August 29, 2021
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
While many local restaurants and businesses across Hawaii have faced challenges during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one eatery in particular has expanded its operation to focus on takeout service, while keeping its dine-in operation going to the degree allowed by local mandates and capacity restrictions.
The husband-and-wife team of Scott and Cindy Fujita co-own Sakana Grill in Kapalama Shopping Plaza in Kalihi and continue to operate the restaurant with dine-in (50% capacity) and takeout options four years after opening the business. The restaurateurs established Sakana Express in Pearl Kai Shopping Center in February to adjust to restrictions on dine-in capacity caused by pandemic precautions.
The restaurants feature local comfort food with Okinawan and Japanese influences throughout the menu, and at the grill location’s full-service bar.
“After evaluating the landscape, we decided that the revenue here at the new express location could support us and help pay for Sakana Grill, so it was a move made out of necessity, otherwise we’d have closed by now,” Scott explains. “We had to do something to stay in business, and by opening this new express location, it’s helping save our Kalihi restaurant.”
“Everybody is supportive of both restaurants, but for those who don’t feel comfortable dining in, the express location is another great option,” Cindy adds. “If we didn’t have the original location, we wouldn’t have opened this new location; it’s really helping us stay open and keep our workers employed. And, the new kitchen in the express location is bigger, so we’re able to do more catering orders for customers.”
Sakana Grill offers plate lunch-style selections, including Okinawan Shoyu Pork ($14) and Nasubi Chanpuru ($14), the latter of which is a popular Okinawan stir-fry dish. During the Okinawan Festival over Labor Day weekend, diners will receive $2 off the Shoyu Pork plate and $3 off the Nasubi Chanpuru plate on Sept. 4 and 5 at Sakana Grill as the restaurant supports the event, which will be held virtually.
At Sakana Express, guests can be creative at the eatery’s poke bar, which serves up local favorites including a Spicy Salmon Poke Bowl ($12). For just $12, diners may build their own poke bowls by selecting white rice, brown rice, hapa rice or salad and topping it with a poke selection (choices include ahi, salmon, imitation crab, tofu, tako and fried ahi), followed by adding desired toppings and sauces, such as green onion, ogo, cucumber, avocado, sesame seeds, tobiko and pickled ginger.
Sakana Express is also gaining fans of its okazuya selections, which are available a la carte. Popular choices include: Tofu Ahi Patty ($2), Corned Beef Hash ($2), Tamago ($1.50), Nori and Ume Musubi ($2), Inari Sushi ($1), Teri Burger ($2), Konbu Maki ($3), Shoyu Pork ($3) and Maki Slice Sushi ($1).
Both locations offer multiple catering options, which are perfect for creating hassle-free meals at home.
Popular choices include Fried Chicken ($16 for single order, $44 for half pan, $95 for full pan); Shoyu Pork ($16 single order, $44 half pan);Yakisoba ($15 single order, $50 half pan) with a choice of pork, shoyu pork, chicken or Spam; and Fried Saimin ($15 single order, $50 half pan).
“We strive to provide comfort food like you’re going to visit family or a friend’s house to kick back and enjoy without having to do any work,” Cindy says.
Scott adds, “I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, and our plan was to build the business over the course of the lease and go from there. But, then COVID happened, so we’re being flexible and are thankful.We want to thank our family, friends, staff and customers who have supported us all these years, especially through this pandemic. We wouldn’t have made it this far without their help.”