Your Guide to Mō‘ili‘ili Japanese Izakaya Crawl: Tori Ton, Torae and Fujiyama Texas
You don’t have to walk far for great eats and drinks.
I live close to three Japanese izakayas in Mō‘ili‘ili: Tori Ton and Fujiyama Texas on King Street and Izakaya Torae Torae on McCully Street. They’re great pubs offering amazing food—perfect as fun date spots, places to get drinks with the guys or girls after work, or to celebrate with family and friends. And for the adventurous, why not hit all three places in a single night?
Here’s a quick guide to getting the most out of your next visit—like when to go and what to order—whether it’s for a quick drink, a bite to eat or an all-out epic pub crawl.
Photos: James Charisma
You have to arrive at Tori Ton right when it opens because with only 30 or so seats, this hole-in-the-wall izakaya (next to the little strip mall containing Sweet Home Café and Kozo Sushi) fills up fast. Definitely call ahead to make reservations, but there’ll invariably be a line out the door anyway. I’ve also visited later in the evening when menu items were already sold-out, so arrive sooner rather than later.
SEE ALSO: First Look: Tori Ton
Beginning with drinks, Tori Ton offers Suntory Premium Malt beer for $5.90 and Coors Light, Heineken and Blue Moon for around $4. Japanese beer has always been too light for my taste (it reminds me too much of soda water) but it’s perfect for the rich izakaya food offerings, much of it fried, bathed in sauces or seasoned.
You’d be remiss not to order a highball while you’re here (3 parts soda water, 1 part whiskey, a ratio that brings down its alcoholic strength to roughly that of a beer); try the ones with ume or ginger syrup, which are the same price as a regular but twice as tasty. Highballs, Chu-His (shochu highballs, get it?), wine and other assorted cocktails are all in the $5 to $6.50 range.
Namul with savory bean sprouts and chopped choi sum ($3.90).
The side dishes arrive first and Tori Ton’s got a great selection, from namul with savory bean sprouts and chopped choi sum ($3.90) to half a dozen or so uzura eggs marinated in sweet shoyu ($4.90) and homemade cream cheese miso ($3.90). Another winner is the avocado marinated in a house-made sauce, sliced and served with a yuzulike dressing ($3.90).
Uzura eggs marinated in sweet shoyu ($4.90).
The star of the show at Tori Ton is the skewered meat; either the selection of yakitori (chicken breast, wings or organs for $1.90 each with four to six small pieces per stick) and the butamaki-kushi, with pork-wrapped mushrooms, asparagus, mochi, cheese and other goodies, served two pieces to an order, most of them for $2.60. Everything comes either lightly sprinkled with salt or served with sweet soy tare sauce.
These aren’t just chunks of dry meat on kebabs sweating over an open fire. These skewers are grilled over charcoal at high heat that gives off almost no water vapor, leaving the chicken tender but with a crispy skin. As fat and oil hit the charcoal, steam rises up and infuses that flavor right back into the meat.
Also on the menu are kamameshi rice dishes prepared in pots, with entrées such as salmon and tako (both $12.90), cod roe and assorted seafood (both $15.80), as well as bigger donabe pot meals containing four servings of snapper ($25) or eel ($38). Tori Ton has oden too, the dashi broth winter dish, with à la carte selections including daikon, fried tofu, fish cake and mochi, all for around one or two bucks each. Or you could let the chef choose five for an even $7.50. (Don’t take the chef’s choice for the yakitori though, unless you’re cool with possibly getting five skewers of chicken heart, liver, gizzard and tail.)
Assorted vanilla or matcha ice cream is available for dessert (with optional rice cake balls) for between $3 and $4. But just because we’ve had dessert doesn’t mean this night is over.
2334 S. King St., (808) 260-1478
Head three blocks west to reach the izakaya with the best name on this list: Fujiyama Texas, which offers a similar medley of yakitori and other skewered meats and veggies. Its specialty, though, is deep fried kushikatsu, with most entrées covered in light panko breading that’s crispy without being overwhelming.
Seating inside feels spacious, with a raised level in the back and optional seats at the bar, where you can watch Koichi Sato work his magic, dipping skewers of meat, seafood and vegetables in egg, flour and panko before frying.
