Tyler Uehara, SALTKitchen & Tasting Bar / I was so mad at Tyler Uehara when he broke the news that he was leaving us at Better Brands. He was one of my favorites and my first and only office crush here. Sure he has a girlfriend. Hell, I have a boyfriend. It’s not like that. The office crush is simply something I develop at every job to give that extra oompf needed to look forward to going to work.
This job in particular doesn’t need too many extra self-inflicted head games per se. It’s pretty awesome already and I would hardly ever see Tyler around the hallways or at events anyway since he was in a different division and constantly in the field. Those times I did see him were just lovely though. Sigh. So you can imagine the disappointment when he walks by my office to say a final goodbye a few weeks ago. This is the guy who’s probably worked here longer than anyone. He’s the veteran and that comes with some nice benefits. He just got back from wine country in Italy a month ago. What on Earth could be better than what he’s doing now? Opening his own place. I only half-listened when he told me about the new “tasting kitchen” and wine bar he is opening in Kaimuki right next to Coffee Talk. “Oh wait, the old Belladonna place?” I say, eyebrows raised. I’m hearing him now. That space is pretty cool. It’s a narrow bar with lofty industrial ceilings and art all over the place. What? You’re working with Chef Kevin Hanney and Chef Robert McGee from 12th Avenue Grill?! Now I’m all ears. It’s called SALTKitchen & Tasting Bar. There was a small friends & family preview this past weekend and I totally get the name. There’s a lot of salt in that tasting bar and kitchen. They cure their own meats and have dishes like grilled tako bruschetta with charred peppers, soft poached egg aioli and fine herbs. They also have two champagnes offered by the glass that are actually from France. With Tyler involved, of course the wine selections are amazing and even the cocktails are eclectic enough to encourage someone to make the drive to the top of the hill if Kaimuki isn’t their hood.
Bartender (and the office crush for many, I would say) Roxanne Siebert was like “do you want to try the cocktail I made?” as she grabs a Tupperware box of multi-colored rose petals from under the counter. Shaking my head vigorously “yes” as I’m picking through a plate of cold appetizers from their “chill bar,” I watch her muddle the rose petals with something and then pour gin into the shaker. Gin is only good to me when people mask the juniper. I guess you could say my palate isn’t sophisticated enough to really enjoy that juniper taste. Too much pine tree-like flavor. It tastes like camping to me. This cocktail came out light and refreshing with only an essence of rose and zero pine trees. Wow. I’m sure there will be a lot of buzz surrounding this new spot; it’s a nice addition to that neighborhood. I can easily part ways with my office crush if these are the kinds of things they are going on to do. I guess.