Serving Up Quality, ConvenienceFeatures Inside Feature
January 22, 2017
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Anthony Consillio
Diners can discover their “Aja” moment at Aja Sushi & Bento by enjoying a host of menu items in a convenient, inviting setting within Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court.
As its Korean meaning suggests, Aja’s customers are encouraged to “go for it” when selecting everything from pupus to lunches and combination plates. Patrons can pair together a wide range of flavors, including, if one so chooses, pork adobo and kimchee. Similar to a local-style pot luck, Aja Sushi & Bento brings dishes from around the world to one table for kamaaina and visitors alike to enjoy.
“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. Our food is great on the go without sacrificing quality.”
Some of the flavors Aja Sushi & Bento specializes in are 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.”
Yoo recommends an AjaPac ($11.99), a hearty bento that includes rice, mandoo, garlic chicken and a choice of salmon, saba, shrimp tempura or meat jun — the perfect meal on the go. Spam and Chicken Combo ($7.49) is another popular selection that features the local staple Spam Musubi, garlic chicken and edamame — a combination that Yoo calls “a prefect meal for after a day at the beach or a soccer game.”
Smaller, snack-like choices also are available at Aja Sushi & Bento’s “grab-and-go” area, including Spam Musubi ($1.92) and Onigiri ($2.58) composed of salmon, ume or konbu. Korean Sushi ($4.68) is perfect as a snack or small meal and includes bulgogi, choy sum, egg, daikon and carrots, along with a special dipping sauce.
Popular salad selections also grace the menu and include Garlic Chicken and Salmon ($7.49 each) varieties. Mini Bento ($7.49) 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.
“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.
Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.