Relish a World of Endless PossibilitiesCover Story Features
March 24, 2013
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel
When you’re hungry, access to an all-you-can-eat buffet is phenomenal, then add a reasonable price to the equation, and you’re ready to stuff yourself to your heart’s content. Makino Chaya in Aiea’s Westridge Shopping Center dominates, as this renowned Japanese Seafood establishment boasts more than 100 items to feast on at the buffet line or off the menu.
Makino Chaya’s lunch buffet is available week-days from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. ($10.98 per person) and weekends from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($18.98 per person). The dinner buffet is offered Monday through Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. ($25.98 per person), Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. ($25.98 per person), Saturdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m. ($27.98 per person) and Sundays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. ($27.98 per person).
“One thing that a lot of people don’t realize about Makino Chaya is the fact that we don’t cook everything at once,” says Chris Mitchell, general manager of operations. “We serve a lot of food, but we cook as it goes. Shrimp tempura is something that we’re constantly making. We have two kitchen staff strictly working the deep-fryer.”
According to Mitchell, patrons come for the seafood first and foremost. In fact, Makino Chaya is currently in the midst of Crab Fest and offers up a plethora of mouth-watering seafood options, including Dungeness crab, snow crab, king crab and soft-shell crab (while supplies last).
“Available for dinner, customers who love seafood can’t resist this. King crab and soft-shell crab have to be ordered off the menu, but Dungeness crab and snow crab are part of the buffet,” Mitchell states.
“We ordered 50,000 pounds of crab in one container and we go through about 300 to 400 pounds a night,” he adds, noting that snow crab seems to be the most popular choice.
“The question I’m asked most often is what’s the difference between lunch and dinner, and I always answer that the higher-quality items are always served at dinner. Lunch is just as good, but a lot more simple,” Mitchell says.
Makino Chaya caters to both kamaaina and tourists alike with the ultimate goal of keeping its customers happy and satisfied with a variety of fare that won’t break the pocketbook. Most recently, the restaurant added melt-in-your-mouth sashimi to its repertoire, with uni, unagi, hamachi and ahi claiming the top spots as proven favorites.
“Ahi is the most popular, and we go through three times more ahi than anything else,” Mitchell says. “Not only do diners have complete access to the buffet line, but they also can order off the menu.”
Among the most highly recommended menu items are Miso Butterfish, Katsu Curry, and Curry and rice. In addition to that, Makino Chaya’s teppanyaki grill constantly fires off morsels of meaty goodness at the request of its customers.
“One thing you’ll notice about our restaurant is that even though we’re categorized as a ‘Japanese seafood establishment,’ we offer various ethnically diverse dishes that appeal to just about everyone,” Mitchell explains. “Our Seafood Dynamite — a mixture of lobster and crab topped with cheese in a crab shell — is a hit, and don’t forget about the desserts either!”
Any dessert enthusiast will tell you that a meal is not complete unless it ends on the sweetest note. Enter the famous Chocolate Pyramid from JJ Bistro & French Pastry and ice cream pies from RB’s Ice Cream Desserts to the restaurant’s dessert station.
RB’s ice cream pies (red velvet, green tea, Kona coffee and mango flavors) as well as JJ’s Chocolate Pyramid are priced at $1.99 per piece. And if you dine on your birthday, you’ll receive a free dessert courtesy of Makino Chaya.
“Everyone is usually full after taking part in the allyou-can-eat buffet, so we allow our guests to take their dessert home with them to enjoy later,” Mitchell says.
A hot spot for celebrating special occasions, Mitchell adds that Makino Chaya already has been taking reservations for upcoming graduation parties. The restaurant seats 350 people comfortably, and reservations for larger parties are a must.
“We recently began to offer catering services, which people have been liking. However, we don’t do on-site catering — you have to come here and pick up the food. “We also make it a point to work within your budget,” Mitchell explains.
Visit makinochaya-hawaii.com to obtain access to coupons redeemable at Makino Chaya, as Mitchell says the restaurant does its best to give its new and loyal customers the best deals.
“As long as we’re making our locals happy, then we’re doing our job,” he says with a smile.
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St., Aiea
11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday-Friday (lunch)
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (lunch)
6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday (dinner)
6-9 p.m. Fridays (dinner)
5:30-9 p.m. Saturday (dinner)
5:30-8:30 Sunday (dinner)