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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Asuka Nabe + Shabu Shabu

Restaurant Insider

May 1, 2022

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Asuka general manager Daniel Ihu and Anne Lee pose with an assortment of the eatery’s meats, soups and sauces.

ANNE LEE speaks with Asuka Nabe + Shabu Shabu general manager DANIEL IHU

Asuka Nabe + Shabu Shabu has been a long-time local Kaimuki establishment, known for its Japanese-style Shabu Shabu. It was named after the soup style (miso/dairy blend soup) and era in Japan (538-710), when the recipe was originally thought to be created. Committed to serving a unique hot pot experience that is not too strict, general manager Daniel Ihu, who took over operations three years ago, feels that Shabu Shabu is meant to be a fun dining experience where guests can “play” with their food by cooking at their own pace, encouraged to add vegetables and meats, which can change the flavor profile making the soup base (more than 15 unique types to choose from) more flavorful. To add to the fun, there are ample portions of delicious homemade, one-of-a-kind dipping sauces that pairs well with each bite.

Nabe sets come with a choice of rice: white, multi grain or three-piece musubi as an upgrade.

The updated interior with new seating brings a warm and welcoming feel as soon as you enter the front door. Ihu is modernizing by implementing software technology called SpotOn, which makes it easier for his day-to-day operations, for both the front and back of the houses, and makes it easier for his customers.

We sat down to share some of the popular items from his menu and his favorite, baby bok choy, while learning more of this popular neighborhood eatery.

Prime Rib-eye Set ($32.50)

AL: Tell me the history of Asuka and how you got started in the restaurant industry?

DI: Asuka Nabe restaurant was originally started by the previous owner here in Kaimuki about nine years ago; we took over three years ago. I was born and raised in Okinawa, but my father’s side of the family is from Maui, so I traveled out here often and was quite familiar with Hawaii culture.

My journey in the industry began as an assistant manager for Shirokiya’s Yataimura food court. With the closure of Shirokiya, I began working for Matsuzaka-Tei (Pearl City and Kalihi), which was also a former tenant of Shirokiya.

Spicy Garlic Paitan Soup (additional $3.95)

AL: What are the dishes you prepared for us today?

DI: I had our popular nabe sets prepared: Kalbi & Pork Set ($23.95), Prime Rib-eye Set ($32.50) and Pork Belly Set ($28). Each set comes with choice of protein, choice of soup base, assorted vegetables (Chinese cabbage, choy sum, zucchini, carrots, udon and tofu) and a choice of rice (white, multi grain or three-piece musubi as an upgrade).

These are the soup base options: Asuka Soup is the namesake of our restaurant and most requested (additional $3.95), a red and white miso is blended with other spices and our dashi soup base to create a unique creamy sweet soup base. It’s an all around soup that goes well with the proteins and vegetables we have to offer here. Our soup bases are a must try as we slow cook it over many hours.

Sets boasts an assortment of veggies.

The Spicy Garlic Paitan Soup (additional $3.95) is our favorite savory soup, best matched with pork or pork belly, and is unique.

For the Osaka Sukiyaki Soup (included in set price), this base is simple yet popular among our guests. It’s a blend of shoyu, mirin, sake and our dashi soup base, similar to a sweet shoyu flavor.

We serve generous sides of our house made dipping sauces (seasame, ginger and ponzu). These are also available to purchase in 8.5-ounce bottle size for $8.50 each. We take extra time and care to make sure our house sauces are similar to traditional Japanese tastes but are unique to Asuka.

AL: How did you hear about SpotOn and how did you incorporate this software into your restaurant?

DI: I was dining out at a restaurant that was currently using the SpotOn program. I noticed how smooth and efficient the staff was able to work, and I wanted to introduce a smooth system for our restaurant.

For the front of the house, the SpotOn system is very user friendly and helps our operation run smoothly. We also have handheld devices that acts as a mobile point-of-sale (POS) that helps with efficiency — saving time for our staff to ensure we can service our customers better.

AL: What is SpotOn and how can restaurants get more information?

DI: SpotOn is one of the fastest-growing software and payments companies with comprehensive, cloud-based technology for small, midsize and enterprise businesses in the restaurant, retail, sports and entertainment industry. They have built an end-to-end platform from online ordering, POS, reservations, payroll, labor management, handhelds, loyalty program and so much more, while understanding the needs of restaurateurs and their customers. Providing local and in-person service is crucial in being able to service local restaurants and is what truly makes this partnership opportunity incredible.

During the pandemic, it was all about thinking quick and acting fast for restaurateurs, releasing over 400 new product innovations to help restaurants run efficiently, like commission-free online ordering, and even waived over $1.5 million in fees to help restaurants stay afloat. The local team here in Hawaii believes that technology will continue to advance at a fast rate, and their commitment to always be available to business owners to ensure that these tools are being utilized at their full potential. It’s our duty to make sure operations run smoothly by providing the reliable local service they deserve here in Hawaii.

Restaurants can visit our website at spoton.com and reach out to Stephanie Rodriguez via email (stephanier@spoton.com) or call 808-722-2342.

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