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Where Great Food (and Friendship) Are Standard Fare
Inside Feature

Where Great Food (and Friendship) Are Standard Fare

Story By Sarah Pacheco Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
March 27 - April 2, 2011

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At the uber-popular eatery Hinone Mizunone, diners aren’t just guests — they’re friends.

  • Dinner Special - Teishoku-Maguro Sashimi/Japanese Hamburger Steak with Demi Glaze Sauce ($16.75 - $20.75).
  • An impressive array of dishes at Hinone Mizunone.
  • Dinner Special - Teishoku-Salmon Sashimi/Pork Ginger ($16.75 - $20.75).
  • A sign greets customers at the corner of South King and Sheridan streets.
  • The restaurant's well-lit interior.
  • Rib-eye Oroshi Ponzu Steak Teishoku ($20.50).
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“I want them to be my friends,” says operations manager Eiki Tamaki with a warm smile. “Once I remember you, I’ll keep remembering you.”

Hinone Mizunone opened on South King Street — in the former Taco Bell location — in May 2008. Part of the Japanese food chain Fujio Food System, Hinone Mizunone roughly translates to “sound of fire, sound of water,” which refers to the way they cook their food.

“It’s homestyle cooking,” Tamaki says of the unpretentious food, which perfectly matches the easy, cheerful atmosphere of the downtown eatery.

“A lot of our regulars come back maybe two, three times a week, especially at lunchtime; some people come back three, four times a week!” he adds. “A little after 2:30 p.m. it slows down. But during the peak time it really, really gets crowded.”

The reason for the high volume of repeat diners (in addition to Tamaki’s friendly service, of course) could be the wide selection of fresh Teishoku. The combo platters are available for both lunch and dinner and come with an entree (two at dinner), rice, miso soup, two side dishes and tsukemono.

“There are one, two, three …,” says Tamaki, as he begins counting from the restaurant’s menu, “16, 17 … There are 17 entrees to pick.”

One of the choices is the Sizzling Hamburger Steak, a simple mixture of ground beef and ground pork topped with a demi-glaze sauce that is slightly sweet, almost like a teriyaki glaze, Tamaki says.

“The hamburger steak is Japanese-style, so it’s somewhere between hamburger and meatloaf,” he adds of the tender, juicy patty. “It’s really soft. You can break it with the chop-sticks.”

The Pork Ginger, or Shogayaki, consists of thin slices of pork stir-fried in a shoyu-ginger sauce.

Shoga is ‘ginger,’ and yaki is ‘to cook,'” Yamaki explains.

“It’s very popular in Japan,” he adds, rattling off other popular entrees like Oroshi Rib-eye Steak with Ponzu Sauce, Karaage, Saba Nituske, Tempura, Chicken Katsu, Ebi Fry, Katsutama, Salmon Sashimi and Ahi Sashimi.

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s going to be just one dish that’s going to stand out,” Tamaki confesses. “Our restaurant has home-style cooking. It’s the kind of food you’ll see in the houses in Japan, something your grandma and your mom used to make.

“Maybe not hamburger steak,” he adds with a laugh, “but something like that. Something simple but delicious.”

The same goes for the rice, which is prepared in the traditional fashion in a pot on the stove rather than a flip-of-the-switch, modern rice cooker. Though it takes more time and effort for the cooks to diligently tend to the water and stir the precious grains, the result is rice that is fluffier and sweeter, and Tamaki boasts customers can immediately tell the difference.

Prices at lunchtime, which is served between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, range from $8.50 to $14. During dinner, which immediately follows from 5 to 9 p.m., the Teishoku cost $16.75 to $29.75, but remember, that includes an extra entree.

Every month select Teishoku are available for $8.50 at lunchtime only. Daily specials for March include Garlic Tonkatsu, Aji Fry, Ahi and Vegetable Tempura, and Saba Miso, with different items to be featured in April. There also is a good selection of Japanese Curry and Udon from which to choose.

“(The flavors) are pretty consistent, so you can keep coming back,” says Tamaki, before adding with an infectious smile, “It’s really an easy-going place to come.”

Hinone Mizunone

  • Where
    • 1345 South King Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 942-4848
  • Hours
    • 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
  • Notes
    • Beginning this summer, Hinone Mizunone plans to open on Sundays per customers’ requests.