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Order of the Day

Fine Dining Yakitori at Casual Prices

By Dining Out Team Photos By Nathalie Walker
February 24, 2013

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BY MICHELLE LEE

In recent years, Hawaii’s culinary scene has witnessed a surge in new, tasty delicacies from around the world ranging from Parisian crepes to Nepalese kabobs. Perhaps one of the most beloved food crazes to make its way into the stomachs of hungry food lovers island-wide has been yakitori, the savory grilled chicken skewers popularized from Japan.

One of the first individuals to bring yakitori to Hawaii was Aki Hirose, who celebrated the grand opening of his new business Japanese Restaurant Aki this past Wednesday. Many yakitori fans may remember Hirose, as he was previously the owner of yakitori restaurants Yakitori Yoshi and Japanese Dining and Bar Yoshi.

As the new manager of Japanese Restaurant Aki, Hirose looks forward to bringing the same flavorful yakitori experience, but with an elevated atmosphere. “The menu here is still very authentically Japanese, but with a more modern looking presentation,” says Hirose. “We also have designed the restaurant space to emulate a very fine dining impression.”

Yakitori is the main feature at Japanese Restaurant Aki. Customers may choose from an extended list of a la carte items such as Chicken Thighs ($2), Chicken Wings ($2), Chicken Meatballs ($2.50) and Gizzards ($2). In addition, non-poultry items include Pork Belly ($2.50), Cow Tongue ($3.50) and Shiitake Mushrooms ($2).

For customers who would like to try several yakitori options at once, the Yakitori Assortment (starting at $16) offers a variety of choices at a greater value. “These days, yakitori is almost as popular as sushi in Japan,” says Hirose.

Although the restaurant’s enticing art pieces and modern, streamlined furniture may suggest otherwise, Japanese Restaurant Aki’s menu remains affordable. “The average price per person is less than $30,” says Hirose. “I wanted to bring the yakitori trend to Hawaii in a sophisticated manner, but keep prices very reasonable.”

In addition, Japanese Restaurant Aki offers an appetizing Early Bird Special Dinner Plate ($12) available every day from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The dish offers a choice between curry rice, hamburger steak, grilled fish and steak, along with macaroni salad, a daily special salad or fried chicken. The meal also comes with miso soup and rice.

The lunch menu also presents an attractive variety of flavorful options such as Aki’s Original Hamburger Steak ($10.50), which is handmade daily from a fresh mix of seasoned ground pork and beef.

Chefs at Japanese Restaurant Aki put much time and effort into each dish to maximize flavor. One example is the restaurant’s famed curry rice, which is simmered in pork belly for three days prior to consumption. “Many of our menu items are taken directly from some of the most successful restaurants in Tokyo,” says Hirose. “So we feel confident the menu will do well with both Hawaii’s local and visiting population.”

The restaurant also features a selection of nabe hot pot dishes. Tan Tan Nabe ($18), a sesame broth-based dish, is one of the most popular nabe options and is available as an early bird special for $15.

Japanese Restaurant Aki also features a full-service bar with happy hour daily from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight.

Japanese Restaurant Aki

1427 Makaloa St., Honolulu
955-8528
Open for lunch Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner Monday-Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to midnight