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Saturday 24 April 2010

Izakaya Tako-No-Ki Honolulu, Oahu - Hidden little gem of a snack bar

Rating 8.0/10

Tucked away in a side road, and accessible really only by walking to it, we were directed to this little hidden gem by the manager of another Japanese resturant. Stepping into the doorway, you pass through a dim photoplastered stairwell and hallway before it opens up into a bar with small private booths. It feels like you've stepped back in time to a shady early 1950's bar. Feeling a bit out of place as the bar caters to mainly Japanese businessmen and the odd Japanese family, but we were quickly put at ease by a friendly chatty waitress (also Japanese). Politely scoffing at our inquiry of ramen, she gently navigated us through an extensive menu to sample a range of traditional bar snacks, light munchies and tasty entrees.

the FOOD
The ahi poke was executed well, with generously large cubes of lean tender ahi tuna nestled in patches of fresh red and green seaweed, all linked together in a rich roasted sesame dressing with just a hint of acidity to balance out the sesame oil. Nom.  My only complaint - I wanted more lol!

Next up was a small bowl of delectable Asari Sakamushi - short necked clams steamed in a generous amount of sake garnished with a handful of chopped shallots.  The kitchen is semi open, so you can watch in happy anticipation as the chef tosses various ingredients into a large wok and see flames shooting up as the alcoholic portions of the dish vaporize into aromatic sheets of flame... with enough sake left over to clear your sinuses as you inhale the fragrant steam and dig into luciously tender morsels

An unassuming and unpretentious dish of cabbage with little crispy anchovies, garlic, chilis and a hit of bonito flakes goes next through its trial of fire.  Scrumptious.  Savory, crisp, and full of salty goodness, this is a bowl that explemifies a simple food, simply made extremely well.

Our "group snack" dish ends up becoming our entree due to the sheer size of the Okonomiyaki. Its essentially a giagantic savory japanese pancake with bits of pork, cabbage onions and good stuff cooked to a golden brown with butter on the teppanyaki grill.  Its topped the way they like it - everything: japanese mayo, a teryiyaki type of sauce, and .. several others I wasn't able to identify.  Very filling and tasty! Served with a mini shovel to faciliate cutting up the massive thing.

The Yakitori Umeshisoyaki - grilled chicken wrapped in basil and drizzled with salty plum sauce was a bit of a disappointment.  The chicken was a bit overcooked, and the salty plum sauce not only was more viscous than honey, it was so intensely salty, it completely overwhelmed the dish even after we scraped off most of it.

The last dish we had to finish off the night was Takowasabi - little diced pieces of fresh raw octopus in a wasabi marinade.  Our waitress recommended it as she enjoys eatting it with rice, or great to pick at while enjoying a beer.  The tiny cubes of octopus was sweet followed by a tongue numbing blast of wasabi.  The devious design of the dish forces one to savor it - the darn pieces are so slippery and tricky to pick up with chopsticks. I can imagine it become a fun game for anyone who's had one too many to attempt to transfer some Takowasabi to thier mouths. Ever a glutton for punishment, we happily picked at the Takowasabi to wind down our meal.

A hidden uncut gem that would be perfect for meeting up with friends to have a snack and enjoy some beers, or a quiet place for a well executed grazing meal.  Small quibble - extremely salty and slightly overcooked Yakitori Umeshisoyaki, 8.0/10.  Plating is unpretentious for Japanese standards, but the skill shown in preparing even the simplest of vegetables makes Izakaya Tako-No-Ki a must try place on your list of goot eats while in Oahu

Izakaya Tako-No-Ki
Address 355 Royal Hawaiian Ave Honolulu, HI
Phone (808) 926-8256
Hours varies, open late
Takonoki on Urbanspoon

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