Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New drinks, chicken, hot at Yard House

Nadine Kam photos
From Tennessee to Waikiki: Nashville Hot Chicken is now on the menu at Yard House.


Yard House has introduced a quintet of new handcrafted cocktails to help you beat the summer heat, borrowing from the romance of the past.

Noting that shows like “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire” have given new life to forgotten drinks, the company’s executive chef Carlito Jocson creating the new cocktail collection:

Blood & Smoke: Blood orange and ancho chili spiced margarita made with Del Maguey “Vida” Mezcal, El Jimador Silver Tequila, Ancho Reyes, Monin Blood Orange, house-made citrus agave and aromatic bitters poured into a salt-rimmed glass.

Bourbon Berry Sour: Made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, housemade citrus agave, Dekuyper Razzmatazz, orange bitters and raspberries for added sweetness.

Hibiscus Rose: A refreshing herbal and botanical gin martini featuring Bulldog Gin, St. Germain and Lillet Blanc with orange bitters and Monin Hibiscus.

Sidecar: This classic cocktail steps into the 21st century with D’Ussé VSOP Cognac, Cointreau and housemade citrus agave poured into a sugar-rimmed glass.

Cucumber Citrus Tonic: A light, spa-like drink made with Bulldog Gin, Aperol, house-made citrus agave, tonic, cucumber and orange plus orange bitters.

You can probably tell the Hibiscus Rose and Cucumber Citrus Tonic are the girlier drinks, and the latter was especially refreshing on the last very humid Friday evening.

I also enjoyed the Blood & Smoke on its own, though thinking those smokey notes would probably go great with a burger or steak.

New cocktails to help you cool off this summer, from top counter-clockwise, Hibiscus Rose, Blood and Smoke ancho chili spiced margarita, and a Cucumber-Citrus tonic.

The restaurant also added a few new dishes to its summer menu, including Nashville Hot Chicken, a Tennessee variation on Southern fried chicken, inspired by Jocson’s recent visit to the city where it is every bit the local institution as the loco moco and laulau are in Honolulu.

According to area lore, Thorton Prince was served fried chicken doused with extra pepper as punishment after a late night out on the town, but he enjoyed it so much that he and his brothers perfected the recipe and opened Prince’s Hot Chicken in the mid-1930s. It’s still going strong today.

I can see why. For one thing, who doesn’t love fried chicken? This is a twist on the fried chicken and waffle idea, the waffles swapped here for a trio of small sweet potato pancakes.

Then, I love spicy food, and this combines chipotle and pepper with a crisped exterior, and sour-honey hot sauce to help cut some of the heat, though for me, it could have been way hotter.

It’s also served with ranch dressing and pickles, and topped with crispy sage.

The California Roll has been remade with a base of pan-crisped koge rice that is perfection. So flavorful it didn’t need the soy-mirin sauce. Hint: watch out for the serrano peppers.

Everyone serves fried chicken, but no one else offers crispy duck wings, served with a vaguely Southeast Asian herb salad of cilantro, basil, mint and red onion.

At the other end of the country, Jocson’s trip to Portland, Ore., fueled the addition of Crispy Duck Wings to the menu. It has a vaguely Southeast Asian appeal, tossed with a maple-sambal soy glaze and toasted sesame seeds, then served with an herb salad of cilantro, basil and mint with red onion, all flavors well-represented in Vietnamese and Thai restaurants here.

Other Yard House classics have been updated, such as grilled Korean pork belly now served with kimchi sour cream and green onions, a Cobb salad with several protein options, and a Cobb with kale option.

The California Roll, a staple on the Yard House menu for most of the restaurant’s 18-year history, has also been refreshed, and fans need not worry about the change, which I think is an improvement. The usual white rice now spends time on the grill to get the bottoms nice, crisp and slightly koge. The texture is wonderful.

It’s also worth noting that guests who opt to participate in Yard House’s Round It Up America program can have their tabs rounded up to the nearest dollar, as a painless way to put your spare change to work helping national and local non-profit causes.

Dince 2010, RIUA has raised more than $2 million that has gone toward feeding the hungry, culinary scholarships, international disaster relief, assistance to military families and veterans, and more.

Guests who want to round up when visiting Yard House can ask their server or bartender for more details.

Yard House is at Waikiki Beach Walk, 226 Lewers St. Call 923-9273. Visit

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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