Now That the Drinks Are Set, Lani Kai Steps Up the Food

Aloha, chef Sawa.

Lani Kai, Julie Reiner’s tikified Hawaiian hang, has brought on a new executive chef — Sawako Okochi (“Sawa”), former chef de cuisine at Good Fork and before that, at Annisa. Okochi’s menu, New American cuisine with a Polynesian flair, is positioned to turn the venue from a great bar that happens to have food to a top restaurant with amazing cocktails. Some of the small plates include pineapple salad (grilled pineapple with escarole and bacon dressed in a pineapple vinaigrette), Loco Moco (crispy Japanese rice cake topped with a spiced beef patty, fried quail egg, and demi glace — a riff on Hawaii’s traditional surfer dish), smoked tuna (house cured and smoked ahi tuna with rice, Japanese sour plum, bonito flakes, and shiso in a dashi broth), and much more. Paradise, indeed.