Lately it seems like restaurants commonly found in town are making their way to the Leeward side. One of these places is Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant. Newly opened in Westridge Shopping Center, fans of nabe (Japanese Hot Pot) now have two locations to choose from. I, for one, am happy that I don’t need to go all the way into town to enjoy this delicious and healthy style of Japanese cooking.
My fellow foodie friend and I decided to check out this new Aiea eatery for dinner. We got there around 6pm on a weekday and were greeted by the hostess as soon as we opened the glass doors. The first thing you notice as you walk into this place is how spacious it is compared to the original one. They have a lot more tables with cushioned wooden benches that are nicely partitioned to give you a sense of privacy. They also have tatami room dining where you remove your shoes and sit on cushions on the floor. I liked the “pit” style seating by the windows where your bare feet are dangling, and gives the appearance of sitting on an elevated floor. Each table comes with one or more butane stoves for your hot pot.
This location is also much brighter compared to the one in town. The windows facing Kaonohi street help bring more light into the restaurant and adds to that spacious feel. This is an ideal place for group and family dining, but groups of all sizes can be accommodated from dinner for two to large parties.
We were brought to one of the partitioned seating areas without having to wait because we got there at a good time. Business started to pick up after 7pm. Our waiter was very nice and helpful in suggesting what to order by describing the dishes and telling us his favorites. I really wanted the Sukiyaki because I knew how good it was from past experience. But it was a two order minimum and my friend had already decided on the Curry Nabe, so I had to pick something else. I went with the USDA Prime Beef Shabu Shabu. Luckily they have hot pots with two compartments to separate the different types of broths while still sharing the same burner.
The Curry Nabe ($21.95) includes Chinese cabbage, bok choy, seasonal mushrooms, chives, gobo, carrots and chicken. There’s also sausage and tsukune served in a bamboo stick-like container. It also comes with rice and finished with a curry risotto. The bamboo container isn’t pictured here because the waiter placed it in the pot before we had a chance to take the photo. The vegetables and chicken were later added. My friend was very happy with his choice. He felt that even though it took longer to cook, the concentrated curry broth was more flavorful than the other type of broths he had before.
The USDA Prime Beef Shabu Shabu ($27.95) that I ordered comes with Chinese cabbage, Shitake mushrooms, chives, bok choy, carrots, tofu, kuzukiri, and rice. There are two dipping sauces, ponzu (for the meats) and goma (for the veggies) as well as green onions and spicy or regular daikon, which can be added to your liking for extra flavor. First I added the vegetables into the boiling water. The beef I placed in the hot pot one at a time because it only takes a couple minutes to cook. I used the dipping sauces, bits of green onion and daikon with each tender piece of meat. Plus I made sure to have some rice with every delicious bite.
Ichiriki also has a variety of vegetable and meat appetizers to choose from like edamame and chicken karaage. Personally, I think the main dishes already come with enough food to completely fill you up, so I only stick with those. The hot pots are served in four ways: sukiyaki, shabu shabu, nabe, and kami “paper” nabe which is a paper bowl that somehow doesn’t burn. And if that wasn’t enough, they also come with your choice of udon or ramen noodles. This is brought out towards the end of the meal. The hot pot is left with flavors from the mixture of cooked vegetables and meats. This is all absorbed in the broth leaving a soup for the noodles that’s packed with even more flavor.
Surprisingly, we had enough room for dessert and decided to share one. We ordered the Ujikintori ($4.95), which is shaved iced topped with authentic green tea and served with azuki beans and mochi balls on top. This sweet dessert was the perfect end to our meal.
Ichiriki prides itself on using only the best products for their customers. They serve fresh vegetables and quality meats and seafood so you get the purity of each ingredient as they’re supposed to taste. Meals cooked in hot pots are healthy because there is no grease and oil used in the process. Lunch and dinner is served daily. They also have set courses and late night specials. They’re open Monday to Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday & Saturday from 11am-12am midnight, and 11am-10pm on Sunday. Parking is available in the Westridge Shopping Center, which can be a problem since there are quite a bit of restaurants and businesses here. On busy days, especially the weekends, you may find yourself driving around the 2-level center searching for an open stall.
The restaurant is located in the same spot that was once occupied by Buffet 100 and more recently Lily Koi Restaurant & Lounge. Unfortunately, both fell victim to a rough economy. But something tells me that Ichiriki Japanese Nabe Restaurant is here to stay for a long time because there really isn’t anything like it in Aiea.