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Get immersed in nabe

By Rachel Breit Photos By Rachel Breit
December 21, 2014

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Enjoy cooking, but don’t feel like doing the legwork of preparing ingredients or cleaning up? Enter nabe, the traditional Japanese hot pot cuisine, where the dining room becomes the kitchen.

Such is the case at Nabeya Maido. The eatery provides the broth, raw ingredients and utensils. You and your fellow diners take it from there for a healthful and communal meal. (Dine before 5:30 p.m. and receive a 20 percent discount on most items.)

Those new to nabe, fear not. Nabeya Maido takes the guesswork out of selecting ingredients with its Omakase Platter ($18.90 for two people). The selection is a balanced combination of meats and seafoods (choice ribeye, pork belly, shrimp and fish balls with roe), vegetables (won bok, cabbage, bean sprouts, pumpkin, mushrooms and watercress) and more (mochi, aburage and tofu). Pick out a soup base — from creamy soy milk-imbued Bijin Nabe ($7.90) to aromatic Japanese Curry Nabe ($8.90) — and away you go. Still not sure what to do once you have the ingredients? Friendly staff provide a helping hand to the uninitiated.

If the saying, “Some like it hot,” applies to you, Akakara (Spicy) Nabe ($8.90) is a must try. “This is the one that’s going to make your lips tingle,” explains general manager Kevin Suehiro. “It’s a gochujang base with honey and garlic.” While the broth is sure to fire you up, it still boasts fullness and depth, not just the brute force of Korean chili paste. “It’s our second most popular broth,” he attests.

Nabe pros can customize their meals by grabbing ingredients from the “Food Cave,” the lovingly named display case signified by a wooden sign that Suehiro hand-lettered himself. Seafood fans will want to get their hands on both the pristine Washington state-sourced oysters ($5.90 for three) and the buttery ahi belly ($4.90).

“You can eat the oysters raw, but when you throw them into a broth, it makes them so much more flavorful,” says Suehiro.

As for the ahi belly, he says, “the best way I enjoy this is in a regular shabu shabu (a simple kombu broth). Just boil it up, and dip it in the ponzu sauce. It’s really good.”

Shabu Shabu Tare Set ($3.90) is the perfect accompaniment to shabu shabu, where diners cook individual thin slices of meat by swishing them around in the boiling broth. The sauce set (tare means sauce) includes four different flavor-packed sauces for dunking morsels of cooked protein. The set also includes a water and umami-rich kombu broth for cooking (if you decide not to order one of the other flavored broths.)

“If people want to use the sauces with Maido Nabe (the eatery’s signature broth), then they can order the sauce set by itself,” explains Suehiro. The set also comes with grated daikon and green onions.

Go on, take a dip! The homemade sauces are served in dishes or refillable bottles for relishing to your heart’s content. Goma dare sings with a rich sesame and miso base. Fresh-grated vegetables are added for extra texture. Zingy yuzu ponzu is infused with the Japanese citrus. “We add yuzu to give a little more tanginess to it,” says Suehiro. “It’s our pride and joy.”

Sam’s sauce — the owner’s namesake shoyu and garlic sauce — is laced with grated fruit and vegetables.

Named after the owner’s daughter, Lily’s sauce is a mix of Korean gochujang tempered with honey.

“It’s a hot spicy sauce,” Suehiro says.

“We only make the sauces in small bunches. They are all made by hand, even the vegetables are grated by hand,” he explains.

Like in all Nabeya Maido’s offerings, it’s freshness you can taste.

Nabeya Maido

Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
739-7739
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. (last seating)
Saturday-Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. (last seating)
Happy Hour, opening-5:30 p.m.