First Look: Shirokiya Japan Village Walk

A sampling of what’s new and worthwhile at the new Japanese food court in the expanded ‘Ewa Wing of Ala Moana Center.


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Shirokiya

Inside the new, 44,680-square-foot space below the new Nordstom at Ala Moana Center. It features 56 shops, most of them food-related.
PHOTOS: DAVID CROXFORD 

 

Shirokiya has been an Island institution since it opened up as one of Ala Moana Center’s original tenants, in large part thanks to its bustling upper food court filled with delicious, affordable Japanese fare. So when Shirokiya announced it would be closing its existing location next to Macy’s and opening up a bigger, better version in the new ‘Ewa Wing of the shopping center, local residents were understandably concerned. Would the new spot measure up?

 

Well, the new Shirokiya Japan Village Walk is set to open on June 25, and based on our sneak preview of the place, Shirokiya fans don’t have anything to worry about.

 

The new $35 million Walk features 56 shops scattered throughout 44,680 square feet of space below the new Nordstrom, most of them serving a variety of food, from okonomiyaki to crêpes. The design is based on a traditional monzen-machi (a town built in front of shrines and temples) from Kyoto, where small shops line the winding streets.

 

The seating area is similar to that in the beer garden on the second floor of the old Shirokiya: There are 900 seats at square-shaped wooden tables under a sakura (cherry blossom) trellis. Meaning there’s plenty of options for food—and plenty of places to sit and eat.

 

Let’s discuss the food.

 

Shirokiya food spread.

S&S Thai Kitchen serves organic Thai food. We sampled stuffed chicken wings, curry, pad thai and dragon fruit.

 

There are 32 food kiosks serving casual fare, six boutique restaurants, eight bistros, five service counters with $1 Bud Light and two bakeries. Vintage Cave, that uber-exclusive restaurant in the basement of the old Shirokiya, operates a full 14 food stations, plus a bakery right at the entrance and a soon-to-open café, which will be located outside the Japan Village Walk.

 

Vintage Cave operates both the Wagyu Plaza and Seafood Plaza, serving dishes such as paella ($28), tempura bowls ($22), black cod hot pot ($22), uni and shrimp gratin ($32), oden ($18), lobster with chili sauce ($25) and grilled unagi ($38). The expansive menu features a variety of steaks, katsu, curries, stews, tempura, sashimi and hot pots, too.

 

Vintage Cave Shirokiya Bakery.

Vintage Cave Bakery stands at the entrance of the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk and offers a variety of breads and pastries including these perfectly shaped butter rolls.

 

Staff from the Vintage Cave Bakery handed out samples of its butter rolls yesterday, perfectly shaped and glossy. All of the breads and pastries here are made with a special natural yeast from Akita, Japan, considered a World Natural Heritage yeast. (I had never heard of such a thing.) This bakery is the only one outside of Japan using this Shirakami-Kodama yeast.

 

Kulu Kulu Honolulu is nearby, serving its signature cakes, coffee jelly drinks and perfect Mont Blanc desserts. One of its newest items is the Diamond Head Parfait ($5.95), filling its best-selling chocolate puff with a brownie, ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Another new product is the Hello Kitty Waffle (6 pieces for $4, 15 pieces for $10, 25 pieces for $16, 35 pieces for $22) in chocolate or vanilla flavors. These mini waffles shaped like the popular Sanrio character are filled with chocolate, custard, strawberry or matcha cream.

 

Shirokiya shave ice.

Hikotaro, another food stall, serves kakigori, a Japanese-style shave ice dessert.

 

Another kiosk, Hikotaro, specializes in kakigori, a Japanese shave ice dessert that’s not dissimilar to our version. The ice, which is chunkier and crunchier than the ultra-fine shave ice served at shops such as Waiola or Shimazu, is flavored with sweet syrup and topped with condensed milk. The green tea kakigori is topped with a ball of sweetened azuki beans and mochi. If you’re partial to finer local-style shave ice, this will likely disappoint you.

 

Musubi Café Iyasume opened its fourth location in the Japan Village Walk, serving its full menu of Japanese-style bento and musubi using premium Japanese rice.

 

Yoshida Meat offers a variety of golden, crunchy tonkatsu, chicken katsu, ‘ahi katsu and croquettes, topped with your choice of katsu, ponzu, barbecue or something called dragon sauce.

 

Shirokiya fish.

A worker from Magic Fish Sakura flashes a shaka and a smile at yesterday’s media event. This kiosk specializes in fish cake.

 

Magic Fish Sakura partnered with the famous Suzuhiro of Odawara, which has made traditional kamaboko (fish cake) for more than 150 years, to bring its premium fish products to Hawai‘i. The company uses sushi-grade—not throw-away—fish such as tai snapper and sea bass for its fish cake. The kiosk sells the fish cake in a variety of ways, including a unique twist on fish-and-chips. It also serves grab-and-go bento with 12-grain rice and your choice of ‘ahi katsu with a takuan tartar ($12.90), grilled saba topped with minced daikon and beet juice ($9.90), garlic salmon with a fresh basil tartar ($12.90) or unagi ($18.90).

 

Marion Crêpes offers a variety of sweet and savory crêpe, filled with everything from scrambled eggs and bacon to strawberries and cheesecake. The crêpes themselves are thin and flimsy, but the whimsical fillings make this a must-stop.

 

Shirokiya poke.

Malia’s Café serves Hawaiian and local-style food including poke.

 

There’s soba and udon (Usagiya), takoyaki (Takoyaki Yama-Chan), pizza and nachos (Aloha Oven), Chinese cuisine (Dragon Garden), loco-moco burgers (Honolulu Burger Co.), tonkotsu ramen and gyoza (Manichi Ifudodo and Gasho Ken), Korean food (Sea Dragon), tempura musubi (Jiraiya), organic Thai food (S&S Thai Kitchen) and Japanese-style hot dogs (Tokyo Hotdogs).

 

There’s even a kiosk called Malia’s Café serving Hawaiian and local-style food, including garlic shrimp and real-deal pipi kaula ribs that are tender, sweet and salty. It’s run by a restaurateur newbie Jimmy Kealoha from Kalihi-Pālama who named the kiosk after his mom. “She taught us how to cook,” Kealoha says.

 

There are a few non-food shops, too, including this one that sells maneki-neko (good luck cat) and daruma.

 

As for the non-food kiosks, there’s an area of maneki-neko (good luck cat), daruma, tea sets, glassware and ceramics. Toward the back—or east end of the space—is the Shirokiya Guardian Spirits Sanctuary, where you can make an offering to your guardian deity or purchase an o-mikuji, fortunes written on strips of paper. If you like your fortune, you can keep it. If you don’t, you can tie it to the o-mikuji wall and hope the bad luck attaches to this new “bearer” and not you.

 

My fortune: My marriage would work out, I need to be more patient and less impulsive, and I should eat well.

 

I guess I’ll be back.

 

Opens June 25. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (Vintage Cave Bakery opens from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily)

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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