Mō‘ili‘ili’s Longtime Hide-Chan Restaurant Will Close April 23
Last chance for miso rafute and bittermelon tempura: Retirement is claiming one of Honolulu’s three Okinawan restaurants.
Update: After this post was published, Hide-Chan had to stop lunch service and all takeout orders to focus on customers who were lining up for dinner before the 5 p.m. opening. The mom-and-pop restaurant is now dine-in only, first come, first served, with no reservations.
Okinawan cuisine can be described as a champuru or mix of flavors from the Ryukyu Kingdom, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. I have always thought Honolulu was incredibly lucky to have three restaurants offering a taste of this unique cuisine. But on April 23, after 21 years, Mō‘ili‘ili’s beloved Hide-Chan Restaurant will be closing its doors for good. With their lease up, Hidemitsu and Chizuko Tamayose have decided this is a good time to change jobs—to babysitting their grandson.
Hide-Chan doesn’t have fancy, Instagrammable or trendy dishes. What they do serve is Okinawan home cooking that, ironically, we no longer know how to cook at home. Eating at Hide-Chan was like being reconnected with my grandparents.
You might not remember, but when Hidemitsu opened Hide-Chan (that’s his nickname), he only had Japanese dishes on the menu. But Okinawan customers kept asking him to make Okinawan food for them. He scoured old Okinawan cookbooks, tasting and adjusting the recipes until he was satisfied. That attention to detail is apparent in his goya (bittermelon) champuru, nakami soup and spare rib soup. Today, his Okinawan dishes are the most popular items.
SEE ALSO: Eating Okinawan: Utage Restaurant
One of my favorites that I will miss is the miso rafute, which is a melty, fork-tender pork belly. Much of the fat is rendered out through long hours of cooking, so it looks really fatty but it’s not. Hide-Chan is the only place that combines the pork belly with a light miso sauce. Miso rafute over rice is my ultimate comfort food.
The tiny restaurant is famous for its pig’s feet soup. Alan Tsuchiyama, a culinary arts professor at Kapi‘olani Community College, told me the broth “is simmered for just the right amount of time, where the meat and skin are soft but still intact, not an easy thing to do. Timing and years of experience is crucial to get it just right. I admire the meticulous care, as he takes the time to lightly scorch the skin of the pig feet to ensure the best possible product.”
SEE ALSO: Eating Okinawan: Sunrise Restaurant
Hide-Chan’s Japanese dishes will also be greatly missed. Besides the miso rafute, my other favorite dish is nasubi hasamiage, a pork and eggplant “sandwich” that is katsu-battered and fried. I don’t know what I am going to do without this in my life. My other go-to dishes are the ‘ahi belly nitsuke, which unusually includes soft tofu, and the Japanese potato salad (that I like to schmear over bread and eat with ham). I set a goal last year to try every dish on the menu and enjoyed everything. Each dish is guided by the taste and skills that Hidemitsu developed over five decades of cooking.
What I am mourning also is the disappearance of these tiny mom and pops that have been around for decades, who know generations of their customers and play such a pivotal role by becoming gathering places for their communities. With each closing, we say farewell to priceless treasures that are a direct connection to our culture, our community, and the places our ancestors came from.
One pillar of Okinawan cuisine will be gone soon but there are still two remaining: Sunrise Restaurant and Utage Restaurant. For a breakdown of all the Okinawan dishes offered on O‘ahu, I have compiled a listing here.
SEE ALSO: Mō‘ili‘ili’s ‘Ili‘ili Is Now a Full-Fledged Deli With a Soulful New Hoagie
Hidemitsu, Chizuko, their daughter Iris and son Joey want to tell everyone ippei nifee debiru (thank you) and are grateful for the support of their customers, especially during the pandemic. But I want to thank the Tamayose family from the bottom of my heart for the decades of delicious Okinawan and Japanese dishes they have worked so hard to give us.
A request: Please remember that Hide-Chan is a mom and pop operation that will have a really hard time handling crowds and big orders. There is limited dine-in seating, so if you want takeout it’s best to phone in your order in advance. Be patient and understanding as they work through these final days. A lot of dishes have to be prepared a day in advance, so once they sell out, that’s it til the next day. And note that Hide-Chan takes cash only.
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. 2471 S. King St., (808) 942-7900. No reservations. Cash only.