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Cover Story

Ichiriki Bubbles Up With Fresh Nabe

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
February 12 - 18, 2012

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Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant is known for its authentic Japanese cuisine, but more so, this chic and modern establishment brings family and friends together for an entertaining and interactive dining experience like no other. Open for lunch and dinner, patrons flock to this renowned eatery to enjoy an assortment of Japanese nabe — a term referring to an array of Japanese steamboat or one pot dishes — as well as sukiyaki, tasty shabu shabu options and more.

  • Ichiriki Aiea part-owner Masaki Sasada and Ichiriki Piikoi general manager Min Kim with two of the restaurant's most sought-after dishes.
  • Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu ($28.95, $19.95 late-night price)
  • Angry Goma Nabe with Habenero Peppers ($22.95)
  • Sukiyaki Beef Bento ($7.95)
  • Ichiriki offers a traditional Japanese-style dining experience.
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This restaurant of choice for many hungry diners opened the doors to its initial location on Piikoi Street in 2006, and most recently opened its second location this past June in Westridge, Aiea.

Dining Out recently caught up with Ichiriki Piikoi general manager Min Kim, who graciously shared with us the ins and outs of this nabe hot spot, which has been intriguing the appetites of foodies galore!

DO: Ichiriki is always bustling with diners who can’t wait to sample the famous cuisine here. What makes Ichiriki stand out from other Japanese restaurants?

Kim: Ichiriki specializes in a very unique dining experience, that uses a hot pot to create savory meals, like shabu shabu and sukiyaki. We are well known for our nabe. Nabe is Japanese hot pot, and our broths are flavored! We have almost every flavored broth you can imagine: Shoyu, Pork, Salt/Chicken, Tomato, Curry, Kimchi, Ginger, Yuzu, the list goes on! We also offer a wide variety of vegetables, meats, seafood and noodles to cook inside the broth. Our specialty is Kami Nabe, which is a pot made out of paper. The kami paper is set right over the flame, and cooks the broth and fresh ingredients, while also absorbing the natural oils of the meats, making it a healthier option. Many people find it hard to believe that the paper does not burn, and I’ve been sworn to secrecy on that magic trick. I really enjoy watching the exciting “ooohs and aaahs,” when our diners are first introduced to Kami Nabe. Our staff is always thinking of ways to make our diners fully happy — which we try our best to do by providing exceptional service that is always improving and one-of-a-kind dining experiences that are memorable.

DO: For someone who has yet to dine at Ichiriki, how would you describe the dining concept?

Kim: Our concept is fun, traditional Japanese dining where everyone can eat, drink and be merry. We are family, date, group friendly! We’re also very affordable, and for those looking for that extra special deal, we have early bird discounts where all our nabe, shabu shabu and sukiyaki dishes are 25 percent off from 5 to 6 p.m. Late Night Specials start at 9:30 and nabes start at $11.95. We also have Happy Hour drink specials at both locations. It’s a fun place to eat with lots of menu items.

DO: How would you describe the atmosphere and dining environment at Ichiriki?

Kim: We like to think of our restaurant as a living room — it’s a fun place to be, and definitely a great place to entertain. We have traditional Japanese floor seating, where you sit on the floor, but we made it more relaxing by adding wells for your legs so you don’t have to sit Indian-style. It’s extremely comfortable and different. We cater to all ages, families, groups and special occasions.

DO: Ichiriki has been very successful. How did the idea for the restaurant come about?

Kim: The restaurant’s concept came about when founders Riki Kobayashi and Issei Kazama decided to pursue their lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. What’s funny is that shabu shabu and sukiyaki were always Kazama’s favorite childhood meal. Then, it turns out Riki actually studied nabe in Japan for a while and had a passion for inventing great hot pot dishes. It was only destined that they would open up Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant.

DO: Well, we’re glad that dream became reality. Who is the main chef here?

Kim: The owners of both locations actually create and come up with each menu item together. They are constantly meeting, almost weekly, inventing new menu items. There also are a few kitchen staff members who have gone to culinary school, and we are always encouraging them to embark on menu creativity. Our very own kitchen supervisor, Andrew Doi, was the mastermind behind the Tomato Nabe and the secret Angry Goma.

