her friend Nadja mentioned how everybody in her party kept passing her a drink they didn't like: a nameless cocktail of rum and coconut milk. "People are like, 'You want this?' and I'm like, 'Yeah!' Why doesn't anybody like this? Keep them coming," she said.

The two friends highly recommend the Pacific Swizzle (white rum infused with rosehip, lemongrass and hibiscus tea, lime juice, and passion fruit), which, according to Shannon, "turned a lot of girls on in there."

Before heading back inside, Nadja reminisced about the pork buns (five spiced pork belly confit in a house-made bun with secret sauce, pickled Japanese cucumber, and Bibb lettuce). "Even my Jewish friend ate them like nobody's business," she said.


Nathaniel and Pam, a young couple, raved about the Maya Well (raspberry-tea-infused blanco tequila, ginger, pineapple, and lime juice). "The cocktails are really expertly done," Nathaniel said, "and it's really comfy in there for a Saturday night. Not too crowded."

Jennifer and David, who sat downstairs by the fireplace, ordered tuna poke (ahi tuna done poke style with chilies, sesame, soy, macadamia nuts, and cucumber), which was "delicious and not too finely chopped."

Eileen, a Hawaii native and longtime New Yorker, ordered a Mai Tai. She thought the place blended the two cultures together nicely. "The cocktails are pretty weird here, but so are those in Hawaii," she said.

Will, Lani Kai's friendly bouncer, isn't allowed to eat or drink anything from inside, but if he weren't on duty he would order the 8 Days a Week (Jamaican, Haitian, and Guyanan rums, toasted coconut milk, demerara, vanilla syrup, and Donn's spices). "That sounds heavy," he said. "That, and the BBQ short rib. I'm trying to warm up to them so they'll bring me something out here."


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