A Flavorful FarewellOno, You Know
June 17, 2018
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Happy Sunday, Ono readers!
I hope you are digging into a drool-worthy meal with family and friends on this glorious day. For nearly seven years now, I’ve had the sheer joy of writing to you about the stories and recipes behind Oahu’s restaurant scene, first as a Dining Out columnist and eventually as the editor. It has been an absolute privilege and dream come true to share my lifelong passion for food with you, as well as the amazingly talented chefs, restaurateurs and waitstaff who ensure our taste buds are invigorated every day of the week. What a delicious ride it’s been!
But the time has come for me to bring my feast-filled chapter with Dining Out to a close in order to embrace new career opportunities ahead. As any gourmand knows, though, a foodie is forever, and so I will continue to celebrate Hawaii’s unparalleled melting pot of flavors alongside the best palates out there — all of you — and I sincerely thank you for your readership.
Now, it is with much excitement that I introduce you to our incoming Dining Out editor, Ellise Kakazu. You may recognize her, as she’s been a frequent contributor to our publication, and she’s ready to take the proverbial torch and jump into the newest and brightest flavors in the industry.
As you can imagine, Ellise and I got to talking about all things food lately, and we realized we both have a true affinity for Japanese cuisine. So what better way to kick off this new beginning than with some delectable yakitori, sushi and more around town?
This pair of food-writing gals has decided to begin our tasty new adventure at Japanese Restaurant Aki, the izakaya hot spot that was formerly located on Makaloa Street, but has enjoyed a cozy new home in the Kaimuki area since October of last year.
Yakitori is a growing craze here in the Islands, but I love to zero in on Japanese Restaurant Aki’s delectable grilled skewers because the eatery was well ahead of the trend in sharing this Japanese tradition with Hawaii. As the smoky aroma of imported Japanese charcoal fills the intimate dining space, patrons can watch chefs grill their pork belly, teri-glazed chicken thighs and many other savory skewers to perfection before scarfing them down.
To get a well rounded taste of the restaurant’s yakitori, go for the Chef’s Assortment ($12), which features a rotating selection of the grill master’s top picks. When Ono, You Know stopped by, the assortment featured the aforementioned grilled goodies as well as pork-wrapped shiso leaves, shiitake mushrooms and chicken wings.
Beyond yakitori, there’s plenty to love — and devour — at this dining spot, including pupus, poke, sushi and even hot pot. Chef and manager Eric Rogers recommends Beef Intestine Spicy Chige ($20 per order; minimum two orders required), a hot-pot selection that debuted at the new location. The Korean-inspired soup features a rich, spicy broth that is dressed up with citrusy Japanese yuzukosho, a fermented seasoning made from yuzu peel, chili pepper and salt. It all heats up with collagen-rich beef intestine — which is quite flavorful and melts in your mouth — as well as tofu, cabbage, fresh chives and bean sprouts. For an additional cost, soak up every last drop with ramen, udon, or rice and egg.
Rogers notes that the restaurant is now open every day except Tuesday, with lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. (and 10:30 on Friday and Saturday; last call is 30 minutes prior to closing).
SUSHI FIX ON THE FLY
As Ellise will soon find out, Dining Out editors always are on the go, searching each culinary corner to find the next tasty bite that everyone must try. That means you work up quite an appetite on the road, so you’ve got to have your go-to spots to pick up a quick snack or meal throughout the day.
Kozo Sushi is the answer for getting your Japanese fix in a hurry, whether that pick-me-up comes in the form of sushi and donburi or bentos and noodles. Teriyaki Chicken Bento ($7.99) certainly hits the spot with salad, shinko maki, soba noodles and rice to accompany the sweet and savory chicken.
“Our customers can choose brown rice for bentos without any extra charge,” notes Maricel Antonio, manager of the Pearlridge branch who’s been with Kozo Sushi for more than 18 years.
Antonio also recommends the Sushi Tempura Set ($8.99), complete with a chirashi-style sushi assortment of ahi, ika, shrimp, salmon, unagi and egg, along with shrimp and vegetable tempura.
“Our Sushi Tempura Set is for the customer who wants to enjoy chirashi-style sushi and some tempura. The portions are pretty big, and this combination is very popular in Japan,” she says.
Another benefit to choosing Kozo while you’re on the go? You’ll feel recharged after a healthy meal. “As you may know, sushi is a low-fat food. We can recommend it to people who want to take care of their health,” agrees Antonio. “That’s why we use MSG-free sushi vinegar for our sushi rice. We have several vegetarian dishes as well.”
Kozo Sushi got its start in Osaka, Japan about 45 years ago, and now has hundreds of locations in the Land of the Rising Sun. There are five Kozo chains on Oahu — Keeaumoku, Moiliili, Pearlridge, Pearl City and Kahala (currently closed for renovations) — and Antonio says patrons will be excited to hear that the Kahala branch is slated to reopen by August.
And with that, and plenty of aloha, I wish you all a most mouthwatering future endeavor into foodie paradise.