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Step Up to the Plate

Japanese Restaurant Aki

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
April 21, 2013

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A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS WEEK’S HOUSE SPECIAL: TAN TAN NABE ($18 FOR ONE ORDER, MINIMUM OF TWO ORDERS REQUIRED)

Japanese Restaurant Aki is a relatively new dining oasis that is both relaxed and contemporary. Located on the mauka side of the block between Ala Moana Center and Walmart on Makaloa Street, the establishment opened its doors to the public in February and specializes in modern Japanese fare.

Manager Aki Hirose says the restaurant is bustling during dinnertime, with a number of diners ordering the famous Tan Tan Nabe. This hot pot dish loaded with a variety of meat and vegetables cooks on a tabletop burner, and is popular among both locals and tourists.

King mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, bean sprouts, tofu and cabbage are a fresh addition to the nabe and absorb the flavors of the broth.

The nabe’s main source of protein is derived from tender strips of pork belly and ground pork, which Hirose says are locally sourced.

At the end of the meal, patrons are presented with a choice of rice ($3) or ramen ($4) to enjoy with the leftover nabe broth.

“Many restaurants serve nabe, but I think we’re the only place that offers Tan Tan Nabe,” says Hirose. “Nabe is very popular now, and because of that we were inspired to offer this dish.”

It’s all in the broth. According to Hirose, the tan tan broth is thick in consistency, as it brings the majority of flavor to the dish. It’s comprised of sesame oil and a blend of secret spices, which results in a taste that perfectly portrays sweet and spicy.

Exquisite sake pairings add new dimensions to Tan Tan Nabe. “For the ladies, I recommend Yama Yuzu Shibori Premium Sake. It has a sweet flavor. Guys typically enjoy a dry sake, such as Hakkaisan Tokubetsu Junmai,” Hirose says.

Japanese Restaurant Aki

1427 Makaloa St.
955-8528
Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Monday-Friday Dinner: 4:30 p.m. to midnight daily