Pandora Cafe: a Korean bar with quality sashimi




Left: sashimi plate; right: hamachi kama

Some of the best food in Honolulu is found in bars. Even before the word "gastropub" entered our lexicon, Side Street Inn, Home Bar and Grill, and Cafe Duck Butt (to name just a few of my favorites) served uniquely Honolulu dishes in divey settings alongside shots with names that would make me blush even beyond my usual Asian glow.

Add another bar to the list: Pandora Cafe, which took over the Nobulnae space off Keeaumoku a little less than a year ago. If you ever have a craving for quality sashimi at midnight (which happens more than I realized), head here. You'll have to put up with loud K-pop and hip hop music videos (it was here that we first got hooked on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Otis") and dim club-like lighting, but the sashimi is terrific. Pandora's sushi chef also works at Mitch's, and for $25, you can get a sashimi platter with thick, gorgeous slices of hamachi, ahi, tako and buttery salmon.

Inside-out rolls are cheap: spicy tuna rolls and salmon skin rolls reminiscent of crunchy bacon are six for $5. And if you are a hamachi kama lover, order it here. Request it first—it can take the kitchen 20 minutes to cook the thick collar pieces, with rich, fatty meat encased in broiled, crispy skin.

If you are still lamenting the loss of Nolbunae chicken, with its sweet, salty, cinnamon-spiced batter, you can get it at Pandora Cafe, where the recipe lives on. Happy hour specials—from 5:30 to 8 p.m.—include four beers and Nolbunae chicken for $20.

At first (and maybe second and third) glance, it can seem like a hostess bar—the servers are short-skirted and pretty—but I'm assured it's not. Even if it were, it's probably pretty obvious that when I'm here, the food captivates me more than the women.

Pandora Cafe, 1526 Makaloa St., 943-2020

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