Japanese Comfort Food in Honolulu

Grilled, Griddled, Simmered: The world of Japanese food beyond sushi, tempura and ramen.

In this month’s dining column, I explore the high-end side of Japanese dining, kaiseki. But I didn’t want to forget about Japanese comfort food, which, these days, gets as much attention as fine dining. Here’s a sampler of casual eats beyond tempura and sushi.


Food cooked over charcoal. At Tsukuneya, the specialty is tsukune, chicken meatballs, served with a variety of sauces, such as peppercorn, chili miso, parmesan and tartar sauce, and the classic teriyaki. Tsukuneya, 1442 University Ave., 943-0390.






A simmered assortment of vegetables, fish cake and other ingredients. Hakkei offers more than a dozen items for oden, including the standard daikon and konnyaku, a firm jelly, as well as hanpen, a steamed fish cake with yam that has a silky, bouncy texture, and mochi wrapped in a tofu pouch. Dipping sauces include spicy mustard, ponzu and a sesame sauce. Hakkei, 1436 Young St., Suite 103, 944-6688, hakkei-honolulu.com.





Somewhere between an omelet and a savory pancake, the okonomiyaki batter usually includes flour, grated mountain yam and eggs, and from there, the fillings are endless—pork, seafood, natto (those love-them-or-hate-them gooey, fermented soybeans). At Yaki Yaki Miwa, a new eatery that griddles okonomiyaki to order, choose from four varieties including tama, thick with cabbage, or ton pei yaki, like an omelet stuffed with sliced pork belly and topped with okonomiyaki sauce, sweet and plummy. Yaki Yaki Miwa, 1423 S. King St., 983-3838.