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Pupu Picks

A Pupu Haven in Nuuanu

Story By Steve Murray Photos By Nathalie Walker
May 13 - 19, 2012

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Jan and John Straley didn’t travel all the way from Sitka, Alaska, to enjoy the butterfish at Nuuanu Okazuya, but after a few bites of the delicate fish, they were sure glad they made the effort to find the classic eatery.

“We were having sushi last night and someone told us we had to check this place out. It’s delicious,” said John.

The Straleys aren’t the first customers to marvel at the tasty and cheap treats on the menu. Since its opening more than 30 years ago, the restaurant has served thousands of diners looking for good flavor at a fair price. The seemingly continuous line stretching out of the two-table dining spot makes it clear that owner Mark Kitagawa and chef Johnathan Mosely are giving the customers what they want.

A good starting point for newcomers is Stuffed Aburage ($1.25). That’s right, $1.25. Mosely stuffs the tofu with pork hash to create a moist and tasty way to begin your meal.

Mosely’s current favorite — it changes constantly — is the Barbecue Spare Ribs ($2.25). Yes, $2.25. The chunky ribs are boiled until tender and then pan-fried with Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. From there it flies out the door nearly as fast as Mosely can cook it up. In fact, a week ago, a customer ordered half a pan of ribs. The second guy in line ordered the other half. Don’t worry, Mosely will make more.

The most expensive single-person item on the menu is the plate lunch, and that comes in at whopping $7.85. For those with a smaller appetite, Mosely has created a new mini plate option for $5, which includes rice, mac salad and a stir-fry mix of vegetables and either beef, chicken or tofu.

In addition to the apparently unending menu, Nuuanu Okazuya offers five types of dipping sauces that you can mix, match or pair up with any item. Your choices are light mustard sauce (called The Whale), miso and hot Chinese mustard, wasabe and mayo, lemon and pepper, and a shoyu, Chinese mustard and honey sauce.

“We don’t do one flavor of anything,” Mosely says with a smile.

In fact, Nuuanu Okazuya doesn’t do one of anything.

Nuuanu Okazuya

  • Where
    • 1351 Nuuanu Avenue
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 533-6169
  • Hours
    • Monday – Friday
    • 5 a.m. – 1 p.m.
    • Saturdays
    • 5:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
    • Sundays
    • 7 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Notes
    • Street parking available.
  • Website