Dining Spot ‘Goes For It’
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Aja Sushi & Bento owner Lauren Yoo talks about a town she once lived in while working as an investment banker in Minato, Tokyo. The Japanese district is called Azabu-Juban, and the atmosphere is homey and quaint. After deciding to move back to Hawaii and open a restaurant with her parents 15 years ago, Yoo chose the name “Aja” for the eatery — the shortened, Korean-influenced version of Azabu-Juban — and took to heart the idea of the comforting town to run the family business.
Aja, meaning “yay!” or “go for it!” in Korean, has long represented the attitude behind Aja Sushi & Bento, with its second location in Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court. Customers can agree that the food, service and spirit of Aja is something to cheer about, as the menu is packed with a tasty mixture of Korean, Japanese and other local foods, with a friendly staff to make the experience great.
There is a “grab-and-go” section with an array of veggie sides to choose from, as well as already-made bentos and musubis. “We make whatever we (Yoo and her family) like to eat, and also follow customer requests and recipes that they teach us,” Yoo explains.
THE OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS
Aja Sushi & Bento sells Korean Sushi ($4.25), or kimbap, by the roll with a side of the restaurant’s house dipping sauce. The spicy, soy-based concoction also comes with plate lunches and entrees, because after trying it, you’ll want to put it on everything.
As for Aja’s Garlic Chicken Salad ($11.99), owner Lauren Yoo says the chicken is her grandmother’s recipe. The crispy, marinated chicken pairs perfectly with loads of fresh vegetables.
Ajapac ($11.59) is another good option, coming with rice, mandoo, garlic chicken and a choice of salmon, saba, shrimp tempura or meat jun. These are perfect for on-the-go meals, meetings and sporting events, Yoo says.
Aja Sushi & Bento
Ala Moana Center, Makai Market Food Court,
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.