by Susan Hamilton and Suzanne Schreiner & r & Pacific-Rim Fusion RESTAURANTS & r & "I'm willing to try something new and give it a shot," proclaims restaurateur Noel Macapagal. His latest addition to Spokane's dining scene is just that. Okan & eacute; on the Hill is a fusion of Pacific-Rim cuisine, drawing on Hawaiian, Filipino, Thai and Japanese influences. Macapagal has transformed the former Sam's on Regal into an island retreat, complete with Hawaiian tunes, lime and merlot walls and a lacquer-rubbed sushi bar.

"We're giving Spokane something it doesn't have," says manager Bryan DelRosario. "Okan & eacute; is innovative yet traditional Pacific Rim."

The sushi menu is decidedly innovative. Sushi chef Junior Solis, who trained at Seattle's Art Institute, says sushi is his art. The 18-item sushi menu reflects his creativity, designed with exotic food items. Rolls range from the Satoko (sweet and spicy tuna mix with avocado) to the Caterpillar (broiled eel, scallions, avocado, sesame seeds and oishi sauce).

Solis prepared his Northwest roll for me. First there's a palate-teaser of a dollop of cucumber salad paired with an Asian pear wine, whose subtle tones play off the crisp vegetable. The roll is a work of art in itself. Smoked salmon, cream cheese, Granny Smith apple, avocado and scallion are wrapped in rice and given a quick tempura treatment. Served with huckleberry teriyaki sauce and housemade huckleberry sake, it's a savory blend of flavors and textures.

The lunch and dinner menu reflects Okan & eacute;'s traditional side. Macapagal and executive chef Charlie Webb present dishes like the rich and creamy seafood island chowder and seared poke salad. Lunch's mix grill features such popular menu items as kal-bi steak, spicy chicken and spicy pork. Macapagal utilizes family recipes in dishes like Remy's 'sinigang' sautee (pork, shrimp and Asian vegetables in tamarind sauce) and Papa's pork adobo, combining Hispanic flavors and Pacific Asian accents. Noodles, curries and Asian brews round out Okan & eacute;'s menu. -- Susan Hamilton

Okan & eacute; on the Hill, 2910 E. 57th Ave., is open Mon-Sat 11 am-2 pm for lunch, and Mon-Thurs 5-9 pm, Fri-Sat 5-10 pm, Sun 4-8 pm for dinner. Call 448-1779.

Seasonal Ales BENEFIT & r & Eat, drink, bid and be merry -- those are your instructions. While you're quaffing hop-laden delights from more than 20 of the Inland Northwest's microbreweries, you can bid on more than 500 auction goodies, from big pieces of furniture to pottery turned on the wheels of our own local artists. Not too daunting a task, as tasks go, and it all benefits the Multiple Sclerosis Society, too. So this is drinking with a purpose, drinking for charity. Still, you need to keep a clear head for the bidding, since you'll be up against several hundred other cutthroats during the evening. Not to worry: David's Pizza and Azar's will be there with plenty of carbohydrates to soak up those suds.

Though this is its third year at the Fair & amp; Expo Center, it happens to be the 10th Octobrewfest benefit for the Inland Northwest MS Society, and they wouldn't mind topping the $50,000 take from last year's sudsfest. Seventy percent of the funds raised benefit the local chapter directly, while 30 percent goes to MS research, which benefits all who are stricken. The extensive Northern European presence here makes this area a hotspot of the disease, so get out your checkbooks, think of your friends and neighbors and review the instructions above. -- Suzanne Schreiner

Octobrewfest, a benefit for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 5:30 pm. Tickets: $12; $14, at the door. Must be 21. Spokane County Fair & amp; Expo Center, Broadway Ave. and Havana St. Call 482-2022 or 325-SEAT.

Festival of America @ Grand Coulee

Mon., July 4, 2-10:30 p.m.
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