EAST OAHU'S NEW (AND NEW-ISH) RESTAURANTS

With a few exceptions, the Hawaii Kai area isn’t known for its destination dining. So when a new restaurant opens up, the community gets pretty excited and the online forums light up with reviews dissecting the food and service. We’ve checked out the newcomers to the East Oahu foodie landscape, from shabu in Niu Valley to Texas barbecue in Hawaii Kai to poke bowls in Kalama Valley.

CAFE ASIA

New Eats in Hawaii Kai
Café Asia in Niu Valley offers all-you-can-eat shabu, shown here, as well as “chef special” entrees. They also do a pau hana/early bird menu from 4-6 p.m. weekdays and dine-in specials including for seniors on Monday and for kids Monday to Wednesday.

Located on the corner of an unassuming shopping center, Café Asia surprises you upon entrance with its large and airy dining room, decorated along one wall with a stylized art piece that spells its name with a food motif.  This self-styled fusion shabu shabu celebrated its one-year anniversary on Sept. 28, but it’s been flying low on the community’s radar, so we’ve added it to the mix. 

If you’re new to shabu shabu, a style of Japanese hot pot featuring thinly sliced meat and vegetables, don’t worry – the servers are super helpful in walking you through the three-step process. First, you’ll choose from five types of broth if you can’t choose between two, get both – they have split pots!

The next step is harder – choosing from a wide selection of pupu, meats, seafood, starches, and vegetables that you drop into the simmering broth. Everything we had was fresh and good quality, so you can’t really go wrong – with the caveat that you need to eat everything you order or face a charge of $7.99 per plate.  

The third step is optional – choosing from a buffet of four fresh condiments and seven dips at their Sauce Station at the front of the restaurant.  I’m not a fan of sauces in general, but I’m a believer now after discovering how it added new layers of flavor to the shabu shabu. Oh, and save room for a final surprise – they’ve started offering a complimentary dessert: a refreshing bowl of shave ice topped with fresh fruit, adzuki beans and a splash of sweetened condensed milk.

Cafe Asia
5724 Kalaniana’ole Highway, Niu Valley Shopping Center
Open Monday-Thursday 4-9 p.m., Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-9:30 p.m.
Entrees range from $14.99-$19.99; AYCE for adults is $27.99
www.cafeasiahawaii.com

TEX808 BBQ + BREWS

New Eats in Hawaii Kai
Two sides accompany your order of single, double or triple plate of meats – and don’t forget the locally made barbecue sauces in spicy, sweet or original.

You’d better bring your appetite to this Texas barbecue joint because this is stick-to-your ribs eating. Housed in the former BYO Bowls spot at the end of the shopping center across from City Mill, TEX808 opened in June to bring us slow-cooked meats with traditional sides including mac ‘n cheese, bbq beans, cole slaw, potato salad and corn on the cob. Our family’s favorite side, though, is the tater tots – they’re perfectly crisped with tender potato inside.  

As far as the ‘cue, brisket is the way to go. While my order once came out a little too charred for my liking, there must be some diners who really love it because “Burnt Endz” is a “limited availability” appetizer on the menu. My other new fave is the Friday prime rib special, which is good for another meal the next day for me. If you don’t have time to dine in, they offer family packs in small and large sizes that include meats, sides and desserts. 

With a wide selection of adult beverages and five large-screen TVs, TEX808 also attracts a bar crowd, especially on football Sundays, when they offer brunch at 7 a.m. and happy hour from 2-5 p.m. For evening entertainment, there’s Open Mic Night Mondays from 8-9:30 p.m.– advertised as “off-the-cuff uncensored comedy” hosted by local comedian Patrick Tyrrell. If you’re an aspiring comedian, sign up by 7:30 p.m. and whip out your best jokes for a Hawaii Kai crowd.

TEX808 BBQ + BREWS
333 Keahole St., Hawaii Kai Town Center
Open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.- 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m.-9 pm.
www.tex808.com

KIM'S KOREAN BAR-B-Q

New Eats in Hawaii Kai
The Kal Bi and BBQ Chicken combination comes with your choice of four vegetables and rice.

More barbecue, this time with a water view! It’s a little hard to find because it’s on the backside of the shopping center  facing the marina; from the parking lot, head toward the Cosmopolitan Sun Shop and you’ll see Kim’s sign above the entrance next to the open walkway to the marina.

