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Cover Story

Timeless Island Style Classic Cuisine

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
January 27, 2013

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Restaurants boasting hot new food trends — specialty ingredients, exotic flavor profiles and healthy “au natural” offerings — are at the forefront of today’s contemporary dining scene. Yet, Asahi Grill dispels the belief that these aforementioned characteristics are only associated with fads. This Ward Avenue hot spot, which opened its doors in February 2007, is a prime example that classic, high-quality cuisine is here to stay.

Local, island-style fare with bursts of Asian inspiration is the foundation of Asahi Grill, where loyal patrons and new food enthusiasts routinely pack this 50-seat restaurant, eager to diversify their palates.

“Our goal is to make our customers happy with our great service and delicious food,” says manager Victoria Sayno. “There’s something for everyone here, no matter what you’re craving.”

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Asahi Grill distinguishes itself with an eclectic spread of signature creations. Oxtail Soup is one entree in particular that has earned the eatery rave reviews.

Asahi Grill’s Oxtail Soup was made famous since its beginnings at Kapiolani Coffee Shop, where many of its staffers previously worked. According to Sayno, this local favorite has always been a bestseller. Priced at $11.95 for a small bowl, $13.95 for a regular bowl and $22.95 for an extra-large bowl, Oxtail Soup is prepared fresh daily and is derived from an original Chinese recipe.

“We easily sell about 100 bowls of Oxtail Soup per day,” she says, adding that the oxtail is boiled for two to three hours in a clear broth infused with Chinese herbs, and adorned with Chinese parsley and green onions. A side of rice (white/brown or fried rice) and grated ginger accompany the meal.

“The meat is so tender, it just falls off the bone,” confirms Sayno, stating that many customers like to add a bit of shoyu to the ginger or Sriracha sauce to the soup for an added zest.

Observe the array of diners who get their fill here on a daily basis and you’ll notice a wide spread of ethnic diversity. However, all patrons have one common goal: to chow down, big time.

“Of course, we can always count on the locals — they love it here. But we’ve also noticed an increase in visitors from Japan, China and Australia to the restaurant,” Sayno explains.

“What makes us unique is our friendly service. It’s important that we treat everyone like family — it’s the top priority,” she adds. “The Brothers Cazimero come here often.

“And all dishes are made from original recipes. Nothing has changed a bit.”

During Dining Out‘s most recent visit to the restaurant, breakfast lovers devoured the Asahi Breakfast ($9.50), which consists of tossed salad, miso soup, rice and a choice of mahi mahi, salmon/saba or opakapaka, and Banana Hotcakes ($6.25, $4.75 half order). For lunch, Chopped Steak also ($8.50, served all day) appears to be a popular choice among patrons. This local favorite features tender beef stir-fried with vegetables in a savory sauce.

“Our fried rice also is a standout,” Sayno says, “It’s made from an original recipe, and we have Kim Chee Fried Rice ($7.25, $5.75 small order), Lup Cheong Fried Rice ($7.25, $5.75 small order) and Portuguese Fried Rice with Two Eggs ($6.75).”

Chicken Katsu Curry ($9.95), katsu-style chicken fillet doused in savory curry sauce served with white or brown rice and mac or tossed salad is a proven winner as well. And Spicy Ahi and Shrimp Don ($12.75) is a hearty classic, which presents a bowl of rice topped with spicy ahi with tobiko, shrimp and sweet egg roll drizzled with a special sauce.

If you’re in the mood for more than one of Asahi Grill’s classics, opt for a Combination Plate, which can include shrimp and vegetable tempura and saba, seasoned and grilled to perfection. Rice, tsukemono, tofu, soup and tossed salad complete this sumptuous meal.

With a multitude of choices already gracing its menu, Asahi Grill is ever-expanding its cuisine. In fact, according to Sayno, Special Steamed Fish ($9.50) Bulgogi Don ($9.50) — Korean-style teriyaki beef — and Oxtail Ramen ($9.95) have recently made their debut.

“We want customers to be aware of our daily specials as well,” Sayno says. “For instance, on Monday we have a choice of Pig’s Feet Soup ($10.95) or Spaghetti ($7.95), Tuesday we feature Baked Short Rib ($10.95), Wednesday is Roast Turkey ($8.75) or Tripe Stew ($8.50) … we have specials for every day of the week.

“Everyone is like ohana here … family. We want you to feel as if you’re at home at Asahi Grill.”

With plans for expansion supposedly in the works, Asahi Grill will continue to serve up timeless classics for generations to come.

Asahi Grill

515 Ward Ave., Honolulu
593.2800
Sunday – Thursday 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 6:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.