Waikiki Shopping Plaza, lower level
2250 Kalakaua Ave.
Phone number 808-926-8093
By now I’m sure you’ve seen photos or video footage of Waikiki Yokocho, which opened to the public yesterday. It’s a concept similar to what Shirokiya Japan Village Walk has achieved, with multiple vendors sharing an open floor plan located on the lower level of Waikiki Shopping Plaza.
If everything you’ve seen so far somehow wasn’t enough to interest you in stopping by, allow me to really drive that point home. I was lucky enough to get an invite to its grand opening gala earlier this week, and let me tell you something: It is worth getting excited about.
First, let’s talk ambiance. I ran into a friend of mine who is from Japan, and she immediately told me it felt like being home. Apparently, this is a thing in Japan: food courts in the basements of department stores or, in this case, a shopping complex. It felt like a swankier gathering place than most food court-style settings, and I dug it.
There are 16 eateries to sample from, though several — including places such as Marion Crepes, Bario (ramen) and Maruki (soba) — have yet to open. In the meantime, you won’t go hungry. Expect everything from ramen — yes, there will be multiple ramen spots — and musubi to sushi, okonomiyaki and tempura.
Also of note: two bars for, you know, maximum comfort.
You’ll notice that the food in the photos featured here might look rather small, but don’t worry; you’re not going crazy: Everything was served in bite-size sample portions that evening.
Here’s a look at some of my favorites.
One of two bars in Waikiki Yokocho, Nomu (the other is called Pour Lounge by Nomu) is a comfortable concept for casual drinking/eating. Among the offerings here is Rainbow Poke, one of my favorites of the evening, mostly because it came in a teeny tiny martini glass. It really was just fancy sashimi with a few different types of fish, but the flavors were bright and memorable. No word yet on how it will be served regularly, but note to everyone: Tiny martini glasses are the best.
As I mentioned, once everything is open, there will be multiple ramen spots in Waikiki Yokocho. Among those on the way include one that promises to use a creamy tonkotsu broth, another that will feature a mysterious “W soup,” and yet another that uses a pork and seafood-based broth. Yeah, it’s a lot to take in. Volcano Ramen, the only one open for now, also uses a tonkotsu broth but differs on preparation. Here, soup is poured into a hot stone pot with noodles and other toppings. The steam from the soup blows out of a funnel covering, resembling an active volcano, hence its name. I didn’t sample this one (I was on the verge of feeling too full), but Metro social media manager Nicole Kato did. Here are her thoughts:
First impressions are key when meeting new people and trying new foods, which is why I’ve fallen in love with the Kazan Ramen at Volcano Ramen. The broth, while only slightly spicy, gave off this robust essence of flavor that I couldn’t get enough of. As any ramen connoisseur knows, noodles can make or break a dish. I liked the shape of the noodles (easier for slurping), and the texture was chewy but not overbearing. If I could go back for anything at Waikiki Yokocho, it would be the Kazan Ramen.
UMAMI TEPPAN KINGYO
This place gets an honorable mention because the yakisoba noodles served were flavorful and not doused in sauce — no one wants to eat saucy yakisoba noodles.
There’s nothing better than biting into a wee musubi, though that, of course, probably won’t be the norm at Shichi Musubi. It might seem like the most basic item to want to return for, but, hey, I like a good musubi. On this particular night, Shichi Musubi was offering three types: white rice with mentaiko mayo, organic brown rice with seasoned tuna, and organic red rice with salmon. Obviously, I liked the white rice musubi, but found myself surprised at how more-than-OK I felt about the brown rice and red rice musubis — two starches that normally aren’t my favorites. The flavors here were subtle and slightly salty, with just the right amount of fish or mentaiko mayo.
Ah, kushikatsu, another Japanese staple I’ve certainly had multiple times at countless places, but there was one item here that caught my attention: Kushikatsu Cookie & Cream — basically, a deep-fried Oreo. Kushikatsu Tanaka uses a flour batter, which isn’t a bad thing. It was light and crisp, and soft to bite into.
PARKING Easy breezy (valet only)
SERVICE Fast and friendly
TIMES I’D LIKE TO RETURN Infinite
MINUTES WAITING FOR A TABLE 0