Nourishing the soul with nabe

Ali Carte Columns

August 31, 2014

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

In Japanese culture, partaking in the hot pot style of cooking known as nabe is like carving out a bit of one’s day to spend with family and friends while sharing in a single nourishing pot of warmth — the kind of warmth that not only comes from savory broths simmering away, but also from the fuzzy feeling such an intimate meal leaves in one’s tummy.

It’s no surprise that the infectious coziness of these healthy, do-it-yourself soups has led to numerous nabe restaurants opening up in recent years. The trick to knowing the best spot to visit is choosing one where that charming spirit permeates the entire dining experience.

Nabeya Maido in Market City Shopping Center is just the place, as patrons feel at home from the moment they enter the hot spot, which hosted its grand opening in April. According to Kevin Suehiro, who co-owns the eatery with business partner and chef Yusuke “Sam” Sonobe, “Nabe is a Japanese comfort food, so people come in, they can grab some nabe, it’s healthy and it will fill them up, but won’t weigh them down.”

Nabeya sets the tone for a family-friendly meal from the get-go, as its homey ambiance welcomes customers with rustic pine wood paneling lining the walls — which Suehiro personally installed with his father, a carpenter. “I just like the warmth of it,” Suehiro describes. “My goal is to have a restaurant that’s inviting — a place where people can come in and feel comfortable.”

The most comfort, of course, comes from mouth-watering nabe selections. Sonobe prepares all of the broths from scratch, which are ready to be enjoyed with a customizable range of meats, seafood, vegetables, noodles, rice and more. Nabeya Maido primarily caters to Japanese tastes, but also incorporates local flavors as well as touches on the Taiwanese nabe tradition of offering a plethora of fresh add-ons that customers may hand pick from a refrigerated display case.

Currently, the Nabeya Maido Lunch Special ($9.90; available daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to the first 10 customers who order it, or while supplies last) is a great way to try what the eatery has to offer. Diners are presented with cabbage, won bok, udon, chicken tsukune, pork belly, tofu, aburrage, pumpkin, mochi, enoki and shiitake mushrooms and watercress to cook in the broth of their choice.

One of the most popular broths is spicy Korean-style Akakara, made from gochujang (hot pepper paste). While Sonobe couldn’t reveal all of the broth’s secret ingredients to Ali Carte, the chef did share that honey lends fullness to his Akakara nabe.

As for Suehiro, Curry Nabe is his soup base of choice, as he loves the traditional Japanese curry presented with a broth-like consistency. Customers agree, and have also become fond of the curry risotto available with this broth, which is served at the end of the meal along with melted bits of grated cheese.

To complete any of Nabeya Maido’s soul-satisfying soups, be sure to order the house-made sauces ($3.90 for the set) as well. The set includes traditional yuzu ponzu and gomadare sauces, the latter featuring miso, sesame and hand-grated vegetables. It also presents unique tastes of house-made Sam’s sauce, with shoyu, garlic and grated vegetables, as well as Lily’s sauce highlighting spicy gochujang.

Nabeya Maido

Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu
Daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (last seating at 10 p.m.)

Honolulu, HI 96826

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