The meats include prime chuck cubes, chicken breast and wings, pork belly, quail eggs and bacon, all from $1.70 to $3.20. Seafood ranges from ‘ahi to oysters, scallops, tako, takoyaki and fish sausage for between $2 and $4, and the veggies are all over the map, with eggplant, mushroom, onion, garlic, kabocha, mountain yam, lotus root and more, all priced at $1.70 to $2.70.
Fresh saba in miso paste ($4.80).
When you’re done, pop your skewer sticks into the empty miniature Coke can on your table, next to the little bottles of special tonkatsu and ponzu sauces, and order a new round by checking off what dishes you’d like next using pen and paper (great for big tables where everyone can just check off what they want) and hand them to your server, usually Koichi Sato’s wife, Sally.
Outside of the fried food, Fujiyama Texas offers a rotating menu of interesting items that include ramen with thin noodles and a light yuzu broth ($9), shredded daikon and mixed greens salad ($6.50), fresh saba in miso paste ($4.80) and a must-try fried tofu with dashi soup ($3.20).
Sake sampler ($10 for three pours).
Sake samplers, either dry junmais and other selections, or fruity plum wines, are $10 for three pours. Plus Asahi is $4.95, glasses of wine $5, sake between $7 and $11 and chuhai, barley and sweet potato shochu around $5.50.
2065 S. King St., (808) 955-0738, fujiyamatexas-hi.com
Izakaya Torae Torae
The sushi, poke and assorted seafood selection is always good at Izakaya Torae Torae on McCully Street, but from 10 p.m. to midnight it’s happy hour, when most items are priced at just $3 to $6. That’s $3 for tako wasabi and ika shiokara; $5 for saba shioyaki, ‘ahi poke and six pieces of spicy tuna or California roll; and $6 for chicken karaage, maguro teri shiso tempura and ‘ahi tataki.
Chicken karaage ($6).
For happy hour drinks, Torae Torae offers Asahi for $4, but if you want beer you might as well splurge and get that $5.50 bottle of Sapporo; it comes in a 20-ounce bottle, enough to fill three glasses. There’s also a selection of plum, barley and rice shochu and sake for between $3.95 and $6 (or between $30 and $40 for the bottles), plus assorted Chu-His for $3.95 and all hard liquor (which excludes Japanese whisky but includes top-shelf Grey Goose vodka and Riazul Silver tequila) for just $6.
The best shot in the house isn’t on the drink menu though—it’s the mini-yet-mighty seafood shooter, packed with uni, sweet shrimp, ikura, scallops and an oyster served in ponzu sauce and topped with a quail egg. This beast is normally $8, but during happy hour, it’s just $5. My buddies and I like to pour a splash of cold sake into the shot; I don’t know if Torae Torae owner and sushi chef Hide Yoshimoto approves of us messing with his carefully crafted mixture, but it tastes amazing.
Spicy ‘ahi tartare.
On the menu, don’t miss the incredible hamachi carpaccio ($9), with thin pink-and-clear slices of soft yellowtail on a bed of sliced onion, served with a sweet miso and ponzu mixture, jalapeño, chili and truffle oil or the spicy tuna tartare ($6), featuring spicy tuna over mashed avocado in a wonton chip with sheets of fried nori, topped with a quail egg.
Nametake tororo tofu ($4.50).
If you’re a meat-eater, go for the yakibuta, thin slices of roast pork in a slightly sweet, savory sauce; you get four slices for just $5. For tofu lovers (like me), the nametake tororo tofu ($4.50), with silken tofu served with enoki mushrooms, grated mountain potato and soba sauce is slimy and satisfying.
1111 McCully St., (808) 949-5959
Osoyami Bar and Grill (Bonus Round)
By this point, you should be too full to eat another bite and happily intoxicated. But if your group still has energy to party, amble a few blocks down to Osoyami on Algaroba Street, where you can get shots of Jameson for $5 on special, sing karaoke and play video games (on arcade machines) until 2 a.m. After a long night of eating, Osoyami isn’t exactly dessert, but it doesn’t get sweeter than this.
1820 Algaroba St., (808) 200-0514