An established eateryCover Story
October 24, 2021
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Two years after taking over Kabuki Restaurant & Delicatessen at Waimalu Shopping Center, owner John Afong and his veteran culinary and service team continue to navigate the uncharted waters caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The electrical contractor by trade had a desire to open a dining establishment and teamed up with business partner Randall Hayashi to help make the dream a reality. The duo “looked into the numbers” and determined it was a worthwhile investment to take over as owners in October 2019.
“Since I frequent bars and restaurants all the time, and have many close friends that are in the restaurant industry, it was a natural progression and familiar industry for me,” Afong says. “I heard that the owner of Kabuki was ready to retire, but couldn’t find anyone interested in taking it over. The style of cuisine is basic old-style Japanese food with a lot of different options, all prepared with traditional cooking methods.”
The restaurateur explains that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “business slowed down, but we have our regular faithful customers, as well as new guests every day, and our hosts and managers are adapting to the new health and safety mandates. You can check in with a vaccine card or QR code through the Safe Travels Hawaii app, so there’s that extra option for dine-in customers. Plexiglass is in place for safety and we’re operating at less than 50% capacity, so we’re doing our part to keep everyone safe.”
Yose Nabe ($18.50) is one of Afong’s favorites, featuring an assortment of seafood, chicken, tofu and fresh vegetables in a tasty broth. Salmon Ochazuke ($14.50) is another popular choice with fresh chilled salmon — the fish at Kabuki is never frozen — as well as hamachi and ikura from Japan.
Guests can also build a lunch plate from more than 20 different items (prices vary), including cone sushi, which diners describe as “ginormous, it’s huge!” Deep-fried halibut is another customer favorite, as are marinated chicken and konbu maki — a seaweed wrap with pork, carrots and gobo — that are daily specials rotated throughout the week.
Sushi chef Masa Nagamine prepares an assortment of ono items, including Nama Chirashi Bowl ($26.50) with a slew of seafood, including maguro, fresh hamachi, fresh salmon, saba, hokkigai clams, tobiko and shiitake mushrooms served over sushi rice; based on availability, seared ahi is also included.
Regular Teishoku Butterfish ($25.50) is marinated in miso to provide a memorable flavor profile, and is served with rice and tsukemono. Kabuki is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch (11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) and dinner (5-8:30 p.m.) service.
Kabuki’s deli and okazuya service is available seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and guests can enjoy local favorites that helped the restaurant earn first-place honors for “Best Okazuya” in the 2021 edition of Honolulu Star-Advertiser‘s Hawaii’s Best people’s choice awards.