It’s Showtime at Kobe

Cover Story Features

April 28, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar has been captivating Hawaii’s diners for the past 40 years. With a warm and rustic Japanese inn atmosphere, this top-notch teppanyaki-style establishment is nestled right in the heart of Waikiki and wows hungry audiences with a dinner and show like no other.

Master chef Lester Nishida, who has been a teppanyaki chef here for decades, has trained more than 50 chefs throughout his career, and claims the teppanyaki table is his stage as he effortlessly prepares a mouth-watering meal complete with the finest USDA choice sirloins, tenderloins, scallops, shrimp, fried rice and more right at your very table.

Dining Out recently caught up with general manager Roy Nakamura, who explained just why Kobe Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar has been a family favorite for generations.

DO: When did Kobe open its doors and how did the idea for the restaurant come about?

Nakamura: Kobe Steakhouse, here in Waikiki, opened its doors in March 1972. The original Kobe in Vancouver was the brainchild of Hy Aisenstat (of Hy’s fame). Hy partnered with Rod Gardiner, who was a bartender for Hy, to bring the Kobe concept to Hawaii. Rod eventually purchased Hy’s share and branched out to Palm Springs and Maui. A couple of years ago, I (a former bartender for Rod at Hy’s) purchased Kobe from his wife, Marilyn. We still to this day consider Hy’s as our sister restaurant.

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

Nakamura: Teppanyaki is a really beautiful concept. The product is brought out in its raw state, so everything must be fresh, or the customer will know. Our chefs will then skillfully prepare your dinner right before your eyes! It also is about the only time when it is acceptable to play with your food!

DO: What makes Kobe Steakhouse & Sushi Bar stand out from other Japanese-style teppanyaki restaurants?

Nakamura: There is very little you can do to vary the teppanyaki concept. I think our sauces are our strong point. We offer a mustard and a ginger sauce. Each of our sauces is made by one chef daily to keep them consistent. We have had positive feedback about them, some even suggesting we bottle them. In fact, we actually tried, but it just did not have the right taste and consistency.

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

Nakamura: As far as steaks go, you can’t top our tenderloin (Filet $34.95). It is melt-in-your-mouth tender! The combination dinners (Steak and Shrimp or Scallops, both $34.95) also are very popular with our local clientele. Sometimes I pass by a table and it is literally full of shrimps being grilled!

We also have our Steak and Lobster combo ($45.95), which people love. Our head chef, Lester Nishida, was able to include two petite Tristan lobster tails to combine with a New York steak — again a complete dinner. From the sushi bar, our Rainbow Roll ($14) is a favorite. It’s a California roll topped with maguro (ahi), hamachi, salmon and avocado to give it plenty of color. Our sushi prices may change due to seafood price fluctuations and availability.

DO: With Mother’s Day soon approaching, does Kobe have anything special in store for moms?

Nakamura: Yes. We are featuring our Mother’s Day special ($50), with a Petite Filet, Scallops and Shrimp combination. As with all of our dinners, it comes complete with shabu shabu soup, grilled shrimp appetizer, pickled and grilled vegetables, white rice, and hot green tea. The special also includes a starter portion of edamame (soy beans), and your choice of Red Velvet or Double Chocolate cupcake. We also have put these cupcakes on our regular menu ($5; $6 a la mode)

DO: Does Kobe offer any appetizers? If so, what are your best-sellers?

Nakamura: We have been tweaking our lounge pupu menu lately. In addition to our best-selling Pork Chops ($13), Fresh Ahi Poke and Fresh Ahi Poke Salad (both $10), we have added Boneless Short Ribs ($12) and Sweet Potato Fries ($7) as well.

DO: What are some popular drink items?

Nakamura: Lava flows and mojitos (both $7.50). Lava Flow is made with vodka, pineapple juice, milk and coconut syrup blended and poured in a glass with strawberry puree on the bottom, which flows and swirls up the glass beautifully. Our mojitos are made with fresh mint leaves, which are grown in-house, Rum (or any liquor your heart desires), club soda and a splash of simple syrup. While our hot sake (small $5.50; large $10) remains our staple, we also have a wide range of domestic and imported sakes. Nigori (an unfiltered sake) is a popular item — Sho Chiku Bai ($10) and Snow Beauty ($17).

DO: What is the common denominator behind people’s love for Kobe?

Nakamura: I feel people like our reliability. Change comes hard at Kobe. We have had virtually the same menu for more than 15 years. We might bring back an item, or change the type of fish, but people can count on our menu not changing much, if at all. Some guests don’t even need to see the menu; they come in knowing what they want! For some restaurants, “staying fresh” and changing is an integral part of their concept, but our reliability factor seems to work for us. A concept that has worked for 40 years is hard to dispute!

Kobe Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

  • Where
    • 1841 Ala Moana Boulevard
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 941-4444
  • Hours
    • 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Open daily for dinner only
    • Lounge opens at 5 p.m.
  • Website
  • Notes
    • Valet parking available in front of the restaurant.