You can have it allA La Carte Columns
August 14, 2016
Story By: Maria Kanai | Photos by: AJA SUSHI & BENTO
A good bento is all about balance, flavor and convenience, and Aja Sushi & Bento meets all three criteria in flying, tasty colors. The restaurant opened its third location at Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court two years ago, serving up local cuisine in plate lunches and bentos.
Aja’s bentos, like the AjaPac ($11.59), are made with the perfect amount of vegetables, proteins and carbs. The AjaPac is a full meal of mandoo, garlic chicken, rice and your choice of salmon, saba, shrimp tempura or meat jun. As owner Lauren Yoo explains, “The AjaPac is easy to take around, whether you’re going to the beach or bringing back lunch for the staff. You could just buy 10 of them, and they’re convenient to eat anywhere.”
Another popular item, according to Yoo, is Korean Sushi ($4.45), a 10-piece sushi roll made with teriyaki beef, egg, daikon, choy sum and carrots, and paired with a house-made spicy sauce to dip each piece into. “Korean sushi is a little different from your typical sushi,” says Yoo. “It’s basically like eating a bibimbap in sushi form. You have everything — protein, vegetables and rice — in one meal.”
Yoo’s concept of “everything in one” extends to the restaurant’s entire menu, which showcases an array of local cuisines that are representative of cultures from around the world. Yoo says that Aja is like a local potluck, where everyone’s best dish is brought to the table.
“You know how one Japanese aunty brings the nishime, the Filipino aunty brings adobo, the Korean aunty brings the garlic chicken?” says Yoo. “In the same way, our dishes come from our family, our staff and the staff’s family. We don’t have a necessarily fancy menu … it’s simple. I like to say it’s like a local potluck meal.”
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.