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Inside Feature

Contemporary Dining With an Explosion of Flavors

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Nathalie Walker
August 18, 2013

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A key characteristic of a restaurant’s staying power is an ability to adapt to the desires of its customers.

At Japanese Restaurant Aki, diners are treated a vast array of cooking styles and flavor arrangements presented in a way that turns fine dining into fun dining. Customers may choose from fresh sushi and sashimi selections as well as yakitori-style skewers, nabe hot pot cooking and items prepared to order teppanyaki style on a sizzling flat iron grill.

Akinori Hirose serves as general manager of Japanese Restaurant Aki, and brings a wealth of culinary experience to the table, including that gained through ownership of restaurants formerly known as Yoshi Japanese Dining & Bar and Yakitori Yoshi. The eatery opened five months ago to the tune of a diverse menu, and patrons are toasting the changes.

The restaurant’s classy decor and warm, inviting atmosphere features ample seating, including front row views of a versatile full bar and action-packed teppanyaki station.

“We have a wide variety of Japanese-based cuisine, so we can cater to all sorts of customers, from local diners to Japanese visitors,” says Edward Williams, Japanese Restaurant Aki’s skilled teppan chef.

Williams explains that the changes at the 1427 Makaloa St. eatery came about after customers clamored for more choices. The ever-evolving menu includes a variety of special items, which earn permanent placement on the menu after garnering consistent approval from guests.

One of the restaurant’s stellar specials destined to land on the regular menu is Sushi Set ($26). The skillfully arranged platter features an array of customer favorites, including maguro, hamachi, salmon, scallop, shrimp, shime saba (vinegar-pickled mackerel), egg, squid and a spicy tuna roll divided into delectable bite-sized morsels.

Another popular starter can be found in Ahi Poke with Avocado ($9), as the fresh, flavorful fish is served with creamy avocado atop a bed of black mochi rice. Seafood enthusiasts may also reel in the distinct flavors found in additional specials such as Grilled Hokke Fish ($12) — a species of mackerel that is salted, grilled and served with shoyu and lemon — and Grilled Whole Squid ($9).

“We offer a lot of grilled fish now. We consistently feature five or six different varieties,” Williams says. “The grilled whole squid is the most popular right now. I like to eat it as is, maybe with a little lemon juice.”

One of the distinct dining trends growing in popularity at island restaurants is nabe, or hot pot cooking. Unlike shabu shabu dishes that involve diners “swishing” their desired meat around in piping hot water, nabe is served with all ingredients incorporated in the broth, so the flavors permeate the entire dish. Japanese Restaurant Aki features Tan Tan Nabe ($18, add $4 for ramen noodles), which is composed of pork, tofu, king mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, cabbage and bean sprouts — all within a flavorful pork broth.

Japanese Restaurant Aki also offers Early Bird Specials from 5 to 6 p.m., including Two Choice Dinner Plate ($12). With this selection, customers may pick two entrees, including Grilled Salmon, Mackerel, Chicken Karaage, Croquette, Curry or the daily special. Additionally, the set includes salad, miso soup and rice.

The eatery also features popular happy hour specials available from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., during which customers may enjoy $3 Kirin on draft and $10 pitchers of the popular beer, in addition to $3 Bud Light, Kona Longboard and Heineken. The late-night specials also include $3 vodka, $3 tequila or $5 mixed drinks — one’s favorite concoctions are built with cranberry, pineapple, grapefruit or orange juice, as well as the options of Calpico or Coca Cola. Pupu items are available for just $3 apiece after 10 p.m., including popular local favorites such as Japanese Pickles, Edamame, French Fries, Kimchee, Fried Cheese Stick and Arabiki Sausage.

“We’re open until 2 a.m., and encourage customers that are in the area to come in and enjoy some appetizers and drinks,” Williams says. “We have some of the best dishes on the island. And, our menu is very affordable.”

Japanese Restaurant Aki

1427 Makaloa St., Honolulu
955-8528
Daily, 5 P.M.-2 A.M.