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Hot Pots That Hit the Right Spot

Ali Carte Columns

February 16, 2014

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

If you want to know what traditional nabe is all about, just keep the phrase “sharing is caring” in mind. For centuries, the Japanese cooking style has brought families and friends together, not only to spend quality time with one another over a meal, but also to join in simmering a nourishing variety of meat, seafood and vegetables in one big hot pot of savory broth. If such scrumptiousness appeals to you, there’s no question you’ll enjoy an authentic bite at Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant, where fresh ingredients and an intimate setting make patrons feel as though they’re enjoying a homemade lunch or dinner while dining out.

For nearly eight years, the local chain of eateries has grown to include three locations in Honolulu, Aiea and Kaneohe — all of which offer a healthy selection of nabe and shabu shabu meals, sukiyaki, pupus, a wonderful happy hour and more. This week, Ali Carte caught up with co-owner Issei Kazama to get the scoop on Ichiriki’s latest sharable sensations.

Restaurant regulars who have come to love the high-quality Kobe Kalbi Eye Shabu Shabu ($28.95, dinner) are rejoicing over the latest happy hour special, which offers the menu item at an unbeatable price of only $16.95. The dish features thinly sliced Kobe beef ready to be submerged and cooked in a pot of hot water to bring out the meat’s pure flavors. Then, along with vegetables such as mushrooms and cabbage, each sizzling item can be dunked into two mouthwatering dipping sauces: light, citrusy ponzu or sesame-filled goma.

Kobe Kalbi Eye Shabu Shabu comes with a bowl of rice as well as a choice of ramen or udon at the end of the meal.

Since happy hours vary at each location, Kazama suggests calling the Ichiriki nearest you to find out when you can dive into this delectable deal.

The establishment also is excited to add another prime cut of meat to its nabe repertoire — Berkshire Pork Belly Chanko ($21.95). Hailing from environmentally-friendly farming conditions, Berkshire pork, also known as Kurobuta, is among the most esteemed swine on the market. The minute it arrives at the table, you’ll understand why.

“It’s different from regular pork in that it’s more red. You can tell just by looking at it that there’s more flavor in it because the meat is not so light. Our Kurobuta is a darker tone,” says Kazama.

He also mentioned that when the restaurant was deciding which type of pork belly to add to the menu, the Berkshire variety came out the winner of a blind taste test. “To me, it’s the most flavorful cut of pork.”

To accent this indulgent meat, customers may enjoy vegetables, rice and a choice of ramen, udon or zosui (Japanese rice porridge) to finish off with. Cooking the ingredients in one of Ichiriki’s flavorful broths also is a must.

“I personally like it with our Pirikara soup. It’s a shoyu-based soup, but it has hints of garlic and a little bit of spiciness to it as well. It’s really aromatic,” adds Kazama.

The sheer richness of these dishes’ combinations of flavors will be enough to make you want to hog them all to yourself, but remember, that glorious bowl of simmering goodness holds plenty to go around.

Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant

PIIKOI
510 Piikoi St., Honolulu
589-2299
Lunch: daily, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight

AIEA
98-150 Kaonohi St., Aiea
484-2222
Lunch: daily, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight; Sunday, 4-10 p.m.

KANEOHE
46-047 Kamehameha Hwy., Kaneohe
236-2299
Lunch: daily, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 pm.-midnight Sunday, 4-10 pm

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