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Foodie Fare

In Addition to Great Food, Ichiriki Offers a Rich Dining Experience

By Christina O Connor Photos By Nathalie Walker
August 12, 2012

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Ichiriki general manager Min Kim says there is a quote that often goes around the restaurant’s kitchen: “Sharing from one pot makes for closer relationships.”

For Kim, that quote sums up the family-like atmosphere of the Piikoi Street restaurant. “It’s more like a living room,” she says. “Everyone gathers and they cook food together in the pots. It’s a totally different experience. It is very interactive, very engaging.”

The restaurant, which also has a second location in Aiea, specializes in three different types of food: nabe, sukiyaki and shabu shabu. Customers can select various broth and vegetable, meat or seafood combinations and cook it all up right there at their table.

“I like to think of Ichiriki as a dining experience,” Kim says. “We are teaching a type of dining and culture that our customers get to experience.”

To kick off your Ichiriki experience, a good place to start is with one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers — Ahi Katsu ($5.95), which features fresh ahi marinated in a tasty sauce, and wrapped in a shiso leaf and lightly fried to reach a perfect golden brown.

One of Ichiriki’s most popular nabe dishes is Miso Nabe ($21.95 for dinner; $11.95 for lunch), which is served with pork, a sampling of various kinds of seafood, and a variety of vegetables. The dish also includes Ichiriki’s crowd-pleasing homemade meatballs, which are comprised of ground chicken, soft tofu, green onions and ginger, and are made fresh in house every day. And for those who think they know miso, they are in for a surprise when they try Ichiriki’s special concoction. “We get (the miso) direct from Japan, and it’s a blend of two very high quality misos, so the flavor in it is going to be a lot thicker and richer,” Kim explains.

Another popular pairing is Kami Pirikara Nabe (serves two for $45.95), served with a seafood sampling, vegetables, homemade meatballs and a choice of pork, beef or chicken. Kim explains that the pirikara is a shoyu-based broth that has been slow-cooked and flavored with peppers and garlic — giving it a little kick without being overpowering. As seen in the photo, this dish comes with a special type of paper. “The paper absorbs the natural oils in the meats, so it’s known to be very healthy,” Kim explains.

Another must-try dish includes Mushroom Yuzu Nabe ($24.95), which features an assortment of four different types of mushrooms — shiitake, enoki, shimeji and eryngii — all swimming in the delightfully peppered citrus yuzu broth. “I really love the way the mushrooms and the yuzu broth complement each other,” Kim adds. “It’s a perfect pairing.”

All of the nabe dishes also are served with a choice of rice, udon or zosui to finish off your meal. Kim explains that the rice, udon or zosui is mixed with the broth at the end of the meal, when it is at its most flavorful.

And if all of this doesn’t already have your mouth watering, Ichiriki currently is in the process of creating new menu items. The new items should be unveiled sometime this fall. Although the restaurant isn’t revealing any of these dishes yet, Kim does say that many of the new dishes will be based on customer feedback — a kind of interactivity that is manifested in the philosophy of Ichiriki.

“One thing (the founders) always teach us is that when making any kind of decision — even something simple — we need to wonder how it is going to affect our customers,” Kim says. “The first question we ask is, ‘is this going to make our customers happy?'”

And it seems that for all of Ichiriki’s menu decisions, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

On the Side

Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant was founded several years ago by co-owners Issei Kazama and Riki Kobayashi. The name “Ichiriki” was derived from a combination of the Japanese characters in each of their names — and together the name means “one power.”

“They wanted to show what can happen when people come together,” general manager Min Kim says. “They are friends and they always wanted to open their own restaurant together.”

The cuisine served at Ichiriki reflects each of the owners’ food experiences. Kazama grew up eating his mother’s home-cooked nabe, and Kobayashi studied this type of dining in Japan.

Kim says that the meaning “one power” is extremely fitting for the restaurant. “It really brings people together,” she says. Cooking nabe, shabu shabu and sukiyaki certainly is a bonding experience for customers — and Kim says that it creates great relationships between the staff and guests as well.

“If you are eating here, our servers are going to help you out,” Kim says, adding that they can walk customers through the cooking process and even identify which flavors will pair well together. “Our servers are trained to always guide the customers to understand how to best enjoy the food.”

Ichiriki

Piikoi
510 Piikoi St. #102, Honolulu
589.2299
Open daily; Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday 4-11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 4 p.m.-midnight

Aiea
Kaonohi St. #C216, Aiea
484.2222
Open daily; Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight
Sunday, 4-10 p.m.