The Music And Flavor Of Chai’s

Jo McGarry
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Friday - August 26, 2005
| | podcast Podcast |

Chai Chaowasaree, here with
Jerry Santos, has a great lineup
of entertainment at Chai’s
Island Bistro

It’s a lineup that reads more like FM100’s Birthday Bash than anything you’d find in a restaurant. Melveen Leed, Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom, The Brothers Cazimero, Makana, Jake Shimabukuro and Jerry Santos are just some of the guest artists you’ll find any night of the week at Chai’s Island Bistro. Chai Chaowasaree has always believed that live music was a complement to dinner, but he never intentionally set out to be the nightly venue for the best artists in Hawaii.

“We always had entertainment at Singha Thai,” he says, speaking of the Thai dancers who perform nightly at his Waikiki restaurant, “and so I knew that people liked it. We started out with just a couple of artists and it’s grown.”

Guests love it. But Chai’s Island Bistro at Aloha Tower Marketplace not only has the best calendar of nightly entertainment, it has a great menu and a happening night scene. And while the entertainment is a great draw, there’s no doubt that most people come for Chai’s food. There’s a Thai influence, as you’d expect from a chef who grew up in a family where food was their business.

The youngest of seven children, Chai grew up in Bangkok where his mother owned a restaurant — and where he developed an early fascination with cooking.

“We had, like most families, charcoal stoves in our house,” he says. “But our wealthy neighbors had gas, and I used to go every day to their house and look through the window of the kitchen just to watch the lady light the gas and cook on it. It was fascinating to me.” This initial interest was further sparked when his mother opened a restaurant.

“My mother would take me to market with her every morning, when I was about 10, and by the time I was 12 she would send me alone to the market to buy all the supplies for the restaurant,” he says. A proficient shopper before he entered his teenage years, the young chef also developed a passion for fresh ingredients and flavors.

“Thai food is all about using the flavors we have around us — not just making food hot and spicy,” he says. “We use lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, all the aromatic herbs, and then we use heat.” So the dishes you’ll find at lunch and dinner include Thai curries, Pacific Rim-influenced entrees and salads and soups that feature locally grown ingredients.

A three-course business lunch is served daily for just $20 — a great way to sample Chai’s style. And for music lovers, there’s no better way to interact with some of Hawaii’s most talented performers.

The casual, inviting atmosphere of Chai’s Island Bistro is the perfect backdrop for some of the best live music in Hawaii. For a schedule of performers check out

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