RINKA AT WARD VILLAGE

Rinka isn’t your typical “hole in the wall” restaurant, though it’s hidden like one. This minimalist Japanese restaurant is tucked away between the newer whole foods parking at Ward and the older Ward theater parking. My friends and I wanted to try this place out because we honestly never came across it before and found it on Yelp. We were all surprised to see how spacious and elegant this restaurant was for where it was located.

Left: Entrance to Rinka | Right: Welcoming table setting at Rinka

I’m not sure if it was because the door had stated that they were having a soft opening, though the restaurant was half empty and we were told our group of 5 guests wouldn’t be able to be seated for another hour or so. I’ve worked in restaurants and completely understood that it may have been due to prior reservations, perhaps during their soft opening they weren’t taking waves of people all at once, or perhaps in order to provide exceptional service they are unable to take so many guests at one time. Fortunately, we waited with the host and convinced her that we could fit on a table for four guests as one of the people with us were leaving after half an hour or so. She quickly sat us at a table and we thanked her graciously.

There is a separated lunch and dinner menu. The overall menu seemed more izakaya-style with several small orders. We all had wanted the Sukiyaki we saw on Yelp, though we didn’t see it on the dinner menu and instead ordered various individual Shabu Shabu and Hot Pot. I had ordered the Spicy Pork and Vegetable Hot Pot. My friend had ordered the Beef Shabu Shabu, plus we each ordered a side of rice. You can even order a raw egg to make makeshift sukiyaki. Before our food arrived at the table, remember how our host was kind enough to seat our group? Not only did the staff welcome us with open arms, but because we had all ordered our own entrees our server had made up a larger table and insisted we move over to have more room for our hot soups. This solidified right away that the rest of the night was going to be exceptional.

Our entrees arrived and each had a colorful spread of protein and fresh veggies. The Beef Shabu Shabu had thinly sliced beef, tofu, mushrooms, watercress, cabbage, and enoki mushrooms. The Spicy Pork and Vegetable Hot Pot arrived with thinly sliced pork, similar if not the same sides, a variety of mushrooms, and a very red chili mixture right on top. There didn’t seem to be broth at first, but after the fires were lit for us and it sounded like water was boiling, our dishes began to become fragrant and the broth began to cook all of the ingredients. For a spicy lover like me, the spice level was a 6/10. You could taste it, but it wasn’t too spicy. If there was a fire in my mouth it was at the end when I was inhaling all of the simmering broth.

Rinka
Japanese Style Omelette with Pork

Another item we tried was the Japanese Style Omelette with Pork. It was similar to tamago, though filled with seasoned ground pork and topped with a healthy handful of bonito flakes. I believe the sauce was ketchup, but it just added a nice sweetness to the juicy pork and salty bonito. It was so tasty, something that I would add to our dinner again. I’m still on the search for some traditional omurice if anyone has any recommendations!

Rinka
Kinako Creme Cake and complimentary hot tea

After finishing our meal, we were all given hot tea in beautiful ceramic cups. It’s refillable and the staff goes around with a carafe to refill any empty cups. Although this wasn’t the end of the meal, it was a welcomed palate cleanser for the dessert we had ordered. We unanimously chose the Kinako Creme Cake. It was the most unique out of the three or four options. If I had to compare this to something it would be a light unsweetened sponge cake, topped with kinako and whipped cream. The cake itself was quite dry and had a very subtle roasted flavor, but most of the kinako taste came from the powder on top. The whipped cream gave this its moisture and sweetness. My all-time favorite cakes are the Princess Cake made with marzipan and Tres Leche Cake which is soaked in three types of milk so trying something so delicate and subtle was a little underwhelming. Not to say I didn’t lick the last drop of whipped cream from my spoon. Everything exceeded my expectations from the beginning and it ended with an unforgettable time with true friends.

Rinka
Ward Village
1001 Queen Street Ste. 105
Honolulu, HI 96814
Ph: 808-773-8235
www.rinka-dining.com