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DB Grill Does Happy Hour Right in Kapolei

02/04/18

Star Advertiser -- Townies like me have long prized the pumped-up pupu at Kakaako’s Cafe Duck Butt,

a windowless lounge that opened eight years ago and soon drew crowds craving its spicy, tantalizing Korean tacos, crunchy fried chicken and pitchers of flavored soju cocktails — the better to bring out your karaoke flair.

With the expansion of Kapolei’s shopping and dining options, a sister restaurant to Duck Butt, DB Grill, opened last year at Kapolei Commons. Here, the focus is on food, though those soju cocktails and all your basic liquors are available. And during DB’s afternoon happy hour, it’s roomy and comfortable for a relaxing pau hana meetup with friends — if you can get there in time.

A late-night happy hour closes out the evening on Monday through Thursday for those who work late, as I often do.

THE EXPERIENCE

This location is clean, bright and family-friendly, with two walls of windows and an upper loft for private parties. Choose a table or sit at the bar; in either case, your staff will be friendly and helpful.

On my visit, the day after a basketball playoff game that packed the room with sports fans, DB was sparsely attended, but those who came in were soon sporting smiles and looked to be just as happy with their food as I was with mine.

THE FOOD

I had the chicken karaage ($7), Japanese-style fried-chicken nuggets with furikake and spicy mayo sauce, a spicy, filling Korean Pancake ($10), and two of the DB Tacos, monster Korean tacos, just $3 each during happy hour, the only time they can be ordered singly.

The tacos alone were enough for a meal. I wasn’t expecting the super-sized soft wraps, filled with either bulgogi or korean-style, mildly spicy pork, and then bulging with toppings of lettuce, pickled onions, jalapeno onion relish and flavored further with db’s gochujang — a red chili paste that is everything — spicy, pungent, sweet and sticky, the heart of a Korean taco. Do not sleep on this specialty.

It would be easy to take the karaage and Korean Pancake for granted, since neither was wildly spicy or unusual, but both were prepared nicely and were served up in generous portions, typifying DB’s across-the-board dependability.

Not knowing that the tacos would be gigantic, I also ordered DB’s Asian Crunch Salad ($10), as recommended by manager Steven Yoon. He was right: This salad keeps its crunch, with plentiful Napa cabbage, some romaine lettuce for variety, sprouts, red onions, celery and carrot, crispy noodles and a sesame vinaigrette. This, too, could be the better part of a meal for one, but it’s a cooling element when shared as part of db’s spiced-up table.

Out of love for Duck Butt’s fried chicken, I ordered that too — a half-order for $13, not discounted for happy hour. It’s just as delightful at DB: Not actually chicken but a Cornish hen, fried twice for a crispy outside, flavorful inside and, like most plates here, a full meal for one by itself, as served with duck fat fried rice.

THE DRINK

DB isn’t all about fancy cocktails, but it has plenty of options on its drink menu, including a Soju Mule ($9), given Asian flair with soju and yuzu, and a Duck Dynasty Margarita ($11), made with Kapena tequila and a dash of lilikoi.

During happy hour, draft craft beer, usually $7, is $5, as are shots of Jameson, Crown Royal or Grey Goose.

The real draw is a $5 discount on all soju carafes. Each contains 375 ml of soju mixed with watermelon, lilikoi, Melona, yogurt, lychee or taro flavors (normally $20, or $30 for watermelon). I need a group of three or four to make this work, but if you have friends to share this with, it is delicious and effective.

THE VERDICT

As soon as my food came to the table at DB Grill, I knew it would be the kind of place that I’d recommend to friends and family — and bring my own to whenever I get the chance. With its friendly, roomy interior, stylish, modernized versions of local-favorite foods, and big, shareable portions, DB gets it right.