DO: What are some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes?

Kim: Our Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu is gaining fast popularity, especially at the late night price of $19.95 ($28.95 regular dinner price). We’ve noticed people lining up at 9 p.m. to grab a table for late-night dining. This shabu shabu option features 5 ounces of melt-in-your-mouth slices of Kobe Kalbi Eye, served with a wide variety of vegetables, ponzu and goma dipping sauces, and your choice of ramen, udon or zosui. Our two most popular nabes since we’ve opened are Ichiriki (shoyu broth) and Pirikara (spicy shoyu broth). We usually recommend these two nabes for first-timers. Both come with a large variety of vegetables and your choice of beef, chicken or pork. These nabes also are on our late-night menu for $13.95 and $11.95 respectively. Regular dinner price is $21.95. People also love Seafood Kami Nabe ($59.95 for two people). This seafood lover’s paradise comes in our signature Ichiriki Shoyu soup base with snow crab, jumbo shrimp, calamari, scallops and an large assortment of vegetables.

DO: Delicious! Are there any new items on the menu?

Kim: Yes, we have new nabes: Tomato Nabe ($21.95), Paitan ($21.95), and, of course, our secret Angry Goma Nabe with Habanero Peppers ($22.95) for spicy lovers. Angry Goma Nabe is not printed on our menu, this is actually a secret nabe that has sparked an underground cult following. This nabe was created to make those that love to live on the spicy edge happy. This Nabe is slowly simmered in a deep flavored Goma (sesame) broth and made out of real habanero and jalapeno peppers. We also recently started offering Sukiyaki Beef Bento ($7.95) that consists of beef sukiyaki with our homemade tsukune meatballs and some seasonal vegetables. Sukiyaki Bento is available daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at both locations, and if you purchase four, you get one free.

DO: Do you folks offer any appetizers? If so, what are the best-sellers?

Kim: Yes, our appetizers include Chicken Karaage ($5.95), Ahi Poke ($5.95), Mushroom Medley ($6.95), Pork Kimchi ($9.95), Fried Calamari ($4.95) and Tofu Salad ($4.95).

DO: What do you think has contributed to Ichiriki’s continued success?

Kim: Well, besides our nabes — there’s so many options and so many flavors — you’re bound to get hooked on one you love, we’re also told that our sukiyaki is a favorite. People also love the floor seating.

It’s super comfortable and great for parties and kids especially. We get diners visiting from Japan who say, “It’s just like Japan!”

Lastly, our Green Tea Shave Ice is always a hit.

Plus, we have lots of options for vegetarians, vegans and people with food restrictions.

DO: Who is your clientele at both locations?

Kim: We have a good mix of locals and tourists. A lot of tourists come to visit after reading about us on Yelp or other online forums, which is great! It’s always such an honor to meet these folks who taxi their way over here just to have nabe! We also have a lot of regulars, and we are lucky to have such great supporters — they have seriously helped shape Ichiriki and continue to encourage us to improve every day.

DO: What do you foresee in the near future for Ichiriki?

Kim: We hope to continue to make customers happy — it’s what keeps us going. And we would be very fortunate to be able to open up a third location someday. Patrons can follow us on Facebook (Facebook.com/NabeMan) and on Twitter (@Ichiriki) for special deals only available to our friends!

Ichiriki

  • Where
    • 510 Piikoi Street #102
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
    • 98-150 Kaonohi Street Suite C216
    • Aiea, HI 96701
  • Call
    • (808) 589-2299 (Piikoi)
    • (808) 484-2222 (Aiea)
  • Hours
    • Piikoi
    • Open daily
    • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Lunch)
    • 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, 5 p.m. – midnight Fridays and Saturdays (Dinner)
    •  
    • Aiea
    • Open daily
    • 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Lunch)
    • 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Monday – Thursday, 5 p.m. – midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Sundays (Dinner)
  • Website