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Weekend Specials Kick Off at Tanaka

Digest Foodie Fare

January 23, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Tanaka Saimin burst onto the restaurant scene last fall in a spacious spot at 888 N. Nimitz Hwy. The luck doesn’t end at these auspicious numbers, however, as owners Joan and Paul Watanabe have decided to offer three of their most-popular dishes as weekend specials starting today.

  • The Combo Mix Plate comes with choice of two proteins and a side salad.
  • Chef Sing Lee serves Charisa Sumner an assortment of dishes - all MSG-free - from Tanaka Saimin's menu.
  • Bread Pudding
  • Lilikoi Chiffon Pie
  • Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie
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This Sunday and every Sunday thereafter, Chef Sing Lee will be whipping up pot after pot of his delicious Oxtail Soup. Prepared with Chinese five star, orange peel, red dates and a blend of the chef’s secret spices, the soup is sure to warm you from the inside out. The soup costs $12.95 and comes with rice, Chinese parsley and a ginger dipping sauce.

The chef likens this soup to another Tanaka Saimin favorite — the Beef Shortrib Soup ($12.50). A savory blend of tender shortribs, vegetables and clear broth, the generous bowl of soup is served with a side of rice, kabocha, pickled cabbage, takuan and Lee’s special dipping sauce.

Another regular menu item to try to keep you satisfied during the week is the Combo Mix Plate, which gives customers the choice of two proteins and side salad. Options include teri beef, teri pork, hamburger patty, fish tempura, yakitori chicken or the two most-requested combos, shrimp omelette and teri beef tempura. Enjoy these duos with fried saimin, mac-potato salad or fresh tossed greens. When Friday night rolls around, be sure to order the sumptuous Prime Rib Dinner, a choice cut of roast prime beef sprinkled with a special blend of seasonings and slowly cooked under low temperatures, resulting in a rare and tender piece of meat. Depending on your appetite, the prime rib comes in Princess’ Cut ($11.95) or King’s Cut ($17.95). Both options come with a side of rice, steamed fresh vegetables and a horseradish-sour cream dipping sauce.

But save room for the next day’s special, a Hawaiian-style Pot Roast Pork ($8.95) prepared with those special seasonings and basted for more than two hours. The hearty plate keeps the flavors local with rice, mac-potato salad and plenty of homemade gravy drizzled all over.

Lee plans to mix up the specials in two months, so get ’em while you can.

On the Side

The man behind Tanaka Saimin’s long and varied list of menu items is Chef Sing Lee. The talented chef started as a cook in Hawaii’s hotel industry 45 years ago. After 20 years of
preparing “mostly American and Chinese food,” Lee found his true calling as a restaurant chef.

“I love to eat,” he laughs, “then I make things my own way to make my own recipes for the public.”

His love of food is evident in the way he describes each dish and ingredient. It’s also clear by tasting the many menu items — all MSG-free! — he makes from scratch each day.

Some standouts are the Tanaka Special Saimin ($8.45), Cone Sushi ($1.50) and the trio of desserts Lee hand-prepares daily: Lilikoi Chiffon Pie, made with fresh-squeezed lilikoi juice; Okinawan Sweet Potato-Haupia Pie on a short-bread-mac-nut crust; and the light-as-air Bread Pudding filled with a mixture of nuts and dried fruit. All desserts cost $3.25 and sell out fast, so much so that owners Joan and Paul Watanabe say some folks order dessert first just to save themselves a slice!

“The pies got real popular — almost more than saimin!” Joan laughs.

The popularity of Lee’s pies shows that Tanaka Saimin is more than just a saimin shop, which may be an indication of the route Tanaka Saimin may take when its menu changes in about a month.

“The saimin, we don’t want to change too much, but more in the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus,” Lee says, explaining that he’d like to expand these options so there will be plenty of food ready at all hours of the day or night.

“(Joan and Paul) are my friends,” he adds, “so I’m trying to help them with this brand-new, beautiful restaurant that they just started.”

Tanaka Saimin

  • Where
    • 888 North Nimitz Highway
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 524-2020
  • Hours
    • 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Monday – Thursday
    • 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    • Fridays
    • 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    • Saturdays
    • 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Sundays
  • Notes
    • Free parking available in unmarked stalls.