Tokkuri-Tei Japanese Restaurant, located on Kapahulu Avenue, close to Waikiki, mirrors a traditional “Izakaya”, which is a type of Japanese bar that working-class men and their colleagues frequent. At these popular ‘watering holes’ there is usually a large menu with many different types of “otsumami” (appetizers), including sushi, sashimi, shrimp and vegetable tempura, noodle dishes and a myriad of other traditional delicacies. The Izakaya menu is designed to be shared and dishes are served tapas-style - smaller portions that can be enjoyed in between drinks while talking story with friends or family. The talented Tokkuri-Tei chefs not only bring the custom of authentic Japanese food to the table, they also add a Hawaiian flair and style, creatively mixing traditional with contemporary menu items.
Tokkuri Tei is my husband’s personal favorite Japanese restaurant. He became a sushi fanatic about 25 years ago and dined at some of the finest sushi restaurants in Manhattan; but Tokkuri Tei is still his personal favorite, which is fortunate as we now reside in the islands. He first dined at Tokkuri Tei in 2006 when they were at their old location in a small strip mall next to Zippy’s. Back then, the menu was in Japanese with only some items translated into English, the windows were completely covered with newspaper so you couldn’t see inside. When he opened the door for the first time, it was with some trepidation and uncertainty if he was indeed at the restaurant that had been recommended to him, due to its appearance. However, as soon as he stepped inside, he was delighted to find that it was indeed a Japanese restaurant with basic diner-style décor, but was greeted warmly by his host despite being the only non-Japanese in the room.
Since that first visit, he has made it a point to return to Tokkuri Tei at every opportunity. They are now in a more upscale location near to the Honolulu Zoo and with a welcoming casual ambience that matches the warm staff and fantastic food. The décor is now interesting and fun albeit cute & kitsch. Colorful Japanese lanterns, dolls, fans and fishing nets adorn the scene, and the walls are covered with celebrity autographs as well as local fan comments.
My husband had the pleasure of introducing me to Tokkuri-Tei for the first time on our recent visit to Oahu. I am not a fan of raw fish, but I still managed to have an absolutely SUBLIME experience sampling a wide assortment of cooked items, while my husband busily devoured his sushi plates with an expression of utter bliss on his face, (happy in the knowing that he could eat all of the sushi himself).
You know a great meal by the silence it produces. We were both so utterly absorbed in the delicate flavors tantalizing our taste buds that we barely engaged in conversation the entire time, except to exclaim things like ‘wow you’ve got to taste this, its amazing!’
The service is exceptional and the wait-staff are helpful and patient. Our assortment of dishes began to arrive almost immediately after ordering. We began with an essential bowl of Miso Soup and cups of Green Tea. The perfect beginning to any Japanese meal. Then came the Cucumber Seaweed Salad, which was light and refreshing – an ideal way to prepare the palette for the delightful dishes to come. My husband simultaneously enjoyed a sushi hand-roll Negi Toro – tender chopped ahi (tuna) belly mixed with scallions. I love a traditional Japanese soup and the Ochazuke (Rice Nori) soup was exactly as a Dashi – a traditional Japanese broth – should taste, with just the right flavor and temperature.
We ordered the Yamaimo Sengiri (Julienne Mountain Yam), which was light and fresh in a sweet tamari sauce. The Yasai Tempura was sublime – with Kakiage vegetables. The batter was incredible and melted in the mouth to reveal the delicious Okinawa (purple sweet potato), carrot, squash, string bean as well as a decorative shiso leaf which had been delicately dipped in butter and gently fried.
The Soft-Shell Crab Agemono (Half Naked Blue Crab Tempura) was really tasty - the crab was juicy and sweet and the sauce gently spiced and delicious. The Sake Dynamite definitely caused an explosion of the senses! With sashimi-grade Baked Salmon, Avocado and Enoki Mushroom, the tender mix of flavors was incredible. My husband’s Alaska Roll (Salmon Avocado Roll) was totally succulent with generous portions of fish. He said “I was in heaven. I wanted it to never end”.
Our only disappointment was that our bellies were too satisfied to consider dessert, although I am sure there were some delightful options. Tokkuri-Tei means ‘sake shop’ and boasts an extensive sake list, and a wide variety of shochu, wine and beer. Our waitress Miki had recommended for our next visit the the chef’s choice – Omakasei – where you can sit at the sushi bar and once you decide how much you want to spend and the chef will create custom dishes for you in the moment.
There is something for everyone at Tokkuri-Tei, with small and large tables to cater for every occasion from the intimate dinner for two, to a birthday or family gathering.
Open Daily 10:30 am - 2:00 pm and 5:30 pm - 12:00 am Phone: (808) 732-6480