Let Someone Else Grill: Honolulu Skewer House and Yakitori Ando
Meat sticks at a northern Chinese skewer spot and a yakitori speakeasy.
Woman-ing the grill at Honolulu Skewer House
Photos: Martha Cheng
Sure, it’s the season for grilling, but sometimes, when it’s hot, the last thing you want to do is stand in front of a fire. Enter two new-ish grilled skewer spots, Honolulu Skewer House and Yakitori Ando, where you can let the pros hold food to the flame for you.
Honolulu Skewer House
Billing itself as Honolulu’s first northern Chinese skewer spot, Honolulu Skewer House features sticks with lots of meat and seasonings that skew spicy and spiced, along the lines of Sichuan pepper, clove and Xinjian fennel (also known as cumin). All skewers are $1.99; standouts are the lamb, beef wrapped around a bundle of chives, and pork belly, while chicken-lovers will find every part of the animal available on a stick, from heart to tail to the nub of cartilage in the knee. There are a few veggie options, including fresh bites of bean curd (yuba) wrapped around cilantro and whole eggplant ($5.99)—split and basted in oil until meltingly soft.
Since northern Chinese food tends to favor wheat over rice—think dumplings and breads—my other favorite items here are the scallion pancakes ($3.99) and mantou, unfilled Chinese buns, that are brushed with oil and grilled, and—if you like—drizzled with condensed milk. It could be dessert, but it’s not—this being a Chinese place, complimentary fresh fruit ends the meal, except here, it’s on sticks and dipped into molten sugar, then cooled, resulting in a clear candy shell.
The hanging pork belly appetizer ($9.99) is a looker—thin slices of pork hanging like laundry on the line—but I prefer copious amounts of fat served hot, not cold and congealed. Otherwise, though, Honolulu Skewer House offers a welcome change of spice from the sea of Japanese yakitori places around town.
1427 Makaloa St., Suite 1427M, (808) 888-8688
Bacon-wrapped quail eggs at Yakitori Ando
If there were ever a yakitori speakeasy, Yakitori Ando would be it—you have to know where to look to find it, tucked into the parking lot behind Bank of Hawai‘i in Kaimukī. Bamboo shades cover the windows, there’s no signage, and reservations are a must because the restaurant is almost always full. There are also no prices and no menu: it’s omakase only, and yakitori chef Takashi Ando sends out a parade of skewered meats, from chicken wings glazed in shoyu to bacon-wrapped quail eggs to simply salted chicken hearts, until you tell him to stop.
Ando helmed the grill at yakitori spots in town for more than 20 years, most recently at Kohnotori, before he left to open his own place and do away with a menu. Which you don’t miss at first, since everything he grills is impeccable, until you see what’s on other people’s tables, like head-on shrimp, when you’re finished. If you’re prone to stick envy, best to make a reservation for the bar, which faces the grill, so you don’t miss a thing.
No prices are listed, dinner averages $35 a person, 1215 Center St., Suite 200, (808) 739-5702