The Legacy Lives On at Sekiya’s

Cover Story Features

January 28, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

The quaint neighborhood of Kaimuki is known for its red dirt, vast number of hills and small-town charm. Take a stroll through the neighborhood with any old-time resident and you’ll soon notice that Kaimuki hasn’t changed much over the years. In fact, you’ll continue to find many small businesses that have been serving the community for generations, including Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, the place to go for all of your local Japanese favorites.

  • Saimin (small $4.95)
  • Beef Sukiyaki ($14.95)
  • Beef Teriyaki ($11.95)
  • Marinated Fried Chicken ($12.95)
  • Orange Freeze ($4.95)
  • Oxtail Soup ($13.95)
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Sekiya’s was founded by Morihara’s grandparents Taisuke and Katsuko Sekiya, and today, Morihara, along with her aunt Doris Hara, spearhead this family-owned business, which comfortably seats 88 diners respectfully and has 40 employees on staff.

“All of our employees have been working here for ages, and even though we’re not related it feels like one big family,” Morihara says. “We have several chefs as well, all of whom have been employed here for a long time.”

Well, Sekiya’s must be doing something right. According to Morihara, the menu hasn’t changed much since the beginning, with the exception of a few add-ons here and there. Sekiya’s classics include full-course meals of the ever-popular Marinated Fried Chicken ($12.95), Oxtail Soup ($13.95), Beef Sukiyaki ($14.95) and Beef Teriyaki ($11.95), to name a few, all served with miso soup, rice, tsukemono and hot tea.

“Marinated Fried Chicken will always be a mainstay on our menu and features tender chicken thigh soaked to perfection in a light Teriyaki sauce, floured and deep-fried. It also comes with a daikon sauce that’s very tasty,” she explains. “Beef Sukiyaki also is very delicious with shiitake mushroom, tofu, round onion, makina, green onion, gobo and itokonyaku.”

But what always keeps customers coming back time and time again is Sekiya’s signature saimin.

The soup base is made from scratch with dried shrimp base, konbu and chicken — so don’t be surprised if you slurp up every last drop. Sekiya’s accommodates all appetites with small ($4.95), large ($6.95) and extra large ($8.95) portions to choose from. Morihara says most people prefer to keep it simple, top-ping off their saimin with only char siu and green onions. Bean sprouts can be added for 70 cents and vegetables cost $1.20 more. And regulars to the eatery know that a bowl of saimin isn’t complete without a BBQ Stick ($1.95) on the side. Sekiya’s saimin repertoire also includes Fried Saimin ($7.15), Karai Saimin ($7.95) and Crispy Saimin ($2.25).

“Our saimin is prepared the old-fashioned way,” Morihara states.

“It’s local, home-cooked saimin, and that’s hard to come by these days.

“Most of the items on our menu are derived from family recipes which have been developed over the years, and they haven’t changed — the taste and quality remain consistent.”

Sekiya’s is open daily, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Patrons also can take advantage of the okazuya from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day.

“If you’re on the go, you can always pick up something from the okazuya. We offer everything from Inari sushi, nori maki, musubi, fried noodles, chow fun noodles, barbecue meat, butterfish, shoyu hot dogs, tempura and more,” Morihara says. “Prices range from 55 cents to $3, and things sell out relatively quickly because there’s something for everyone.”

You could say the food speaks for itself at Sekiya’s. The atmosphere is comfortable, casual and unpretentious, in which diners can simply seat themselves. Yet, take note of the outdoor fishpond at the rear of the restaurant, because there’s more to it than meets the eye.

“My grandfather always had a fishpond wherever he lived, so it was only fitting to also have one at the restaurant,” Morihara explains. “The kids who come by love to feed the koi in the pond, and the fishpond is believed to bring about good luck and good fortune.”

Take it as you will, but perhaps the fishpond has played a role in Sekiya’s continued success.

However, Morihara says, more importantly, business sustainability has to do with the quality of the food.

“We serve home-cooked food, there’s nothing instant about it, and people like the taste of it too. It’s good local-style food which everyone enjoys.”

And we couldn’t agree more. There’s just something so comforting about a good old-fashioned hamburger served with a hearty bowl of saimin — a local take on the Americanized soup and sandwich combo. Add a side order of Hash Tempura ($5.70, six pieces; 95 cents for each additional piece) to that, and it’s a match made in heaven. Finally, why not end your meal on a sweet note with Sekiya’s Orange Freeze ($4.95) or Hot Fudge Sundae ($5.95).

“I’ve seen generations of people grow up here. Some went to school at Kaimuki High School, and some customers will come as far as Mililani or North Shore to eat here. Our customer base is pretty amazing,” Morihara says with a smile. “We have some people who eat here every day; it’s very nice for us. And every so often we will get new customers drifting in, and they seem to like it, too.”

At a place where continuity is key, Morihara has high hopes for the future of Sekiya’s.

“I hope that we can keep on cooking for many more years to come, and keep on serving our customers as well as their children and grandchildren.”

Simple comfort food is what it’s all about.

Sekiya’s Restaurant and Delicatessen

  • Where
    • 2746 Kaimuki Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96816
  • Call
    • (808) 732-1656
  • Hours
    • 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Sunday – Thursday
    • 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    • Fridays and Saturdays
    • Delicatessen open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., full course meal service begins at 9 a.m.