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First Look: Odori-ko Restaurant

Second-generation Japanese kids step it up for their parents.


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Photo: Maria Kanai

​Odori-ko, a new restaurant that opened last month next to 24-Hour Fitness on Kapi‘olani Boulevard, offers a contemporary take on traditional Japanese—think teishoku-style meals, local-style sushi rolls, udon and soba, fried tempura and more.

 

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this Odori-ko is owned by the same Takei family that operated the longtime King’s Village staple ... Odori-ko. Except instead of Nobuteru Takei, proprietor of the original location, it’s his children, Hiro Takei and Rie Takei Akita, who are running this one.

 

We spoke with the Takei family to get the whole story.

 

Born and raised in Sendai, Japan, Nobuteru always dreamed of traveling the world, to see the sights and to visit exotic places. In 1964, he visited Hawai‘i, meaning to make it the first stop on his world tour. Instead, it turned out to be his last, as he fell in love with the Islands and started working as a dishwasher for Japanese restaurant Furusato, to make ends meet.

 

But he kept dreaming big. He and his wife Akiko, a JAL stewardess he met in Waikīkī, opened Maiko restaurant in 1972. For the next four decades, they would go on to open the original Odori-ko in King’s Village, three Edoko restaurants and a sports bar called Tiny Green Apple.

 

“My dad’s always had the heart of an entrepreneur. He’s loves entertaining, and he tries new things. And if it doesn’t work out, he just shrugs it off and starts something else,” says Hiro Takei, who attended Punahou and studied law at the Richardson School of Law. According to him, Nobuteru is credited for bringing to Hawai‘i:

 

  1. The first karaoke restaurant

  2. The first live lobster tank restaurant

  3. The first robata grill

  4. The first yakiniku table

 

Truth? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to know for sure. But that’s the story, and the kids are proud of it. After Nobuteru fell ill several years ago, Hiro and Rie had to step it up so their parents could retire. Hence, the closing of the King’s Village Odori-ko last month, and the new, revamped restaurant on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.  

 

Ultimately, the Takei siblings envision Odori-ko to be a gathering space that’s all about community. If you get the dragon tempura roll, Odori-ko will give 10 percent of proceeds to the nonprofit organization Junior Achievement. The same goes for the wafu steak ($18.95), which benefits Touch a Heart, and the macadamia nut tofu ($6.96), which benefits the YWCA. You can even purchase ceramic plates, with all proceeds going to the artists who crafted them: Kenny Chan, Daven Hee, Jon Vongvichai, Daniel Harano and Ashley Huang.

 

“We also want people to come and meet here, take their time, and study, work or have meetings. Like a Starbucks, except we don’t serve coffee,” says Rie Takei Akita, who grew up running the restaurant business with her parents. There’s free Wi-Fi and, during lunch, you go up to the bar and order your food, café-style.

 

For those with a sweet tooth, Odori-ko has partnered with Sweet Revenge’s pastry chef and owner Kathy Matsunaga. The peanut butter and chocolate crisp ($9.95), for example, is a delightful, delicate bite of crumbling phyllo layers surrounding a light mousse.

 

This new edition of Odori-ko is still figuring itself out. It’s definitely a restaurant, with a bar and happy hour at night. “We aren’t an izakaya though, and not completely a café. We’re kind of staying away from giving ourselves a label,” Hiro says. “We want to flow with the customers and see what they think.”

 

Odori-ko, 1680 Kapi‘olani Blvd., #F8, open Monday through Saturday, lunch 11 a.m.–2:30 p.m., happy hour 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., dinner 6:30–9:30 p.m., late-night happy hour 9:30 p.m.–midnight, odori-ko.com, 955-6555

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MARIA KANAI

 

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