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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

In the Land of the Rising Sushi

By Ali Resich Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
June 16, 2013

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Sure, there are plenty of Japanese restaurants to choose from in town, but none are quite as modern and hot as Japanese Restaurant Aki. Not only does it stand out as a cool spot with its contemporary vibe and large-scale original mural that brightens an entire wall inside, but the hip eatery has the delicious eats to back it up as well.

Located on Makaloa Street, Japanese Restaurant Aki is situated where the former eatery Yoshi used to be, which Aki Hi-rose opened in December 2011. After it gained a solid reputation for its yakitori and early bird specials, Hirose decided to hand over the space to a successful Japanese restauranteur. What many people don’t know, however, is that in addition to new menu items, the revamped establishment actually features the same great favorites that Yoshi dished out, and it continues to be under the management of Hirose himself.

Open since February, Japanese Restaurant Aki makes diners feel as if they’re in a stylish bar in Tokyo. With a fresh start, it has developed a loyal base of patrons who love its diverse range of Japanese fare, which includes yakitori and teppanyaki items, early bird specials, late-night dining and drink specials, as well as less-known dishes that are hard to come by locally.

“At least once a year I go to Japan and try all kinds of food,” says Hi-rose. “And then I see a lot of stuff that I don’t see in Hawaii.” Items such as tan tan nabe made with soy milk — not to be confused with tan tan ramen, which features a different broth — as well as okonomiyaki (savory pancake) are a few examples of the glorious grinds Hirose introduces to local diners.

What has the manager most excited, though, is the addition of sushi to the menu.

“One of the good things about this new business is we brought a chef from Japan and he created a lot of things that people don’t know about,” says Hirose as he describes chef Shoichi Kosaka. “He wanted to add more specials, and he’s actually the sushi chef.”

First on the bill of daily specials is the Sushi Set ($26), which presents a host of local favorites, perfect for sharing. Everything from maguro, ika, hotate (scallops) and salmon to tamago, shimebasa (seared mackerel), shrimp and a spicy tuna roll fill this platter.

Not only are the nigiri pieces fresh as can be to highlight each fish’s character, but the restaurant uses a pure form of wasabi on the side that has an exquisiteness that even nonwasabi lovers can appreciate. The spicy tuna also impresses with its silky spicy mayo sauce that blankets each chunk of ahi.

Sushi-seekers also will enjoy California Rolls ($7), which are great for the youngsters, and Spicy Tuna Rolls ($8) prepared with a beautiful balance of rice, ahi and spicy flavors.

Lucky for local patrons, this is just the beginning of Kosaka’s sushi adventures, as he plans to gradually unveil more exciting edibles.

Japanese Restaurant Aki

1427 Makaloa St., Honolulu
955-8528
Daily, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.
Late night specials, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
Note: There is a parking lot in front of the restaurant as well as street parking in the area.