First Look: Kapispa Kapi‘olani Spaghetti House, a New Japanese Restaurant
Angelo Pietro meets the Olive Garden—Japanese-Italian cuisine with an unlimited salad bar.
tofu ankake doria ($12)
Photos: Tani Loo
Kapispa, short for Kapi‘olani Spaghetti House, is not an Italian restaurant. Our server told us that the pasta dishes are not like Italian spaghetti at all—rather, the chef, Keigo Yoshimoto, applies a similar technique used by sushi chefs: He soaks noodles in kombu water to impart umami flavor. The result is sort of Angelo Pietro meets the Olive Garden—Japanese-Italian with an unlimited salad bar.
The Japanese spaghetti dishes cater to two types of eaters. One type: lovers of unusual and unique pairings, such as tarako (salted pollock roe) or natto and bacon. Two: less adventurous eaters who prefer sticking with “traditional” dishes like mushroom and bacon or garlic shrimp. Kapispa’s seafood garlic butter pasta includes shrimp, squid and clam coated in a surprisingly mild and somewhat thin cream sauce ($17). We ordered the regular size, although upgrading to the large comes at no cost, and the portion was more than enough for lunch (pastas range from $12 to $17 without additional toppings).
Kapispa’s seafood garlic butter pasta includes shrimp, squid and clam coated in a surprisingly mild and somewhat thin cream sauce ($17).
Like its predecessor, Bread & Butter, Kapispa is owned and operated by Diamond Dining International Corp., which launched neighboring restaurant Shokudo, as well as Buho Cocina y Cantina. Though Bread & Butter has won Hale ‘Aina awards for Best New Restaurant and Best Brunch, after a short hiatus during contract negotiations, some of its following was lost. But this loss paved the way for a more laid-back, playful atmosphere suitable for lunch with friends or pau hana with co-workers.
When we visited for lunch, we were fortunate to have the all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar on the house due to the holiday season. Customers serve themselves, choosing from ingredients including mixed greens, broccoli, corn, olives and ham to add to their plates. There were four dressing options to top off our salads: Thousand Island, ranch, black sesame and ginger soy. The soup was a much simpler bacon and cabbage. Normally, the soup and salad bar is $13; if you combine it with spaghetti or doria (a creamy cheese rice casserole), add $3.
Kapispa also serves torikara, or chicken fried karaage style, as a starter (five pieces for $9 or nine pieces for $15). The batter was well-seasoned and crispy; the chicken pieces were large, moist and steaming hot. You can eat them plain with a squeeze of lemon or with a sauce for an additional $1. The choices are honey mustard, wasabi ranch, Hawaiian BBQ, hatcho miso and spicy chili, and with good fried chicken, you can’t really go wrong with any of them.
vanilla and matcha soft serve swirl with shiratama coconut (azuki beans, fresh strawberries, mochi balls and coconut sauce).
There’s a limited kids menu with bolognese or tarako cream spaghetti ($8), and you can order beer, shochu or bottles of wine ($25) to accompany your meal too.
Still, the restaurant puts the most emphasis on its spaghetti, although it was the doria that sold me. Our server recommended the unagi doria ($20) and the tofu ankake doria ($12), and I went with the latter. The doria was extremely creamy and cheesy as promised, with a slight crunch to the tofu. It was the type of rich dish that leaves you feeling full and satisfied quicker than you’d expect.
After our entrees, I couldn’t resist trying their soft serve. Kapispa has vanilla, matcha and swirl options in cones, but it’s also served over shiratama coconut or black sesame pudding. The shiratama coconut ($6 or $9 if you order it with soft serve) was filled with azuki beans, fresh strawberries, mochi balls and coconut sauce. Combined with the soft serve, it was refreshing and not too overpowering.
Several menu items are still labelled “coming soon,” so don’t be surprised if not everything is available. The restaurant recently launched its dinner appetizer menu with pūpū for $5, and customers can anticipate dishes like kālua pork and cabbage spaghetti ($13). Later, seasonal dishes, like cold noodles in the summer, will be incorporated into the menu. But I’ll probably return sooner just for the doria and the dessert.
Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 10:30 p.m., 1585 Kapi‘olani Blvd, (808) 949-3430