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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, July 27, 2000


Fresh takes
on okazu-ya

FIFTY years ago, who would have thought kamaaina would be as comfortable with a salad of foie gras and mesclun as we are with shoyu chicken and potato salad made with Best Foods mayonnaise? We've come a long way, but old food habits die hard. That's why change in the restaurant world is so scary. With every old restaurant closing there's the feeling that more than losing a business, we're losing part of our lifestyle, our history.

If all the okazu-ya close, for instance, who will make Corned Beef-and-Potato Hash just so -- at nearly an inch thick, with a balance of mushy and chunky potatoes, a light sprinkling of pepper and a thin crispy layer on the bottom? Sounds easy, but I've never seen this concoction duplicated quite as masterfully outside the okazu-ya.

That's why it's so nice to see a younger generation taking the helm of these point-and-eat delicatessens. They might not stick to the menu of our grandparents, but at least they assure continuation of the species. Two Halekauwila neighbors show the contrast between old-style and new wave okazu.

THE name alone gets this little eatery a lot of attention. Diners always want to know what's new and this place obliges with such non-standard okazu-ya fare as peppery Salmon Poke ($1.95) and Seafood Dynamite ($1.60), with onions, green onions, seaweed and hot sauce folded into a fish bake of salmon and ahi, with mayonnaise spread over the top like frosting on a cake. (I don't expect anyone outside Hawaii to understand the mouth-watering beauty of this dish.)

People also come for the deep-fried Garlic Chicken ($1.70 for three pieces).

The thing about okazu-yas is, you can come away with a very affordable, if somewhat greasy, lunch. A huge portion of Fried Noodles, Fried Rice or Chow Fun will run $1. Add to that your chicken and Spicy Pork with Long Beans ($1.35) and you're set.

This is not the kind of place for dieters. With all items in sight, it's always tempting to add a piece of Shrimp Tempura ($1.20 per piece, but skip this one, which is shriveled and cold) or a small scoop of Potato Salad (.50 cents) and before you know it, that lunch is supersized.

At 568 Halekauwila St. Open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Call 540-1010.

Tapa

BROTHER and sister Royden and Lori Oshita ditched their fast-food jobs two years ago to open their okazu and catering business, basically, she said "because this is the food we like to eat."

Many of the recipes, including the aforementioned Corned-Beef-and-Potato Hash, are from their mom, with some tweaking by Royden.

Malihini wishing to travel through time, may step in and walk out understanding what a meal might have been like in a local home in the mid to late 20th century. Beef Stew, Curry Stew, Chili and Frank plate and Meat Loaf ($4.35-$4.50/$3.35-3.50 mini) are classics.

Okazu aficionados vouch for the Sweet-Sour Spareribs available daily as a plate lunch ($4.75/$3.75 mini). Royden's homestyle Shoyu Butterfish (market) is addictive with its sweet-salty combo and Andagi (.65 cents) owes its size to the times. These are four times larger than the Okinawan doughnuts I ate as a child, but those may have seemed puny in the extreme '00s.

You absolutely must try the Sweet Potato Tempura (.85 cents), with its gigantic slices of purple potato set against sunny yellow breading.

The food is so ono, even when you're stuffed you won't want to quit eating. That's OK. Starve one night, come back in the morning.

At 568 Halekauwila St. Open 5:30 a.m. Mondays to Fridays. Call 528-5029.



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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to nkam@starbulletin.com



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