Home-cooking just like Mom used to make

Columns Lite Bites

April 12, 2015

Story By: Yu Shing Ting | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

One sign that you’re at a good restaurant is the crowd. At Mama-Ya in Downtown Honolulu, which just opened March 16, the line is continuously out the door. But don’t worry, it moves fast.

“Business has been booming since day one,” says manager Dan Kobayashi. “Our mission is to be the No. 1 bento place in Hawaii. We aim for excellent taste and prices that can’t be beat.”

Mamaya also is located in Aiea at Pearl Kai Shopping Center, where the locale is designed as a quick pick-up-and-go bento shop, as well as at Ala Moana Center in Shirokiya’s Yataimura food court. At the new Downtown location, the menu has been expanded to include plate lunches, poke bowls, rice bowls, salad and pasta, all made-to order.

Miso Butterfish is most popular, but Kobayashi also recommends Poke Bowls ($7.50, available in Spicy Ahi, Shoyu Ahi or Oyster Ahi), Grilled Salmon Pasta ($7.25) and Loco Moco ($6.95).

A line typically starts to form by 10:45 a.m., and it continues until about 2 p.m. If you’re in a rush, there’s a separate line for customers purchasing pre-made, grab-and-go items and for picking up orders placed over the phone or by fax (must be placed by 10 a.m.).

Lunch plates and bowls come with your choice of white rice or multi-grain rice, and miso soup or bottled water. Pasta dishes also come with salad and bottled water.

“It’s called Mama-Ya for ‘mother’s house’ in Japanese,” explains Kobayashi. “We try to get the taste of our food as close to where you would say, ‘oh, that’s like my mother’s cooking.’ It’s relaxing when you eat it.”


Bishop Street Cafe
725 Bishop St.
Monday to Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.


Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy.
Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Note: Mama-Ya also is located in Shirokiya’s Yataimura food court on the second floor of Ala Moana Center.

Aiea, HI 96701

Honolulu, HI 96813

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best