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Cover Story

Keep It Simple With Local Classics

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
September 1, 2013

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A fine wine gets better with age, as does Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, which has been serving up Japanese-inspired favorites with massive amounts of local flair for almost eight decades. A legendary landmark in the charming neighborhood of Kaimuki, Sekiya’s was founded in 1935 by Taisuke and Katsuko Sekiya. Today, the Sekiyas’ granddaughter, Joy Morihara, spearheads restaurant operations.

“We’re pretty much your traditional small-town establishment,” she says. “We have very dedicated employees and customers, and we’re very thankful for that.”

Patrons peruse the menu pondering what dish will satisfy their latest cravings, as they often-times sit among family and friends, and other familiar faces in the restaurant’s spacious dining room ordering up Sekiya’s house specialties, such as its signature saimin — the soup base is made from scratch — and the famous Oyako Donburi. A restaurant staple, Oyako Donburi ($9.95) features a bowl of fluffy white rice topped with a savory omelette of long rice, onions, mushrooms and morsels of chicken. The secret is mixing all of the ingredients together, each grain of rice soaking up the distinct flavors.

“Oyako Donburi is delicious, but I also love Oyako Udon ($11.95). It’s a unique take on the dish that’s traditionally served with rice,” Morihara says.

While the menu remains consistent throughout the years — Oxtail Soup ($14.95) and Marinated Fried Chicken ($13.95) fall among the top-sellers — Sekiya’s also surprises customers with new additions every now and then.

“Hawaiian Style Beef Stew ($12.95) was added to the menu not too long ago, and the response from customers has been good,” Morihara explains, when describing this local stew, which consists of tender chunks of beef, potato, carrots, celery and a special blend of spices that remains under wraps. It’s this example of home-cooked, old-fashioned cuisine that easily resembles those dishes straight out of Grandma’s kitchen that both locals and visitors alike find simply irresistible. All full-course meals are served with miso soup, rice, tsukemono and tea.

According to Morihara, Sekiya’s staff starts preparing for the day ahead at 6 a.m., and the chefs get creative by putting their own spin on popular dishes. In fact, the aforementioned Marinated Fried Chicken resembles chicken katsu — only better — with an explosion of flavor that’s ultimately addicting.

“We marinate chicken thighs in a special teriyaki sauce. Once the chicken is soaked, it’s floured and deep-fried. A daikon sauce also accompanies the dish,” she says.

Then, Nitsuke Ahi ($12.95, additional $1.25 with tofu) woos customers as well, as it’s cooked to perfection in a rich teriyaki sauce, pairing wonderfully with a bowl of hot rice.

Sekiya’s comfort food is derived from family recipes that have been accumulated throughout the years. And now, diners who frequent the eatery are able to share the Sekiya experience with younger generations.

“I’ve seen grandparents bring their grandchildren, and parents enjoying meals with their kids. Sekiya’s is a very family-friendly establishment,” Morihara affirms with a smile. “We try to keep our prices very low and affordable because we have a lot of repeat customers and we want to cater to them.”

Dine-in and takeout services are available, and the restaurant begins serving its full-course meals at 9 a.m. daily. However, the okazuya opens one hour earlier.

Perfect for those on the go, the okazuya draws in customers with its fresh sushi, chow fun noodles, barbecue meat, fried noodles, nishime, tempura and more. Prices range from 55 cents to almost $6.

“Our Hash Tempura (95 cents) is a most-requested item, but everyone has their favorites, so we usually sell out of everything by 4:30 p.m. when the okazuya closes,” Morihara explains.

As many restaurants come and go with their bells and whistles, Sekiya’s keeps it simple — where, in this case, less is more. You can’t put a price on local classics, and thanks to Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, kamaaina can always trace their way back to small-kid times, in which an old-fashioned hamburger and a bowl of saimin was all that was needed to hit the spot.

Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen

2746 Kaimuki Ave., Honolulu
732-1656
Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
Delicatessen (okazuya) opens from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Note: Full-course meal service begins at 9 a.m.