Sakana Express Get Japanese and Okinawan-Kine Okazu, Plate Lunches and Poke in ‘Aiea
Da sistah deli of Sakana Grill in Kalihi is wea to go when you craving goya bitter melon champuru with your fried chicken and poke bowl.
Me, I’m a worrier. As more mom-and-pop restaurants close down I worry. I worry about Hawai‘i’s special sense of place. I worry what if one day all our neighborhood okazuya places disappear, then what going happen?
Sometimes da balance is kept in check like how when one okazuya closes down then it reopens up as one noddah okazuya. Like how last year Sato’s came Hashi in Waipahu.
And sometimes I tink maybe I worrying for nahting, especially when new okazuyas spontaneously appear. J’like how I discovered Sakana Express that opened up in February at Pearl Kai Shopping Center in ‘Aiea.
I asked da lady who looked like she wuz in charge if they wuz related to Sakana Grill in Kalihi. She said yes. So I said, “Aurite you guys expanding westward with your new concept. Pretty soon you guys going open more okazuyas and take ova da island!” She just laugh. But see how she nevah answer yes or no. I tink I uncovered their secret plan.
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Da first ting I look at when I go okazuya is what kine stuff they get that you no see so much at oddah okazuyas. Right off da bat I noticed Sakana Express had couple champuru. For people who dunno, das Okinawan stir-fry. Me, I Okinawan, so naturally when I see one place and they get good kine rafute-looking shoyu pork, I gotta ask, eh, da owner Okinawan or what? Da cashier girl told me yes. I should’ve figured this out cuz it said Okinawan food right dea on da window.
I asked da cashier what wuz their signature dish. She said da ‘ahi tofu patty and da fried chicken. Da ‘ahi tofu patty had chunks of real ‘ahi inside. Wuzn’t no can-kine fish. Good stuff. And I tried da fried chicken, cuz my friends Keith Nakaganeku and Jason Chin been telling me about da chicken at Sakana Grill for da longest time. If you get da fried chicken, you should definitely order one fried chicken plate lunch. That way you can get da fried chicken fresh. Da already made fried chicken wuz pretty good, but da fresh one wuz crispier, hence mo’ bettah.
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Their plate lunches run $12 to $14. You can get your favorites like goya bitter melon champuru, grilled ‘ahi belly, Japanese-style hamburger steak, chicken katsu, tonkatsu, loco moco, shoyu pork and more. Everyting sound so good, but no more combo plates. You gotta decide.
An’den if das no nuff, they also get $12 poke bowls too. The sign said “Our fish is always fresh NEVER frozen” with one happy face drawing. You can design your own poke bowls. First you choose your rice or even mix greens. Then your poke: Can be ‘ahi, salmon, imitation crab, tofu, tako or fried ‘ahi. Then you can add in onions, ogo, cucumber, avocado. Choose your sauce and garnish ’em with tobiko, tempura flakes, anykine.
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We got one spicy salmon bowl. I thought, I wonder if da salmon stay fresh too? Their sign says da fish stay fresh, but not like you can catch salmon in Hawai‘i. So I wen go ask da lady and she said YES, da salmon is fresh. They fly ’em in from da aquaculture farm. I got major facial disgracials. Lol.
What’s little bit confusing is da portion size. Like if you order one order of konbu maki, you get just one piece. But if you order one order of cone sushi, you get TWO cone sushis. Das weird, ah? Just make sure you ask if you not sure. And if you want deli-style okazu, make sure you go before 1 p.m. cuz das when da okazuya part closes. But still can get a la carte, plate lunches and poke bowls until 8 p.m.
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Anyhow, my okazuya test is did my first trip make me wanna go back? It did. And I spent even more da second time. Broke da bank, but it’s worth. #nomonomoono
Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, 98-199 Kamehameha Hwy, (808) 220-1905, @sakanaexpress