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Makino Chaya


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#1 skchai

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Posted 29 December 2003 - 03:04 PM

Has anyone tried this new place in the old King's Bakery Spot on King and McCully? It bills itself as a "Izakaya Seafood Buffet" whatever that means. It's neither an izakaya (Japanese-style bar) or chaya (teahouse), but something like an all-you-can-eat Japanese-influenced small plates place.

It's owned by the Todai people, and seems to be an experiment in a slightly different concept. We went at lunch (we were originally planning to go to Jimbo's udon next door, but it was full). It was, if I recall correctly, 11.95 for adults and half that for children. It's nearly twice that at dinner, but there is a much larger selection.

There is a small salad bar and place where you can serve yourself things like chicken katsu, but for the most part you order off the menu. You can order up to two items per person at a time (including children), and when you've finished eating all that, you can order up to two items per person again. We only managed 1.5 rounds anyway before getting pretty full.

The lunchtime menu is fairly standard stuff (mixed tempura, tempura udon, zarusoba, unagi donburi), with a few slightly less common things thrown in (ginger pork, hayashi rice with shrimp, chirashi sushi, salmon batayaki). The tempura was quite competent, while the fish on the chirashi sushi was noticeably fresher than what I remembered from Todai, including amaebi, though the crab was ersatz. The unagi was miniscule and enveloped by egg shavings on its bed of rice. The salmon was cooked perfectly, not dried out! The ginger pork was soupy and not that gingery, but my son ate the whole thing. No dessert at lunch, except for orange slices.

Verdict? Can't complain for $11.95! Some of the crude preparation you would expect for such a mass production, but otherwise slightly better than expected. Place was packed when we went there - probably will remain packed if the prices and choices remain the same. Probably won't go back there, however, since we're not exactly looking to gain any more weight.

The dinnertime menu is much more ambitious, and it seems the Todai people have gone out of their way to import some of the kind of homestyle or izakaya dishes you rarely find on Japanese menus in the U.S., though I can't say anything about the execution.

The actual restaurant aside, what do people think of the concept? A priori, it seems implausible to me that they could prepare all-you-can-eat food to order without driving their kitchen staff insane. They seem to have "solved" that problem by sticking to fairly quick and simple prep and keeping boxes of precut ingredients at the ready (their kitchen is open), but is it worth the trouble of moving away from the conventional buffet concept?

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host


#2 FoodZealot

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 12:36 PM

I haven't been to this restaurant, but as someone who loves small bites/all appetizer-style meals, I'm intrigued. I would imagine that they take their expertise with all-you-can-eat sushi and apply those efficiencies and shortcuts to this type of food.

Sun-Ki, did you notice how are the menu-ordered dishes put down on the table - as they are ready, or altogether?

#3 skchai

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 02:29 AM

If I recall correctly, the food for each round was brought in more or less all at once. It did take some time ordered food to arrive, so it did seem that at least some of the preparation took place after the order when in.

Sun-Ki Chai
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Former Hawaii Forum Host


#4 The Little Blue House

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 03:51 PM

We ended up there on its opening night, so I am not really sure if the experience we had would have been the same. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it.
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Emily in London
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#5 skchai

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Posted 10 January 2004 - 03:57 PM

Welcome back Emily. . .

Hope you had a good time on the mainland. . .

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host


#6 The Little Blue House

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 02:25 PM

Um, I actually ended up overshooting the mainland and spent three weeks between Dublin, London, Strasbourg (France), and even a night in Basel (Switzerland). Twenty-four and a half hours of flying later, I ended up back home... Very, very jet lagged. Thanks for the welcome home!


-Emily
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Emily in London
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#7 skchai

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 01:33 AM

That's not, to say the least, the usual tourist itinerary! Sounds like a great trip. . .

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host


#8 lym

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 12:17 AM

we ate there during our last visit to honolulu. we thought it was a bargain. the sashimi was excellent. the "salad bar" by itself would make the price reasonable (the fried ika was really delicious). being able to also order from the menu makes it an exceptional value. my wife enjoyed the miso salmon. the service was quite good.

#9 skchai

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 10:22 AM

thanks for the report, lym. I agree that the sashimi is much improved due to the fact that it doesn't sit out on the buffet table. Service the time we went was also fairly prompt despite the fact that people seemed to be ordering everything in sight. . . .

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host