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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Tanaka of Tokyo

Restaurant Insider

December 13, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Tanaka of Tokyo executive chef Aljun Tabay puts on a culinary performance for Anne Lee and the restaurant’s vice president of operations, Alison ‘Bo’ Tanaka.

ANNE LEE speaks with Tanaka of Tokyo vice president of operations ALISON “BO” TANAKA

Alison “Bo” Tanaka’s grandpa and dad spent a lot of time in Tokyo, and their goal was to combine traditional Japanese teppanyaki with the Western/American performance of teppanyaki. This created a crossover brand with a unique, local Hawaii experience that is offered to diners at Tanaka of Tokyo.

AL: What is your full name and title? How did you get the nickname Bo?

BT: Alison “Bo” Tanaka, VP of Operations at Tanaka of Tokyo. When my parents were expecting me, they opted not to know if I was going to be a boy or a girl so they just referred to me as “Bo” before I was born because it could be either way, and it was easy for my sister to say. After I was born, it just stuck.

Matsu Course ($48.75)

AL: When did the restaurant open?

BT: Tanaka of Tokyo was opened here in Hawaii by my father in 1978. Our first location was in Waikiki Shopping Plaza and we celebrated our 42nd birthday in March. Since then, we have opened two more locations: Tanaka of Tokyo West in Ala Moana Shopping Center and Tanaka of Tokyo East in Ohana Waikiki East Hotel (not open as of yet).

AL: What type of cuisine does the restaurant specialize in?

BT: We specialize in quality steak and seafood prepared with flair. All of our steaks are certified Angus beef.

Mango Mai Tai ($14.50), Lycheetini ($13) and Peach Sangria ($13)

AL: Who is the executive chef?

BT: Aljun Tabay has been with us for eight years and does all the training for our chefs. He has a background in flair bartending, but had no background in cooking, but learned fast. You can request Aljun to be your chef if he’s available — he has some amazing tricks!

AL: What does Tanaka of Tokyo bring to the Hawaii food scene?

BT: We are truly a unique experience. We are a locally owned and operated restaurant that features dinner and a show. We have specialized in combining authentic Japanese teppanyaki with entertainment and a local-style twist.

AL: What are the future plans for the restaurant?

BT: Before the pandemic, we had plans to expand and possibly open up more locations here in Hawaii. We are incredibly grateful for our loyal supporters who have been keeping us going during these challenging times.

We have really had to adapt as we go. We implemented takeout and modified this menu a few times for our guests, which is something we have never considered before. We are known for the performance and entertainment factor that our chefs provide.

Our lobster fried rice has been a huge hit for takeout. Shoutout to Mama Tanaka for this idea! We are doing everything we can to adapt and advance to come out of this tough situation as a stronger company.

AL: What are some of the most popular dishes?

BT: Our Filet and Shrimp combination ($44.75) is one of our bestsellers. It features a 5-ounce filet paired with seven pieces of our butter-lemon sautéed shrimp. If you’re craving a juicy, marbled steak, the 10-ounce Super-Size Rib-eye ($41.25) is sure to satisfy.

If you are craving variety, our Matsu Course ($48.75) is a great option that features 5 ounces of our certified Angus beef sirloin paired with a cold-water Maine lobster tail and 4 ounces of juicy chicken thighs tossed in our house-made teriyaki sauce.

If you’re in the mood for a healthier option, we also have a fantastic Salmon dinner for $36.50. This is one of my favorites. It’s prepared with light butter, lemon and a hint of shoyu.

Of course, any meal at Tanaka of Tokyo is not complete without our famous Garlic Fried Rice. This option can be added on to any meal for $5.25. As a bonus, you get to see the chefs perform amazing bowl and egg-juggling tricks.

Our sauces and dressings are prepared fresh in-house daily and each meal comes with housemade salad and miso soup, grilled shrimp and vegetable appetizers, rice, pickled vegetables, green tea and dessert. I should also add that our dessert is a choice of five flavors of ice cream from the popular local creamery Dave’s Ice Cream.

AL: Tell us a little bit about your cocktails.

BT: Our Mango Mai Tai ($14.50) is a popular option featuring Diamond Head rum and mango flavors. Another favorite is the Peach Sangria ($13) featuring The Seeker Sauvignon Blanc. Lastly, our famous Lycheetini ($13) is a local favorite, refreshing and strong.

AL: If you had to choose one thing to eat every day for a year, what would it be?

BT: That’s tough. It’s a tie between our Salmon and Filet, but I don’t think I could go an entire year without craving our Garlic Fried Rice.

AL: Any fun facts most people wouldn’t know about the restaurant?

BT: Although we specialize in steak and seafood, we also have two off-menu vegetarian specials. One is a grilled tofu steak with assorted grilled vegetables, and the other features a teppan-grilled and seasoned Beyond Burger patty with assorted grilled vegetables. Because the food is cooked in front of you, we are great at accommodating allergies and dietary needs. We can do gluten free, kosher, vegan, vegetarian, keto, you name it!

Additionally, every inch of air in Tanaka of Tokyo is vented out by our powerful exhaust system and replaced by fresh outside air every two minutes. We are the safest dining room in Hawaii.

AL: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

BT: For the holiday promotion, we will be offering a 15 percent discount on all gift certificates purchased for the month of December. We are so grateful to our community for supporting local businesses and restaurants like us during these times. We will do everything we can to keep going and keep serving you and your families for years to come!

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best