Once there, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find something you like – the menu has a wide selection of rice plates and soups featuring barbecue beef and chicken marinated in Korean sauces and spices. If you’re hesitant at the unfamiliar names, just look up and you’ll find photos of the most popular dishes. While barbecued meats are their specialty, there are vegetarian options including tofu and seaweed. And the portions are generous  – the rice plates come with two scoops of rice and four veggie choices, which include kimchi, tofu, long rice, daikon, choi sum, shoyu potatoes, macaroni salad and more. 

While the ordering counter looks geared toward takeout, tables are available, with seating for about 12. 

Although while you can’t sit outside, the wide entryways allow the trade winds in and provide for ample views of the marina and Mauna‘ōhi Ridge. Besides takeout and dining in, I foresee Hawaii Kai families taking advantage of their catering options, especially as the holidays roll around.

KIM’S KOREAN BAR-B-Q
7192 Kalanianaʻole Highway, Koko Marina Center
Open Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. 

LIKO'S TAB & TABLE

New Eats in Hawaii Kai
The Loco Moco at Liko’s Tap & Table features locally sourced ingredients including Kunoa Cattle Company beef and eggs from an Oahu farm.

While many longtime residents mourned The Shack when the popular sports bar closed last year after 27 years in business,  a million-dollar renovation has transformed the waterfront restaurant into a clean, family-friendly dining destination. The total rebuild includes a new kitchen, bathrooms, draft system and keg room – but The Shack lives on in the form of the bar, which was constructed of ipe wood that was salvaged and repurposed into its new form. 

Open since December, Liko’s brings new daily breakfast options to the neighborhood, including Eggs Benedict three ways (ham, crab cake or Kalua pork), Avocado Toast, their specialty French Toast and a Loco Moco with a Kunoa Cattle Company beef patty. I have to say they do eggs right – my poached egg on a crab cake Eggs Benedict and the over-easy version on my Loco Moco were cooked perfectly during both of my visits. For lunch and dinner, the scratch kitchen is busting out dishes on the newly expanded menu that includes a French Dip sandwich, steak salad and new taco options for lunch, and fresh local fish seared with lemon pepper, grilled shrimp and scallops, and prime rib for dinner.  

On Sundays, football takes over and fans come out to watch games on one or several of the 22 65-inch TVs throughout the restaurant, as well as enjoy happy hour, which is actually offered daily 3-6 p.m. They also have live music on some evenings with local artists like Tavana and Kamuela Kahoano – check their Facebook page for who’s playing when.

LIKO’S TAP & TABLE
377 Keahole Street, Hawaii Kai Shopping Center
Open Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 7 a.m.-midnight
www.likoshawaii.com

ONO SEAFOOD

New Eats in Hawaii Kai
Can’t decide which poke to get? Get two, like this ahi and tako combo - regular size shown here.

After serving their world-famous famous poke bowls at the Kapahulu Avenue location for almost a quarter-century, Kim Brug opened her family’s second brick-and-mortar restaurant in July in a sleepy Kalama Valley shopping center. It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood, especially since the center has just a Thai restaurant as the only other dining option.    

The Kapahulu store’s clientele mix nowadays has shifted toward tourists, thanks to the numerous 5-star reviews it’s received over the years. But for now, this second location is drawing mostly locals – many of them faithfully ordering from the same eight-choice menu they’ve seen for years. You can get a regular bowl or large, and a choice of brown or white rice. For the proteins, you can select ahi or tako in three styles – shoyu, Hawaiian and miso; the last two options are spicy or wasabi ahi.  

If you’re like me and can’t decide, there’s a combo option as well – two of any style. I chose Shoyu Ahi and Hawaiian Style Tako – and tasted the freshness of the ingredients that are indicative of premium poke. Seating is pretty limited, so takeout is the way to go. You can also purchase the poke by the pound, and party pans for the poke and sashimi also are available.

ONO SEAFOOD
501 Kealahou Street, Kalama Village Center
Open Thursday-Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Instagram

COMING SOON - PHO TIME

New Eats in Hawaii Kai
Interior renovations continue as the owners prepare for opening.

Located next to Gyotaku Japanese and two doors down from Café Asia, this Vietnamese restaurant is set to open any day now!

PHO TIME
5730 Kalaniana’ole Highway, Niu Valley Shopping Center


Therese Howe
Therese Howe

Therese Howe rolls a mean lumpia when she’s not out and about eating her way through Oahu and beyond. Follow her foodie and other adventures on @tphowehawaii.

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