Tasty Grindz at Kochi
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The menu at Kochi Restaurant and Lounge reads like a local guy or gal’s ultimate foodie wish list: Gyuhiku no Tataki, Hamachi, Shrimp Tempura, Wafu Tofu Salad, Misoyaki Butterfish, USDA New York Steak, Loco Moco and, for dessert, Deep-Fried Haupia Fritters.
So it should come as no surprise to learn a good portion of Kochi’s menu comes straight out of the mouths of customers.
We started off with core menu items but then maybe people would ask do you have, for example, udon, which we didn’t have from the beginning but we brought later on,” says Denise Takara, who co-owns Kochi with husband Lee. “We just add things that people kind of were looking for.”
Two new items at Kochi’s in-house sushi bar are the Spicy Tuna Donburi and Salmon Ikura Donburi ($12.95 each). Handcrafted from only the freshest ingredients by sushi chef Aaron Kumura, the donburi are presented so elegantly, you don’t want to eat them for fear of ruining Kumura’s latest masterpiece.
But Kochi is not the place to feel delicate or froufrou. We’re not talking about fancy here — this is more where a local person would feel like they could come more often than once,” Mochizuki says.
Favorites of repeat customers include Amaebi (sweet shrimp, $8.50), Deep-fried Hash Balls ($7.95), Furikake-crusted Mahimahi ($12.95) and Kurobuta Kakuni ($16.95), aka the Kobe of pork.
“It comes from the Berkshire pork — it’s a certain lineage of pig and it’s handled and raised a certain way, kind of like the way Kobe cattle are raised, and so it makes the meat a lot more tender,” Mochizuki explains. “Between the Kurobuta Kakuni and that Furikake Mahi, that’s what we’re known for. Everyone makes a deep-fried mahi, but we dress it up a lot so it’s a lot more tasty. I guess you could say that one has its own following.”
Portion sizes are quite generous, so order a round of dishes to share with family and friends. Or, since we’re talking local-size appetites here, order a plate or two to finish yourself.
Also, kids age 2-7 years eat free on Monday and Tuesday, as do those celebrating their birthday (Kochi has a free entree promotion up to $19 for the birthday diner).
On the Side
While much may have changed since Kochi Restaurant and Lounge first opened in 2007, one thing has always remained the same: its dedication to its customers.
“This whole Kochi restaurant always would change, it was always spontaneous, but we always want to know what our customer wants or is looking for,” says owner Denise Takara.
Whether it be serving generous portions of local-Japanese cuisine at bargain prices, or creating a welcoming atmosphere suitable for both family gatherings and parities with friends, Kochi is that one-stop restaurant for every occasion and milestone in life.
“You’ll see the guys who come in all the time in their shorts and slippers, then on the next table everyone’s dressed up for an occasion, but everyone feels comfortable,” says manager Reid Mochizuki.
“We want to cater to everyone of all ages,” Takara agrees.
She and husband Lee achieve this balance in their main dining room by filling the cozy space with cushy high-back chairs and tables purposefully lacking the starch-white tablecloths Mochizuki says breed an air of stuffiness. There also are flat-screen TVs at all four corners of the room that provide that “dining at home” feel.
“Again, I keep saying local, but locals like TVs in the dining room,” Mochizuki says with a laugh. “We always have them going on mute, but they can watch what’s going on, and sometimes when there’s Hawaii football everything stops so everyone can watch.”
A lounge and bar area adjoin the restaurant and is the perfect hangout for younger diners who may want to stay out a bit longer after their dinner party departs.
“It really is restaurant and lounge,” Takara says. “Sometimes people will sit right at the bar and have their miso soup and butterfish and sashimi …”
“It’s pretty common for people to have complete meals there, but it’s about wherever they’re comfortable,” Mochizuki adds.
“And that’s what we wanted,” Takara says, “a place where we would feel comfortable hanging out in, coming in with big groups or with family on a Monday night.
“We do big family-size portions of things, so we’ll have a whole plate of fried rice or noodles, then we’ll have a big plate of pork chops … but you can also do a complete meal just for yourself,” Takara says. “A lot of people come in for big parties, and they’ll order all different things and share, and that’s the best way to get a taste of our menu.”
Kochi Restaurant and Lounge
- 1936 South King Street
- Honolulu, HI 96826
- (808) 941-2835
- 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.
- Monday – Saturday
- 5 p.m. – midnight
- Ample parking available.