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Hinone Mizunone is the One for Rice (and More)
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Hinone Mizunone is the One for Rice (and More)

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
June 12 - 18, 2011

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The saying that “a single grain of rice can tip the scale” still holds true at Hinone Mizunone, where loyal patrons flock to feast on sweet rice cooked to absolute perfection.

  • Chef Teruo Aonuma with his culinary masterpieces.
  • A feast of local Japanese flavors awaits diners at Hinone Mizunone.
  • Assorted Sashimi Platter Teishoku (a la carte ($21.75, teishoku $26.25)
  • Ahi Sushi Bowl ($17)
  • Chicken "Ama-Kara Age" ($11)
  • Rice
  • Salmon Avocado Roll ($7.25)
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How does the Japanese eatery do it? Turns out the secret behind the highly coveted item lies in the restaurant’s name.

“The name Hinone Mizunone has real significance to us,” operations manager Eiki Tamaki explains. “Hinone means sound of fire and Mizunone means sound of water, so when you cook your rice in an old-fashioned pot, as we do, that’s all you can hear — the fire and the water.”

But while the rice is ichiban on Hinone Mizunone’s menu, other favorites such as teishoku lunches, Japanese curry, udon and sushi have quickly gained the attention of patrons since the family-friendly restaurant — owned by Japanese restaurant giant Fujio Food Systems — first opened its doors on South King Street three years ago.

Dining Out recently stopped by this ever-bustling eatery, where Tamaki and head chef Teruo Aonuma discussed, among other things, the restaurant’s fave dishes and the perfect harmony between fire and water that exists at Hinone Mizunone.

DO: Fujio Food Systems owns a variety of restaurants around the world, with 12 Hinone Mizunone locations specifically in Japan. Is this the first U.S. location?

Tamaki: Yes, it is. The Fujio clan loved Hawaii and would come two to three times per year, and Mr. Fujio wanted to open up a restaurant here.

DO: Hinone Mizunone opened its doors for business in 2008, and since then has gained quite a number of loyal customers. For diners who may have not yet had the opportunity to experience Hinone Mizunone, what can they expect?

Tamaki: People can expect home-style Japanese cooking. It’s really about comfort food here. Our regular customers come to eat here up to four times a week.

DO: This eatery features something for every appetite, whether it is udon, teishoku sets, a la carte options such as Broiled Salmon ($6.50), Ebi Fry ($5) and Tonkatsu with homemade sauce ($6.50) and more. Any other must-have items we’re missing from this list?

Tamaki: Our daily lunch and dinner specials are really popular here. Also on our regular menu, frequently requested items are Butterfish, Tempura and Sashimi, to name a few. However, the No. 1 item for lunch is the Chicken “Ama-kara Age” ($11). This is crispy fried chicken seasoned with grated daikon and topped with a sweet ginger sauce. This teishoku entree is something pretty unique to us, and it’s also served with rice, miso soup, two side dishes and tsukemono.

DO: Chef Aonuma, you’ve been in the culinary industry for the past 43 years and have been showcasing your skills at Hinone Mizunone for a year and a half. Share with us some of your famed specialty items.

Aonuma: We have the Salmon Avocado Roll ($7.25) and the Ribeye Oroshi Ponzu Steak (ala carte $16, teishoku $20.50). This steak is so tender and features grated daikon. Both the salmon rolls and the steak are available for dinner only.

Tamaki: Our Japanese curry also is very good and is available during lunch. It’s made with a beef broth base and customers can select from the Original Curry ($7.50), Karaage Curry ($8.50) or Chicken Katsu Curry ($9.50). Our Assorted Sashimi Platter (a la carte $21.75, teishoku $26.25) is a must-have, as well.

DO: There has been much talk about the incredible rice here. What makes the rice at Hinone Mizunone so special?

Tamaki: We cook all of our rice in an old-fashioned pot. We have a rice warmer, but we don’t have a rice cooker. We set the rice on high heat for 10 minutes, low heat for five minutes and let it sit for 20 seconds. We have to constantly keep an eye on it, or else it’s just going to burn. Our customers love our rice. The taste is definitely sweeter and the rice is a lot fluffier. We also serve all of our rice in an ohitsu instead of a rice bowl — that equates to more than two bowls of rice!

DO: Chef Aonuma, you were trained in Japan, but knowing that the majority of your clientele is local, did that force you to make some changes to your culinary styling?

Aonuma: A bit. Yes, most of our customers are local, so the food that I serve here isn’t exactly what you would find in Japan. Instead, I mix the flavors of authentic Japanese cuisine with local flavors and concepts. I always use local ingredients as much as I can.

DO: How exactly do you incorporate local flavor into authentic Japanese cuisine?

Aonuma: I do so with decoration, and the taste of the food is a little sweeter.

Tamaki: You’ll especially find local flavorings in particular dishes like the butterfish, sukiyaki, and in our California Rolls and Spicy Tuna Rolls.

DO: What’s most rewarding about serving as head chef at Hinone Mizunone?

Aonuma: The people, of course. The staff is very friendly and we have very loyal customers.

Tamaki: We do our best with trying to be very consistent and serving consistently good food.

Hinone Mizunone

  • Where
    • 1345 South King Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 942-4848
  • Hours
    • 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • Closed Sundays