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Aki: a new-ish Japanese restaurant on Makaloa


Aki's tan tan nabe

Rinka and Aki, two new Japanese restaurants on Makaloa, are just a few blocks from each other, on opposite sides of Keeaumoku. But apparently Aki is on the wrong side.

The two spots opened within months of each other. But while the wait at Rinka can be more than an hour most nights, Aki's long space feels desolate with only one or two tables occupied. Why? Does Rinka lure with a more exotic menu that includes abalone croquette and Tsukiji fish, versus Aki's menu of Japanese standbys such as yakitori and nabe? Or is it just that few venture to the Walmart side of Makaloa, where hostess bars beckon?

Whatever it is, more people should crossover. Aki is no less beautifully designed than Rinka, thanks to Isamu and Moco Kubota, the husband-and-wife team that opened Hale Macrobiotic in this space a few years ago (they now run Yuzu). Each successive tenant has had the benefit of the redesign, though none of them have lasted more than half a year.

Left: okonomiyaki, right: pork belly yakitori

The tan tan nabe ($18) is a must. It's thick and rich with sesame and peanut, coating the ribbons of pork belly, ground pork and mushrooms that simmer away in the pot. Two orders are the minimum order here, easily shared by three. The rest of the menu is street food and izakaya favorites, and all satisfy, from the okonomiyaki ($10) layered on the teppan grill, to the pork belly and chicken yakitori (though the tsukune, or chicken meatball, lacks seasoning). If roe and its concentrated fishiness is your thing, order the grilled cod roe ($7), perfect with a grilled musubi. Rinka has its highs and lows, while Aki, with its less sexy menu, delivers solid, even comfort.

Average check $15-20
Aki, 1427 Makaloa St.

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