A hot nabe sensation

Columns What's Cooking?

November 9, 2014

Story By: Rachel Breit | Photos by: Rachel Breit

While dreary days easily inspire the sentiment to go home and curl up with a good book, Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant invites you to skip the solitude and, instead, gather friends, family or coworkers for a warm, congenial meal around a hot pot.

“Nabe is a great food to bring people together,” says Ichiriki partner Masaki Sasada. “It’s not a dish that you eat by yourself. It’s a bonding type of comfort food.”

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get cooking.

First, pick your cookware. Go for the regular pot or opt for a kami nabe paper pot ($1 extra), which helps skim off excess fat. Next, choose an umami-rich broth, like the shoyu-based signature or the simple konbu-infused broth. Then, choose your set loaded with the basics — kuzukiri noodles made with arrow-root, carrots, bok choy, shiitake and tofu, to name a few — and selections of seafood, beef, chicken or pork. When dining for dinner, finish your meal with noodles or zosui, a rice and egg mixture that soaks up the remaining broth to create a flavorful porridge.

What’s great about all the customization is the fact that everyone in your party gets a taste of what they want. “So it all depends on how you want to combine the flavors together,” says Sasada. While meats are well respected on the menu, so are vegetables.

“We use seasonal vegetables,” Sasada explains. “We try to cater to vegetarians and vegans.” Vegetarian Mushroom Chanko ($19.95) is a good example of this, where rather than meat, a variety of tender mushrooms, such as shimeji and eryngii, and aburage take the spotlight. Divided pots allow for two options of broths and ingredients, so everyone’s happy.

“You can also enjoy drinking all the broth after it’s done,” says Sasada.

Beef lovers will surely gravitate to Happy Hour Beef Shabu Shabu ($16.95). The happy hour discount means “everyone can try the Kobe grade,” says Sasada. The marbled ribeye is cut thin so all it takes is a couple of swishes in the boiling broth to cook it to a perfect pink tenderness. “It’s probably the best beef we carry. It has a good balance of both fat and meat. It’s soft and juicy,” says Sasada, who recommends dunking the cooked pieces into the citrusy ponzu and creamy sesame goma dipping sauces.

After a hot meal, cool down with some Ujikintoki Shave Ice ($4.95) for dessert. The green tea shave ice is layered with condensed milk, studded with mochi balls and topped with azuki beans and a final drizzle of condensed milk for a balanced finale that’s not overly sweet.

Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant

510 Piikoi St. #102 (and other locations)
Lunch: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 4 p.m.-midnight
Happy hour: 2-6 p.m., 9:30-last call

Honolulu, HI 96814

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