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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

In the Mood for Mitsu-Ken

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
December 2, 2012

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Few things in life are as comforting as the foods you grew up with. For the past 20 years, generations of locals have adored Mitsu-Ken Okazu & Catering. Neither the tiny hole-in-the-wall size of the eatery, nor the sometimes challenging quest to find parking near School Street have deterred patrons from making it a mainstay on the island.

“It’s just local food,” says owner Brad Kaneshiro modestly, “and homestyle cooking.”

“There’s a variety,” adds catering consultant and bookkeeper Sherri Kaneshiro. “We have Filipino food, Hawaiian food, Korean … We have a little of everything to try to meet everyone’s needs.”

It’ll be hard to find anyone whose needs haven’t been met, and the second you try this food, you’ll understand why.

If there’s one thing Mitsu-Ken is known for, it’s the amazing, crispy, sweet-and-savory fried goodness that is Garlic Chicken. It can be enjoyed for breakfast, in bentos and plate lunches, a la carte or on the catering menu, and it fits the bill for any occasion, anytime.

Garlic Chicken also is a great accompaniment to the establishment’s pupu platters, some of which are brand new this year. Platter “A” ($30), for example, features 16 pieces of spam musubi, 12 pieces of Portuguese sausage and a bed of savory fried saimin. “A lot of people order it for UH football games or parties that they need to go to,” explains Sherri.

Platter “B” ($16) is more like a tribute to Hawaii’s favorite snack — musubi! Eight pieces of spam musubi are mixed in with 10 pieces of the hot dog variety, satisfying every musubi craving imaginable. If you’re as crazy about these joyful gems as Ali Carte is, you could probably enjoy a whole platter to yourself — but Sherri says it usually serves 10 people or so, depending on the appetites involved.

Mitsu-Ken also will take care of your plate lunch needs, and the popular Kalbi Plate ($7.25 plus tax) special has just been added to the regular menu. You’ll unleash your inner animal as you bite into smoldering, glazed pieces of kalbi that are perfectly charred around the edges. “There’s something in there that is a secret that I’ve never heard of anyone putting in kalbi before,” explains Sherri. Whatever it is, it’s addicting.

All of the eatery’s plate lunches come with two scoops of rice and macaroni/potato salad, or tossed green salad for 45 cents extra.

At first glance, it may be hard to believe that the caterer everyone goes to for potlucks still operates out of the same little takeout window that originally opened 20 years ago. That’s why the shop plans to move to a new location on King Street early next year, to accommodate its growing demand for grindz and parking. It’s comforting to know that the next generation will also grow up with Mitsu-Ken.

Mitsu-Ken Okazu & Catering

1223 N. School St., Honolulu
Tuesday-Saturday, 5 a.m.-1 p.m.