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Grab a Bento To-Go at Hinone Mizunone
Foodie Fare

Grab a Bento To-Go at Hinone Mizunone

Story By Sarah Pacheco Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
July 24 - 30, 2011

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With summer officially in full swing, most folks are spending their sun-filled days at the beach, the park or some other outdoor destination.

  • Hot Dog Musubi ($1.75), Spam Musubi ($2.50) and Furikake Musubi ($1.25)
  • President of Fujio Food Systems, Masahiro Fujio, stands next to a portrait of him and his father from his childhood days.
  • Chicken Karaage bento ($6.25)
  • Chicken Katsu bento ($6.50)
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Constantly being on the move this time of year means the need to fuel up without slowing down, and that’s exactly what active foodies will find at Hinone Mizunone.

Since opening three years ago, the South King Street restaurant has gained a steady following of fans thanks to what can best be described as “affordable Japanese comfort food.” But what many people may not know is that Hinone Mizunone also offers bentos, perfect for these busy summer days.

“We make anywhere from 40 to 50 bentos every single day,” says operations manager Eiki Tamaki.

The bento boxes come in eight different varieties — Ton Katsu ($7), Chicken Katsu ($6.50), Karaage ($6.25), Hamburger ($6.75), Butterfish ($7.25), Salmon ($7.50), Saba Nitsuke ($6.75) and a Small Mixed Bento ($5.50) — and include croquette, egg, pickled vegetables, gobo and a heaping portion of the restaurant’s famous rice.

“We also have Hot Dog Musubi ($1.75), Spam Musubi ($2.50), Furikake Musubi ($1.25), and some pumpkin and eggplant side orders as well,” Tamaki adds.

Bentos are available all day beginning when the restaurant opens at 11 a.m.; after 1:30 p.m., prices are reduced by 50 percent, if there are any left!

“Usually we’ll sell out!” Tamaki says with a laugh.

“The Mixed Bento, the Butterfish Bento and the Salmon Bento are always the first three to go,” he adds. “You get a lot of food for the price. It’s a real good deal.”

On the Side

Hinone Mizunone literally means “sound of fire, sound of water,” and refers to the way in which the eponymous Japanese restaurant prepares its rice — the old-fashioned way in a big pot over a carefully monitored fire.

“We don’t use a rice cooker,” says operations manager Eiki Tamaki. “We cook the rice in a big pot — you can see it in the front window when you enter the restaurant.”

The end result, according to Tamaki, is rice that is sweeter and fluffier.

In fact, it was the desire to share this style of rice with locals that prompted Masahiro Fujio to open his first U.S.-based Hinone Mizunone restaurant in Hawaii in May 2008.

“Hawaii is a rice culture. People here eat a lot of rice — even at McDonald’s you can order rice,” exclaims Fujio, president of Fujio Food Systems, the parent company of Hinone Mizunone.

“But even though people eat a lot of rice, they don’t respect the rice,” he quickly adds.

Fujio gives the example of serving rice with an ice cream scoop, which cuts the rice and alters the texture and taste. This practice, he explains, is disrespectful to the rice farmers and their product.

“It’s etiquette to the rice farmers to serve the rice well, just like it is etiquette for wine growers to serve the wine in a wineglass and not, say, a rice bowl,” Fujio says.

“We wanted to show Hawaii a better way of serving and enjoying rice.” Mission accomplished, as customers of the family-friendly eatery have embraced Hinone Mizunone for its rice as well as its affordable selection of Japanese comfort foods.

“(Japanese food) should be something people can afford to eat every day,” Fujio says. “I wanted local people to be able to come down and eat here as much as they can.”

Fujio’s personal favorite dish on the menu is the Saba Nitsuke ($8.50). A true delicacy, the simmered mackerel plate is a top-seller both here and in Japan, as the company goes through a whopping 1,500 tons of mackerel each year!

And with the success of his first Hawaii venture, Fujio anticipates adding more restaurants to the local dining scene sometime in the future.

“We just started business here, but I do plan to open many more (restaurants) here,” says Fujio, whose company owns more than 20 restaurant brands in Japan and overseas. “It may be a little different type of restaurant, but I do plan to open more … I love Hawaii!”

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