Faux flames flicker in firepots as hula dancers seductively roll their hips tableside. There’s live music most nights. People dance; there are lots of parties and celebrations. Eat under a thatched roof or schmooze at the bar — you can almost hear the waves slapping on the beach. Happy revelers slurp their tsunamis, a tropical version of Long Island iced tea, made with Curacao and Sprite. It is as blue as a swimming pool and served in a goldfish bowl with Gummy Worms on the bottom. It’s noisy, it’s busy. Are we having fun yet?
Coconut, pineapple, Key lime, and macadamia nuts are scattered with abandon from appetizers to desserts at Waves, but many of the dishes hark to the islands only in their names, such as “volcano Cobb salad.” Lots of dishes are “prepared on the huli pit.” In Hawaii, this would be a pit dug in the sand, but there is no sand in the kitchen on Jefferson Avenue. The co-diner joked that the islands in question were Hawaiian, Caribbean and Coney — but most people don’t seem to care.
The co-diner campaigned for a night at Waves after learning that clams on the half shell are on the menu. “So much tastier than most oysters,” he explained. He was not disappointed. The clams are served with lemon wedges, horseradish and a kicky cocktail sauce. We were happy to note that someone in the kitchen thought our clams were skimpy and doubled them up.
On another evening we enjoyed Montego Bay calamari. I was glad to find an unfried version of calamari; here it is sautéed in butter with tomatoes, capers and white wine. Skip the smoked seafood spread — there’s too much cream cheese, too little seafood and no smoke anywhere.
Prices are reasonable at Waves. The co-diner ordered a combo of huli-grilled chicken and ribs. The meat is wrapped in banana leaves and slowly roasted; it was nice and moist. The combo was $15 and there were plenty of leftovers for another meal.
I chose “big kahuna” tuna ($14) which is served with seared pineapple, and I was glad that the pineapple still had its peel on, so I knew it wasn’t canned. I should have specified that I prefer my tuna rare, but then, our server should have asked.
To keep prices low, costs must be cut somewhere, and I’d nominate the vegetables. They look cute — baby carrots and green beans, broccoli, etc. — but they are soggy and tasteless. Whipped sweet potatoes also sound better than they taste; this is the kind of place where you are better off sticking to fries or redskins.
There are 10 different pasta dishes, most featuring seafood, and another dozen seafood dishes without pasta. I thought “Life’s a beach mon pasta” sounded interesting — sautéed shrimp with pot stickers, spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers and pecans, served over glass noodles with a black bean sesame sauce. But I opted instead for “tierra verde” salmon ($14); the fish is brushed with a Key lime marinade, grilled and served with avocado butter. The co-diner ordered Kapok coconut shrimp ($14), which features tiger shrimp fried in a batter made interesting by unsweetened coconut.
We returned on another evening after seeing Gangs of New York with our friends Dianne and John. Dianne calls John a “meat and potatoes guy.” Although we have dragged him to a couple of places that were a stretch, he’s always been a sport. John ordered a steak and proclaimed Waves “a good place” several times. John is almost as much of a history buff as the co-diner, and they both knew more than a little about New York in the mid-1800s. They agreed that there was no artillery in the New York harbor to put down the 1863 draft riot, a fact that was confirmed in an interview on NPR the next day.
If you have a Hawaiian shirt hanging in your closet, this is the place to show it off, perhaps while dancing. Live bands play Wednesday-Saturday, including the Sun Messengers, Persuasion and Joy Ride.
Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail email@example.com.