Hidden gem: Makoto Sushi

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When it comes to the edible attractions of Aiea Shopping Center, most people go for The Alley at Aiea Bowl or the soft serve at Samurai. But I’m there for Makoto Sushi, a hidden gem directly across from McDonald’s in the second-floor parking lot. For six years now, this mom-and-pop spot has been serving up a crazy delicious assortment of sushi, hand rolls and plates.

Makoto's exterior. The entire sushi menu is on the store's windows.

Makoto’s exterior. The entire sushi menu is on the windows.

Don’t blink, or you might miss tiny Makoto. I’m not kidding — perhaps four or five people, tops, can fit inside. It’s better for take-out, but there are a few tables right outside.

Makoto's cozy interior.

Makoto’s cozy interior.

Tables right outside of Makoto are reserved for customers.

Tables right outside are reserved for customers.

The sushi options are endless. Dishes are broken down into categories (appetizers, tempura rolls, spicy lover rolls, fresh fish rolls, Makoto special rolls and special plates). You’ll see the massive menu on the wall.

If you’re indecisive like me, you may be slightly overwhelmed.

Makoto offers more than 30 different types of sushi rolls.

Makoto offers more than 30 different sushi rolls.

Believe it or not, the wall menu on your left is just for the sushi rolls. If you need help deciding, the friendly uncle behind the counter is more than willing to help you out. All plates come with a side green salad, wasabi and ginger.

Whatever you decide, always start with some homemade mandoo. Three pieces are $4.50; the six-piece plate is $8.50.

Uncle brings this out to us first. “Temperature very hot,” he warns.

Wait a few minutes before digging into the mandoo. The little wonton-like pieces will probably still be steaming as you chow down on your entrée.

Wait a few minutes before digging into the mandoo. The wonton-like pieces will probably still be steaming.

When the golden-brown mandoo cools down enough to taste, it’s delectably crispy, succulent and not too oily.

Uncle recommends I try the King of Fire roll ($10.95) with crab, cucumber, spicy tuna, spicy sauce and a crunch topping; or else the Dragon Tears roll ($10.95), which sports similar contents but with masago, green onions and a sweet-spicy sauce. Since Uncle says the King of Fire is hot hot hot, I go with the Dragon Tears.

My favorite part of the Dragon Tears Roll is the cornflake “crunch” topping.

My favorite part of the Dragon Tears Roll is the cornflake crunch topping.

It’s a generous portion, and the amount of spicy tuna that’s atop each piece isn’t skimpy, either. But that crispy cornflake topping steals the show — ample crunch in every bite. Think of tempura flakes, but better.

These aren’t the top sellers, though. The honors belong to the Honey Roll ($11.95) and the Forever Roll ($10.95).

The Honey Roll includes shrimp tempura and eel, and it’s topped with spicy ahi, crab, green onions, masago, the cornflake crunch and three different sauces.

The Honey Roll has shrimp tempura and eel, and it’s topped with spicy ahi, crab, green onions, masago, cornflake crunch and three different sauces.

There’s just such a great balance of textures and flavors — the crunchiness from the cornflakes and tempura, the fresh eel’s squishiness and the tangy sweetness from the sauces. There’s also enough crab and spicy ahi in every bite.

If you’re starving and want one of the plates, this menu is behind the counter. Choices range from bentos — which feature mouthwatering samplers of sorts — to deep-fried delicacies.

The Spicy ahi plate ($8.95) includes a generous spread of fresh ahi and slightly spicy sauce.

The spicy ahi plate ($8.95) includes a generous spread of fresh ahi and slightly spicy sauce.

The spicy ahi is pretty standard, but I’m happy about the generous helping of fresh fish. There’s an equal ahi-to-rice ratio, so you know you’re getting bang for your buck.

Salmon is delicious in of itself, but the Cherry Blossom Plate ($10.95) features a tasty, deep-fried version.

Salmon is delicious in and of itself, but the Cherry Blossom Plate ($10.95) features a tasty, deep-fried version.

The Cherry Blossom Plate is my favorite of the deep-fried plates. The salmon is moist and tender, and that tempura-battered exterior is perfect. It takes major self-control to only eat half the plate and take the leftovers home.

Top & Cherry Combo ($11.95) is Makoto’s no.1-selling plate lunch.

Top & Cherry Combo ($11.95) is Makoto’s best-selling plate.

The Top & Cherry Combo, with deep-fried spicy ahi and deep-fried salmon, is the best of both worlds. It’s no wonder this is Makoto’s most popular plate. The fried fritters look similar, but the salmon tempura has a masago topping.

The ahi has a fishier taste than the salmon, but that’s not a bad thing. The fish is tender and moist and the amount of tempura batter is perfect. It comes with tempura sauce, so dip away.

I always leave Makoto with a full tummy and happy heart, because the uncle and auntie running the place are just so friendly and kind. My goal is to eat my way through that extensive sushi roll menu. Guess you could say I’m hooked.

Makoto Sushi
Aiea Shopping Center
99-115 Aiea Heights Dr.
722-9711
makotosushiaiea.com