Take A Tasty Stroll Through YokochoStep Up to the Plate
October 22, 2017
Story By: Lynsey Beth Futa | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Sneak away from fast-paced Waikiki and enter the transcendent Waikiki Yokocho Gourmet Alley, located on the lower level of Waikiki Shopping Plaza. You’ll pinch yourself over the sight of dreamy entryways draped in noren (Japanese fabric dividers), homey wood furnishings and an endless amount of Japanese street-style fare to choose from.
Inspired by the intimate bars and restaurants known to line the side streets of Japan — yokocho literally means “alleyways off to the side of a main street” — Yokocho founder Frank Clark brought the concept to Hawaii in December of last year.
With 15 eateries to explore — all fashioned around a luxurious out-in-the-open bar — the possibilities are endless, and each patron is sure to find exactly what he or she is craving.
“It’s very different in that it’s not like a food court,” Clark clarifies, “because there’s service at each restaurant.”
He adds, “You dine from place to place — it’s meant to make you get up and go try something different. So, maybe you start with sushi and then you have some tempura, and then maybe you’ll get Nana’s Green Tea (more on this later).”
And it’s definitely a good idea to savor some sushi at Yokocho, as Beniya Sushi and Washoku offers fresh fish from the Islands and Japan. The restaurant’s Deluxe Chirashi Don ($29.95) is especially popular, often including quality selections of maguro, sake (salmon), kampachi, ikura, amaebi (shrimp) and more.
For something with a little more crunch, walk right across the way to Tempura Meshi Kaneko Hannosuke. Regular Tempura Plate Set ($10.98; or $12.50 with miso soup) is a good option, as it includes made-to-order tempura — including two shrimp, shishito pepper, kabocha and mushroom — as well as rice, a runny egg and a side of homemade dipping sauce.
Yokocho also includes establishments that offer kushikatsu, teppanyaki, wagyu beef, French-style crepes, musubis and curries. Explore further and you’ll even find a whole corner of the alleyway dedicated to serving up different varieties of ramen.
Tsujita is a favorite choice for ramen, and the eatery even prepares tsukemen, a unique dish from Tokyo that involves dipping noodles into a concentrated broth. If it’s your first time there, you have to try Charsiu Tsukemen ($18.48 regular). The portion size — also available in small ($16.98) and large ($19.98) — is generous, including perfectly cooked noodles, sliced char siu and a side of thick pork bone broth (tonkotsu) that’s full of umami flavor from simmering for 60 hours.
Finish off your meal with any refreshing treat from Nana’s Green Tea. Clark says that Matcha Shiratama ($8.90), a delectably delicious parfait, is one of the shop’s best-sellers. The towering confection includes house-made green tea ice cream, vanilla soft serve, corn flakes, mochi, matcha pudding, jelly and azuki bean paste. The dessert is topped off with whipped cream and flavorful matcha syrup.
Nana’s also is offering seasonal goodies, including Pumpkin Caramel soft serve ice cream and Pumpkin Azuki Frappe, through Oct. 31.
Speaking of seasonal matters, make sure to celebrate Halloween with Yokocho on the Sunday before the holiday. The alley will host a Monster Massive event Oct. 29 (noon-5 p.m.), which will include a Monster Eating contest, where contestants will attempt to wolf down 4.4 pounds of food (either gargantuan-sized ramen, tempura, sushi or curry) in 30 minutes , and a Monster Looks costume contest — all for a chance to win some amazing prizes!
“It’s a fun place for everyone, including families,” Clark says. “You sit, drink, snack and you don’t spend that much money. Plus, kamaaina receive 10 percent off anywhere in Yokocho, with some establishments offering 15 percent off.”