Kaimukī Shokudo Is the Izakaya This Neighborhood Needed
Not the OG Shokudo you know, this one has a solid menu of vegetable and seafood otsumami classics with oishii cocktails.
Kaimukī is the ultimate foodie hood. It’s primarily local, with a mix of legacy restaurants and new spots that call us back often. Kaimukī Shokudo, which has become one of my regular lunch spots since opening in April with soba and tempura, has expanded with breakfast and dinner: teishoku sets and soba noodles from 8 to 11 a.m., and since getting its liquor license in mid-June, an evening izakaya menu that runs until midnight on weekends.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is not the Shokudo Japanese Restaurant we grew up going to on Kapi‘olani Boulevard. Possibly the only similarities between Kaimukī Shokudo and the original are the trademarked Honey Toast dessert and those kamaboko wood-plank window treatments. The rest is completely different. Kaimukī Shokudo, much like the surrounding neighborhood, is mature, and so is the crowd. Soft, moody lighting wraps the space in a chill vibe that feels at home in Kaimukī. Even the large bar looks like a cool place to hang out.
Two of the signature cocktails catch my attention right off the bat. Shokudo Smoked Hojicha Fashioned ($15.50), a play on the classic whiskey cocktail, takes on a smokier note with added smoke and is way too easy to drink. But I down the Shiso Crazy ($13.50), a yuzu shiso chuhai with ginger beer, even faster.
The menu is a welcome shift to well-executed izakaya classics with the rustic, homey edge we love about izakaya dining. Vegetables and seafood are prominent, which keeps the meal light until you’re ready to sober up with a comforting pot of kamameshi or a donburi. You can also order most of the tempura and the soba (hot or cold) that’s offered all day. The kakiage tempura, a nest of onions, burdock and carrots, is my favorite, but it has yet to make its way to the dinner menu.
A platter of crisp grilled vegetables ($14) includes lotus root, yamaimo, shiitake, maitake, corn, okra and shishito peppers with a dab of sweet-salty moromi miso. There are also whole grilled shishamo smelt ($7) and Kaua‘i shrimp ($12). The age hitashi ($7), fried eggplant and shishito peppers served in tsuyu, is bright and preserves the veggies’ textural integrity. The voluminous watercress gobo salad ($11) delivers on taste but could be chopped into smaller pieces for easier eating with hashi. One dish breaks from this pattern of classics: fried mentaiko mochi cheese spring rolls ($8). This screams OG Shokudo and delivers unexpectedly good clashes of taste and texture in one bite.
Although pretty, the Okinawan sweet potato salad ($12) might not be for every palate. The mildly sweet purple salad is finished with a medium-boiled egg, glistening ikura and a watercress tree and contrasts with the savory-umami dishes we start with.
The fish of the week is presented as sashimi, grilled, tempura-fried or our preference, nitsuke ($18): lightly simmered in a sweet-umami stock. This past week, buri (hamachi) was the featured fish. Our table’s unanimous favorite of the night came garnished with thin sticks of fresh ginger, the tender fish absorbing the rich stock. The dish practically begs for a bowl of steaming rice, but you’ll want to wait and order something else. Something better.
Our four-top shared a full-size washugyu beef curry rice ($17) and a pot of kamameshi ($42), the latter taking 30 to 40 minutes to prepare. We whacked the savory, fruity beef curry rice, but finishing the kamameshi rice at the end of the meal was challenging. It’s a lot—a full pot of rice steamed in dashi with mushrooms. Daikon and two meaty pieces of grilled saba get shredded and mixed into the rice tableside.
We finish sharing the iconic Honey Toast with coffee ice cream and Oreo cookies. A tribute to the OG Shokudo, which can be credited with bringing us out of our twenty-something comfort zone with wacky but tasty dishes. Sushi Pizza, amirite? Funny now that Kaimukī Shokudo is driving home comfort vibes with simple, elegant dishes that even diehard izakaya hoppers can appreciate. It is the izakaya Kaimukī needed.
Open Thursday to Monday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Thursday, Sunday and Monday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., 1127 11th Ave., @kaimukishokudo