Lani Kai: Early Reactions


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

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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