A mixture of eats for on-the-go feasting

A La Carte

January 14, 2018

Story By: Yu Shing Ting |


One of the best food traditions in Hawaii is the local-style potluck. Well, at Aja, you can find those familiar local dishes any day of the week — no invitation needed.

“Our menu is a typical local potluck spread — there’s pork adobo, chicken, noodles, fish, nishime, everything,” says Lauren Yoo, who serves as co-general manager with brother Ethan Yoo. “It’s local favorites packed in a convenient pick-up-and-go bento.”

An array of snacks and bentos span Aja’s counter at Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court. FILE PHOTO

Known for its bento boxes and Korean sushi (kimbap), Aja specializes in local comfort foods — think something that your mom would cook for you — that are made from old family recipes, as well as contributions from friends and employees.

Among the best sellers is Garlic Chicken, which also is available as a Family Pack ($15.99; mention this story in Dining Out and get $2 off during the month of January). Made with boneless chicken thighs, it’s a Korean-style garlic chicken that is tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside, and has just the right blend of flavors.

Assorted Ajapacs ($12.49 each) FILE PHOTO

“It’s a family recipe and it’s been with us since the beginning,” says Lauren Yoo. “Recently, we’ve been having lots of customers that wanted the family pack for family dinners and potlucks. They’re all busy at night and don’t have dinner plans, so they just come in and pick it up. You can get rice and veggies on the side, or the best deal is if they have rice at home.”

The garlic chicken also is available as a ready-made bento, such as Garlic Chicken Mini Bento; or combination bento, such as Salmon and Garlic Chicken, or Shrimp Tempura and Garlic Chicken ($7.99 each).

Garlic Chicken Family Pack ($15.99; $2 off in January with mention of this Dining Out story) YU SHING TING PHOTO

Also popular are Ajapacs ($12.49 each), which feature assorted bentos that include garlic chicken, four pieces of mandoo and your choice of salmon, meat jun, shrimp tempura or saba. All Ajapacs are served with rice and broccoli.

The family-run restaurant first opened in Fort Street Mall in 1999 before relocating to University of Hawaii at Manoa, as well as opening a deli shop in the Ala Moana Building and restaurant in Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court.

Honolulu, HI 96814

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