A Yakitori Yum Fest!

Columns Ono, You Know

September 15, 2013

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Leah Friel

During the last week of summer, it’s only fitting to bid the season farewell with a bang. Last-minute barbecues in the backyard, one last jump in the pool on a scorching-hot day and one final full-on tan session … Yes, please! Soak it all in because it won’t be long before the cooler days of autumn are upon us. Time sure does pass in the blink of an eye!

Yet, just because summer is dwindling away doesn’t mean barbecued favorites, such as yakitori, also have to go on hiatus. No way! A laid-back approach to any meal, yakitori is all about your favorite meats (generally chicken) and sometimes a slew of other ingredients all served on skewers that have been grilled or slow-roasted in traditional yakitori style.

Here at the following Ono, You Know locations, the chefs cook each skewer in a simple and effortless manner, not drowning it in seasonings and sauces, but instead merely using them as accents to showcase the yakitori’s natural flavor. The aroma of smoke billows from around the grill and is so intoxicating and mouthwatering, that you’ll want to pull the meat off the stick with your teeth! There’s just no stopping a yakitori addict, because we all know that one skewer will lead to another, and another … and another. You get the idea!

Sushi King

Let’s start out by stating the obvious: Sushi rules at Sushi King! But that’s not to dismiss the fact that teishoku meals and yakitori are out-of-this-world ono as well. This South King Street eatery, which opened for business in 1992, appeals to the masses and especially the late-night crowd, as it’s open until 2 a.m. Wednesday through Monday (the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. Tuesdays). What’s more ideal than that when an intense craving for chicken skewers strikes at midnight?

My top picks are Chicken Thigh Yakitori ($5.50 for two skewers) and Tsukune Yakitori ($5.50 for two skewers). Also known as chicken meatball, tsukune yakitori is comprised of chicken, egg, flour, sweet sake, a light drizzle of shoyu, ginger, minced onions and miso paste. Truly delectable.

Both of the aforementioned yakitori options are grilled on the robata grill and lightly glazed with a sweet and savory teriyaki sauce.

Always bound to hit the spot, Sushi King’s yakitori puts the fun and yum into Japanese-style dining.

Sushi King
2700 S. King St.

Sushi YuZu

Ko Olina’s dining scene just got brighter with Sushi YuZu, an innovative izakaya-style restaurant that commands a presence from patrons with its robust flavors and contemporary flair that dress up traditional Japanese cuisine. Husband-and-wife duo Isamu and Moco Kubato oversee operations here and set the highest of standards for its famed masterpieces, including Omakase Hawaii, Omakase Japan, Heart of Palm Tempura and more.

Sushi YuZu also takes a simple staple, such as Chicken Yakitori, and beautifies it with glazes that are most definitely palate approved. Priced at $8.95, diners are presented with four skewers of slow-roasted chicken that’s cooked to perfection atop a specialized yakitori grill from Japan.

“The grill gives the exterior of the skinless chicken a nice crisp, while the meaty interior remains tender and juicy,” says manager Hideki Kimukai.

Yuzu Pepper glaze is a unique citrus blend of vinegar, yuzu, chili pepper, sea salt and other spices, while Ume Shiso glaze ups the ante as a streak of sweet, yet tart Japanese plum sauce accents the yakitori nicely. For a more authentic taste, Kimukai recommends the Teriyaki glaze, which is primarily composed of a gluten-free soy sauce.

“Teriyaki glaze is the most popular, but we want our customers to know that they can mix and match the flavors,” he says.

It’s a total yakitori fest at Sushi YuZu!

Sushi YuZu
92-1047 Olani St., Ste. 1-101

Japanese Restaurant Aki

Believe it or not, Aki Hirose, manager of Japanese Restaurant Aki, was one of the first to bring beloved yakitori to the Islands, and devout yakitori aficionados may remember him as former owner of Yakitori Yoshi and Japanese Dining and Bar Yoshi.

These grilled chicken skewers gained popularity in Japan, and Japanese Restaurant Aki spotlights these a la carte items with elaborate presentations and exceptional taste. The variety of yakitori selections is impressive. Your classic Chicken Thigh Yakitori ($2 each), Chicken Wing Yakitori ($2) and Chicken Meatball Yakitori ($2.50 each) are sure to cater to the traditionalist, but expand your horizons and immerse your taste buds in Pork Belly Yakitori ($2.50 each), Cow Tongue ($3.50 each) and Breast Pizza Cheese ($2.50 each), which consists of chicken breast coated with melted cheese. Then, take yakitori beyond the norm and liven it up with even more creativity. Enter Quail Egg Yakitori ($2 each) — slow-roasted and beautifully seasoned with salt — and Shiitake Mushroom Yakitori ($2 each).

The distinct flavor of each individual yakitori is kicked up a notch with your choice of salt or tare seasoning. Tare features a shoyu base infused with mirin, sake and a hint of sugar, pairing well with Chicken Wing Yakitori.

Japanese Restaurant Aki is open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., so there’s no better time to partake in your favorite yakitori as an appetizer or late-night snack.

Japanese Restaurant Aki
1427 Makaloa St.

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best