Makin’ Each Meal Your Own

Ono, You Know

September 24, 2017

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Poke & Box let the editor go behind the scenes to mix up her very own PokeBox. What did she choose, you may ask? Spicy shoyu-doused ahi poke with creamy sesame-dressed shrimp and all the works, of course!

In today’s day and age, our lifestyles have become all about customization. Technology is the most obvious example of this: We watch the shows of our choosing at our leisure on our DVRs or Netflix accounts; we choose iTunes and Spotify over the radio; and we personalize our social media experiences, and oftentimes our ways of life, through apps and online resources.

Not surprisingly, the restaurant industry is keeping up with the trends. More than ever, we have at our disposal niche dining venues that cater to a wide range of palate preferences, from gluten-free bakeries to vegan bistros. And no longer is a buffet the only place you can go to pick and choose exactly what you want to eat.

As you’ll see here, some of today’s most popular food trends revolve around giving patrons all the options their tummies desire. Ono, You Know has found that these delicious destinations are excellent choices when it comes to finding that personalized dining experience we all desire:


When hunger strikes, many of us love to stand at the grocery store deli counter, salivating over the spread of poke selections to choose from. Well, what if I told you there is a place that takes this concept to the next level, allowing patrons to actually build their poke experience from scratch with customizable seasonings, sauces and sides along the way?

Medium PokeBoxMix with ahi and shrimp poke ($10.99)

That place exists, my friends. It’s Poke & Box at Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court, and it caters to folks looking for everything from a quick refuel to a filling meal. The process is simple: Choose the PokeBoxMix size you want (small with one choice of poke for $8.99; medium with two for $10.99; or large with three for $15.99), then build the bite of your taste buds’ dreams. Do you want green onions, cucumber and onion slices mixed into your poke, or none at all? Do you want your poke plate lunch-style with rice and a fun twist of crab and avocado, or would you prefer a big poke salad? Either way, you got it.

After choosing your poke base and seasonings, it’s time to move on to the poke itself. Select from fresh ahi, salmon, tako, tofu, shrimp, scallop or cooked chicken. The customization doesn’t stop there. There’s also toppings and sauces to choose from — sauces even include gluten-, spiceand mayo-free options. Last, but not least, additional sides transform your takeout entree from a standard poke bowl to a well-rounded meal.

“I have customers that come in every day and create their own, different combinations,” says general manager Lauren Yoo, whose family owns Poke & Box along with nearby Aja Sushi & Bento.

For Yoo, this dining concept is about more than just giving options. “It’s also for health reasons,” she says. “One day, a customer might want no carbs, and the next day, they want more carbs before they head out to the gym. We all have our own preferences and nowadays people have gluten-free (diets), allergies, etc. Instead of trying to do everything, we just wanted to give our customers the options to create whatever they want to eat.”


It’s no secret that, more often than not, hot pot is the go-to choice for a customizable meal. After all, diners get the final say in the broth that serves as the foundation of the sharable meal, as well as the wide array of ingredients and flavors that simmer within it.

Sweet Home Original combo of three broths ($24.95) with an assortment of add-ons (prices vary), from beef tongue to vegetables.

Sweet Home Cafe has mastered this dining approach, sticking to the philosophy that customers should be able to “build their own pot,” as head chef Shunya Akatsu puts it. Regulars of the popular King Street location will be happy to know that Sweet Home just opened a new location on Seaside Avenue in Waikiki Sept. 1. At the new spot, guests can enjoy the same great flavors from 4 to 10 p.m. daily, but with the added convenience of being able to make a reservation.

Also new to the Waikiki eatery is the introduction of three-broth pots, which, as Akatsu points out, not only make for more flavorful dinners, but also provide more options for those who don’t want to share their broth.

Pick any combination of three broths for $24.95 from Sweet Home’s selection of 15 soup bases, which touch on Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and fusion flavors. Akatsu recommends the golden trio of broths offered in the Sweet Home Original combo, which presents a light seafood-based House Special broth with hints of star anise, ginger and aromatic orange peel; a creamy Healthy Herb broth made with goji berries, dates and longan fruit (aka dragon eye), which are known for their medicinal properties; and a Spicy sip that heats up with chili pepper, basil and a fresh burst of mint.

Sweet Home Cafe’s new location is on Seaside Avenue in the heart of Waikiki.

The new location serves meat plates of pork, beef tongue and more for $6 each, while a plethora of other additions are priced from $3 to $6. Fill up on ramen noodles, beef-tongue tsukune (Japanese-style meat balls), tofu, green veggies, mushrooms and crab meat, just to name a few.

And let’s not forget about all of Sweet Home Cafe’s magnificent house-made, complimentary sauces to choose from, as well as its free shave-ice dessert that tops off every meal. For a limited time, the eatery is offering a Party Special at both locations (see coupon on page 15) for $15 off the entire bill for parties of six or more, and $20 off for parties of 10 or more. That makes for a great excuse to try out the Waikiki shop’s new private room (seats up to 22).

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