Tiki drinks and seafood snacks paint a picture of tropical paradise at this bar/restaurant hybrid in the CBD
If you’ve fallen asleep in a tropical greenhouse while watching the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, the setting of your fever dreams may well look like Hana. The Hawaiian restaurant in the former Hairy Canary space on Little Collins Street is hoping to capture the magic of America’s Pacific island outpost with raw fish and tiki drinks.
In the small first-floor room where deep green wallpaper of larger-than-life tropical leaves matches the upholstery of a long banquette opposite the bar. The ceiling is lined with bamboo bars, recalling Rambo-esque scenes of jungle imprisonment, and the black-mirrored tabletops reflect a profusion of pink neon. Brass pineapple coat hooks and flashes of colour from deep purple orchids add focus to the overwhelming design. It's beautiful and pulling no punches on the Miami Vice meets Blue Hawaiian theme.
The back half of the evenly split room has tables set for diner. Crisps of tapioca and squid ink are piled with yellow fin tuna poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish of chunks of raw fish and onion marinated in soy. The crackers pop like inky rice bubbles on the tongue, while soy and ginger are judiciously applied to let the fish do the talking, although yuzu overpowers some bites.
Tender and lightly fried calamari plays perfectly with bright tarragon puree spiked with pickled onion. It’s lovely, but no matter how well executed it is, $22 is a lot to pay for fried squid. We’d like to see a couple of cheaper eats to go with the cocktails. The food is backed up by an organic wine list that’s still approachable, focusing on Australian and French styles, and while service is professional, it’s not as efficient or engaging as it could be.
Up the front, the bar area is ripe for intimate drinking overlooking the narrow street below. The cocktail list is the colour of orange zinc-cream, each drink pictured in black and white for a loving recreation of ’80s tropical style. But the cocktails are better than anything that dark decade in drinking history produced. The ‘Jungle Bird’, one of the great forgotten classics of the late tiki era, is like a Mai Tai for Negroni drinkers, where the bitterness of Campari cuts through sweet rum and pineapple. Everything is appropriately over-garnished and served in silly mugs like the ‘Sharknado,’ overflowing from a gaping ceramic shark’s maw. The punch within is light and refreshing, dominated by easy-going orange flavours, while ‘Lani Dreaming’ turns the flavour up to 11 with dark rum, almond and intense, floral pisco.
Ambient music like Phoenix and Washed Out provides backing, but in the toilets they’re playing classic Hawaiian ukulele and lap steel. There’s a pang of nostalgia that hits you at the sound of those long bending notes, and despite a few kinks, Hana has the potential to satisfy your island dreams. With full points for creativity and pushing the boundaries of the bar/restaurant hybrid, we’re hoping for good things on the road to paradise.
212 Little Collins St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri noon-late; Sat 4.30pm-late.|