A Winning Combination Of Local FlavorsFeatures Inside Feature
July 10, 2016
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Missy Romero
Similar to a local-style pot luck, Aja Sushi & Bento brings dishes from around the world to one table for both kamaaina and visitors alike to enjoy.
Diners can discover their “Aja” moment at Ala Moana’s Makai Market Food Court, where Aja Sushi & Bento serves up a host of menu items in a convenient, inviting setting. As its meaning suggests in Korean, Aja’s customers are encouraged to “go for it” when selecting everything from pupus to lunches and combination plates that allow diners to pair favorites including, if one so chooses, pork adobo and kimchee.
“My parents started the business in 1999, and soon after, I left the field of investment banking in Japan to join the family operation,” explains owner Lauren Yoo. “We had a smaller operation at the UH Campus Center before opening the current Ala Moana food court location in May of 2014.”
Yoo explains that Aja Sushi & Bento allows guests to create combinations of tastes and flavors from around the globe, including Japanese, Korean, Filipino and local inspirations. The restaurant is built on a foundation of family influences, and the popular garlic chicken actually stems from Yoo’s grandmother’s recipe.
“Our garlic chicken is really popular, and it’s different than what you find at other restaurants. A catering chef had made it at a party and my grandmother duplicated it,” Yoo says. “My grandmother had seven girls, and each one has crafted their own take on the recipe after watching her make it.”
Diners can dig in with a Two-Choice Plate Lunch ($11.99), which includes a selection of white or brown rice, two main choices and two side vegetables. For instance, one may combine salmon and the aforementioned garlic chicken with tossed salad and kimchee.
Mini Bento ($6.99) is a smaller, yet flavor-packed offering that allows guests to pick a main item, such as shoyu chicken, garlic chicken or salmon, and pair it with white or brown rice and two vegetable selections.
Smaller, snack-like choices also reside at Aja Sushi & Bento’s “grab-and-go” area, including the local staple Spam Musubi ($1.89), and Onigiri ($2.49) composed of salmon, ume or konbu. Popular salad selections also grace the menu and include flavors the likes of Garlic Chicken and Salmon ($6.49 each).
Yoo also recommends an Ajapac ($11.59), which features rice, mandoo, garlic chicken and a choice of salmon, saba, shrimp tempura or meat jun — the perfect option for a meal on the go.
“It’s hard to find tasty, local food coupled with fresh vegetables and healthy options, but we aim to do just that at Aja Sushi & Bento,” Yoo says.
Aja Sushi & Bento
Ala Moana Center
Makai Market Food Court
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 8 A.M.-9 P.M.; Sunday, 9 A.M.-7 P.M.