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by Brittany Matsushita, staff writer

“I used to wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, and think that we might not make it,” said Ho Suk Lee, co-owner of Honolulu’s new hot spot, Uncle Bo’s restaurant. “Only 9 percent of restaurants make it in their first year, and that’s scary.”

Located at 559 Kapahulu Avenue, Uncle Bo’s restaurant provides a lounge-like atmosphere where anyone can unwind after a long day and enjoy a combination of good food and company. Since the grand opening five months ago, the business has been steadily growing and, according to Lee, the business is a projection of himself. Between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. customers can enjoy the tastes of the Pacific Rim and over 25 varieties of red and white wine to choose from.

Named after co-owner and head chef Bo Pathannavong, the duo decided their 10-year friendship and suppressed talent would take them to the top of the dining spectrum. Even with the immediate success of the restaurant, there were a few bumps in the road to get them where they are today.
“ This is probably the most difficult job I ever had,” said Lee. “But running my own restaurant has been a dream 10 years in the making.”

Starting Uncle Bo’s from the ground up has been a difficult task for both Lee and Pathannavong as the concept was original and began with nothing but talent. Originally from Laos, Bo Pathannavong only thought of cooking as a hobby, but has now made a budding career on his talent. Some of his experiments in the kitchen have become the most popular dishes on the menu. The Thai steamer clams and the dynamite shrimp are appetizers that will make your mouth water and come highly recommended by the chef to try at least once.

“ My food is a mixture of Vietnamese, the Pacific Rim, American, and Thai influenced,” said Pathannavong. “I like to try different things and see how people react to the unusual tastes.”
Pathannavong enjoys working with a variety of foods and will occasionally put out new specials to test the reactions to what he refers to as the “Bo flavor.” Don’t forget to ask if there are any specials, because the chef might be trying new recipes.

When it came to the name of the restaurant, there was no question it would be Uncle Bo’s, and Pathannavong didn’t put up a fight. “In Hawai‘i, ‘uncle’ and ‘auntie’ are used as terms of respect if they’re family or not, and we wanted people to feel welcome,” said Lee.

In the five months the restaurant has been open, the two owners have been on the clock alongside their employees every step of the way. Even in the mandatory red and black uniform.

“ We wanted uniforms that were different from other restaurants,” said Lee. “Red is a lucky color in China and in America it means passion. This was a way to put personality in the uniforms.”

Although there are no definite plans at the moment, there is the consideration of a few changes within the next couple of months. The owners are considering the prospect of serving lunch.

Lee believes that Pathannavong is the talent and he is the business; together they create an unstoppable double act. As of now the duo takes each day as it comes, and who knows, maybe this is the beginning of a new chain of restaurants.

“ It’s my job to get people in the door, and it’s Bo’s job to make sure they come back,” said Lee. “And all we can do is just hope they do.”

 

 

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