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Odori-ko Dances with Delicious Flavors

By Ali Resich Photos By Bodie Collins
December 29, 2015

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Oftentimes, you can tell a lot about a restaurant from its name, and that certainly is the case at Odori-ko. When expressed in English, the Japanese moniker translates to “a dancer,” and hints not only at the story behind the new Kapiolani Boulevard eatery, but also at the unique dining atmosphere it is creating for the local community.

While the hot spot sports a modern and trendy look, its roots actually extend to the Ilikai Hotel, where the Takei family opened the curtains of its first traditional Japanese restaurant in 1972. It was named Maiko back then, which similarly to odoriko means “entertainer,” according to president and owner Hiro Takei.

The name Odori-ko first debuted in the family business in 1978, when Takei’s parents used it as the title for their second Waikiki location at King’s Village Shopping Center. The subsequent spot remained open until August, and when it came time for Takei and his sister Rie Akita to take the reins of the operation, they decided that the show must go on, following in their parents’ footsteps to create a new home for Odori-ko. The refreshed restaurant features the same traditional fare as the preceding eateries, but also brings contemporary and local-inspired menu items to the table in a more kamaaina-friendly location.

“When we opened outside of Waikiki, we really wanted to immerse ourselves back into the local culture of things,” says Takei.

So far, the new venture is one the siblings’ parents can be proud of. “To see it come to life and be so modern, (our parents) are really happy. They’re excited that this legacy is continuing,” adds Akita, who serves as owner and vice president.

In addition to linking to the restaurant’s past, the name Odori-ko and its accompanying tagline “escape, engage, indulge” represent the qualities Takei and Akita wish to share with patrons. “From the beginning, it was always my father’s aim that this restaurant business is an entertainment business. It’s a place where people can get together, enjoy, have fun — not just with good food, but good times — and in this way, we really wanted to build a social gathering place,” explains Takei.

The brother-and-sister duo is fulfilling this goal in many ways, including through philanthropic efforts for the community. They recently partnered with three nonprofits to initiate a Dine and Donate program, in which 10 percent of proceeds from select dishes go toward the organizations’ causes.

Guests will be pleased to know that the Dine and Donate dishes are among the tastiest on the menu.

Odori-ko Style Wafu Steak ($18.95), for instance, presents 8 ounces of New York cut sirloin served Japanese-style with a miso-based sauce poured on top. Daikon, green onion and garlic chips are perfect garnishes, while delectable onions and mushrooms accompany the juicy meat.

Dragon Tempura Roll ($14.95) and Macadamia Nut Tofu ($6.95) also are delicious additions to Dine and Donate. The savory sushi highlights a tempura roll topped with broiled eel and avocado, while Macadamia Nut Tofu is made in house using locally produced nuts. “(The tofu has) a really subtle taste in the beginning, but then that macadamia nut smell hits your nose first and it really becomes bold,” says Takei.

All of these dishes light up the first-class, full-service dinner menu, which includes creative selections like Salmon Sashimi with Ponzu Jelly ($9 dinner, $7 happy hour). This fun twist on a classic presents fresh salmon sashimi topped with citrusy ponzu vinegar that has been transformed into sparkling jewels of gelatin that burst with flavor when eaten.

During Odori-ko’s casual lunch service, convenience meets flavor by way of succulent Wafu Steak, seafood, rice and noodles specialties, salads and more — all of which are offered in takeout boxes. “It’s fast and for on-the-go people. But if you have time, our space is your living room,” says Takei, adding that free Wi-Fi is available for those dining in.

For dessert, customers can delight in treats provided by local pastry chef and Sweet Revenge creator Kathy Masunaga.

They also can enjoy live music by local acts Friday and Saturday nights, and the eatery plans to unveil more entertainment in the coming year. “We didn’t want to be just a business in the community; our aim was to be a restaurant that’s essentially part of the community,” says Takei.

A Taste of the NEW Year

From Dec. 31 to Jan. 2 , Odori-ko will ring in 2016 with traditional Ozoni and Toshikoshi “year-crossing” soba noodles. When it comes to Ozoni, the soup is prepared Western Japanese-style with chicken broth, and features celebratory red and white additions of carrot, fishcake and daikon. Owner and president Hiro Takei adds that “mochi is the central ingredient, and it’s long and stretchy, which signifies long life, prosperity and bigger family.”

Odori-ko

1680 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
955-6555
Monday-Saturday, Lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 4:30 p.m.-midnight
Happy hour: 4:30-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight
Email reservations to reservations@odori-ko.com odori-ko.com

Patrons may enjoy validated three-hour parking in the nearby 24 Hour Fitness structure; street parking and $5 valet service from 5 p.m. also are available.