Bakers Cristina Nishioka of Beyond Pastry Studio and Harley Tunac of The Local General store organize a pastry box with 100% of sales donated to groups fighting for Asian American and Pacific Islander rights.
Sho’s Kitchen Is Cooking Up Oishii, Affordable Bentos on Sheridan Street
Taste meets value at this modest new add to Honolulu’s bento scene.
If you’ve seen my social media postings, you know that value is a major factor in my dining choices—meals that provide a delicious and bountiful experience for a reasonable price. So when I heard about a new Japanese eatery churning out bentos for around $10, my stomach led the way.
On the second floor of the 808 Center on Sheridan Street, Sho’s Kitchen is a modest establishment run by the husband-and-wife team of Shoji and Miki Namatame. Its modest appearance and a restaurant banner hanging from the railing like a noren curtain offer no clue that Shoji is a former executive chef at the Trump Waikīkī. The menu lists daily bentos featuring kalbi ($12), tofu steak ($10), fried rice ($10) and unagi ($16); changing monthly bento specials (those for March featured pan-fried steak for $12 and garlic shrimp for $10); plus a spicy ‘ahi roll ($8), California roll ($8) and inari cone sushi ($10). Fellow Frolicker Thomas Obungen and I order a few items, since our stomachs truly are as big as our eyes.
The Chicken Nanban plate ($10) features deep-fried chicken thighs finished in a vinegar-based sauce and topped with egg tartar. This southern Japanese dish is one of my favorites on any menu. Sho’s version yields morsels that are equally savory, creamy and juicy with every bite. And while the idea of a tartar sauce on chicken is not something most of us are accustomed to, rest assured that this eggy topping balances very well with the sourness of the vinegar sauce coating the battered chicken.
We are fortunate to have several places to get good tonkatsu in Hawai‘i, and Sho’s Kitchen is no exception. The thick slice of pork is cooked nicely so the juices are flowing and there is a nice, medium-firm chew. At $10, this bento certainly qualifies as a good value.
Although I came for the bentos, I need to try the inari sushi. This is not the cone sushi that my 5-year-old self used to buy from Gulick Deli in Kalihi. This is a juicy, fat, multi-layered version that is a meal unto itself: a juicy aburaage tofu pocket filled with sushi rice topped with edamame, pickled ginger, marinated shiitake mushrooms and a plump chilled shrimp. While the usual cone sushi takes me two bites to finish, this one takes me four bites. The pack of three leaves me full.
My taste test leads me to conclude that Sho’s Kitchen delivers on the promise of tasty and affordable bentos that would satisfy any Japanese salaryman. The eatery is open for lunch every day except Sunday and for bento dinners from Monday to Thursday. They do have a monthly fixed-price dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, but that will be a culinary tale for another time.