HAPPY HOUR & DRY AGED BURGER

My pursuit for Hawaii’s best burger wouldn’t be complete without trying the only 90-day dry-aged burger in the state. So, I decided to head to PAI Honolulu for Happy Hour on a recent Friday after work.

To be honest, I’ve been a fan of PAI since they opened. After all, it’s a great restaurant run by fantastic people. And everything they serve is made in-house. That includes their charcuterie, dry-aged meats, bread, sauces, and more. But I never could make it to their lunch service to try their burger. So I was so happy when they added it to their Happy Hour menu.

LOCATION

PAI Honolulu is in downtown Honolulu at the Harbor Court apartment building. Municipal parking is available on-site (parking entrance off Bethel Street) for $0.50 per half hour up to $3.00 on weekends, holidays (State + Federal), and every night after 5:00 pm. Day rates are $0.75 per half hour for the first two hours, then increases to $1.50 per half hour after that up to $21.

Pai Honolulu

HAPPY HOUR DRINKS & BITES

PAI Honolulu’s Happy Hour runs Tuesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 6 pm. It’s available only at the bar and the lounge and includes a curated list of drinks and bites at lower prices. But, PAI’s signature burger is only available at Happy Hour on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

PAI Honolulu has a fantastic drink menu.  However, the wife and I needed to get in and out quick that night to catch Gridiron 2019. So, we kept things simple and ordered their Off The Wagon Wheel mocktail.

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"Off the Wagon" Mocktail - Raspberry turmeric marmalade, lime, ginger beer

The drink has a new preparation every night, and on that particular night, it included a Raspberry-Tumeric marmalade, lime, and ginger beer. It was uniquely delicious, as these always are, and incredibly refreshing all at once.

We decided to make a meal of the happy hour menu, so we ordered a variety of items. First up was the Chicken-Fried Oyster Mushrooms with black pepper creme fraiche ($14).

Pai Honolulu
Chicken-Fried Oyster Mushrooms

As its name suggests, these mushrooms are lightly coated and deep-fried. They’re crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and the creme fraiche provides a nice creaminess with a bit of a bite.

Next to arrive is my wife’s favorite snack item, the shrimp chips ($6).

Pai Honolulu
Shrimp chips with creme fraiche

The chips are the same chips we all know and love.  However, they’re fried fresh when ordered and are sprinkled with charred Maui onion power. A horseradish creme fraiche also accompanies the chips, which helps to balance everything out.

Our biggest bites of the night were the night was the Herbed Focaccia with a choice of spread ($15 for one option, $25 for both). We went with both the Beef and Foie Gras Rillette and the Smoked Salmon Mousse and Yuzu-Marinated Ikura.

Pai Honolulu
Smoked salmon mousse with yuzu-marinated ikura

Both were great, with the Beef Rillettes being intensely meaty. Our favorite of the two, though, was the Smoked Salmon Mousse. The smokey, creamy mousse paired exceptionally well with the chewy, savory house focaccia.

Pai Honolulu
Beef + Foie Gras Rillette

THE 90-DAY DRY AGED BURGER

Our last item to arrive was, fittingly, the 90-day dry-aged burger. At $19, it’s also one of the single most expensive on the menu at PAI Honolulu. But there’s a good reason for that. As I said earlier, the beef is aged and ground in-house. The burger comes stacked on a house potato bun, with house-roasted shallot mayo, house garlic butter, cheese, and red onion. It’s also accompanied by house chips cooked in “umami oil” and a house cucumber pickle.

Pai Honolulu
90-Day Dry-Aged Burger

Admittedly, the burger looks small when it arrives because of its smaller circumference. But, the patty is thick, so it’s still a substantial burger. As for the taste, the burger has a great beefiness to it with just the right amount of seasoning. Unlike the Butcher & Bird Dry-Aged Ribeye Burger, though, the PAI 90-day dry-aged burger isn’t dripping with fat. And, it also doesn’t have as much of a dry-aged funk, despite the much-longer aging process, making it more approachable to those that haven’t had dry-aged beef before. Instead, the aging, in this case, serves to accentuate the flavor of the meat itself. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this burger is more sophisticated than the Ribeye Burger, but that both are equally good in their own way.

Pai Honolulu
90-Day Dry-Aged Burger

PAI’s burger definitely comes with better chips, though. And, yes, the umami oil is no joke. The chips do have an umami-depth to them that I couldn’t put my finger on.

DESSERT

To close out the meal, we were served up two scoops of PAI’s house gelato. One was their Hong Kong Milk Tea flavor, and the other a Pickled Mango with Li Hing Powder. Both were exceptional.

The Hong Kong Milk Tea gelato punches you in the face with milk tea flavors. If you love milk tea, you’ll love this gelato. And, no, it isn’t a sweet flavor; I’d say that it’s even border-line savory. That makes it a creamy, yet somewhat refreshing taste, in my opinion.

Left: Hong Kong Milk tea, Right: Pickled Mango

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Pickled Mango shouldn’t work as ice cream. After all, pickled mango is a sweet-sour flavor, and that was certainly the case here. I don’t know how to explain it, but the creaminess paired well with the sweet-acid-fruit flavor profile. The li hing powder further serves to tie things together with its tart-sweet-salt notes.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I love PAI Honolulu. Their inventive and unique menu is always a delicious adventure for us with some familiar favorites. And, the burger is one of the better ones around town. If I had to choose between PAI’s and Butcher & Bird’s, though, I don’t think I’d be able to. For me, it depends on how I feel. Sometimes you want a super-rich, meaty, somewhat funky pile of meat on a bun. And, sometimes, you want something that’s not as messy and is more refined that won’t make you feel like kanaking after.

Pai Honolulu

PAI Honolulu
55 Merchant Street Suite 110
Honolulu, HI 96813
Ph: 808-744-2531
www.paihonolulu.com