Something new: Izakaya Kei

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There’s a new izakaya in the Pearl Kai Shopping Center down the street from Pearlridge Center. Open since April 28, Izakaya Kei is a welcome addition since the closure of Off the Wall in the same spot. You’ll find izakaya staples like slow-cooked kakuni pork belly, hiyayakko (chilled tofu) and hamburger topped with grated daikon oroshi, plus an extensive sushi and sashimi menu with madai, uni and chutoro.

Dishes like the miso tonkatsu ($10.50) are perfect for sharing with a group. The juicy tonkatsu is drizzled with a mouthwatering sauce and served piping hot.

Dishes like the miso tonkatsu ($10.50) are perfect for sharing. The juicy tonkatsu is drizzled with a tangy sauce and served piping hot.

First-time restaurant owners Jessica Sasaki and Jason Yokoyama grew up in Aiea and after finishing work at different bars and restaurants in town, always found themselves eating in town, since few places in central Oahu stay open late. Their aim was to open an izakaya with a solid food and drink menu that stayed open until midnight. The chefs they hired have serious Japanese experience under their belts at places including Izakaya Nonbei, Torae Torae, Morimoto Waikiki and Doraku.

The pork belly kakuni ($9) is a must-order with marinated, succulent layers of meat and fat with a beautifully soft-boiled egg and greens.

The pork belly kakuni ($9) has succulent layers of meat and fat with a soft-boiled egg and greens.

I’d recommend getting there early. Even though Kei just opened, the 40-something seats fill up at dinnertime.

The curry cheese croquette ($8) was love at first sight. Breaded and fried curry croquettes stuffed with gooey cheese is my kryptonite.

Breaded, deep-fried curry croquettes stuffed with gooey cheese ($8) are my kryptonite.

I'm a big chawan mushi fan and order it whenever it is offered. Their fancied up version ($7) is full of seafood, mushrooms and topped with a generous scoop of ikura. Be careful when enjoying this hot dish, it's addicting.

I’m a big chawan mushi fan and order it everywhere. Kei’s fancied-up version ($7) is full of seafood and mushrooms and topped with a generous spoonful of ikura. Be careful, it’s addicting.

The sushi sent out an order of his seared salmon and ikura for us to enjoy. This complimentary dish was a delicious bite that I'd order on my next visit.

The sushi chef sent out seared salmon and ikura nigiri for us to try. I’d order this on my next visit.

Parking in Pearl Kai is usually tight since many of the businesses stay open quite late.

Perfect for a rainy day, the Kei nabeyaki ($14) is a udon hotpot with seafood, veggies, pork and chicken. Be sure to get it with an ice cold Orion or Echigo beer.

Perfect for a rainy day, the Kei nabeyaki udon ($14) comes with seafood, veggies, pork and chicken. I like it with an ice cold Orion or Echigo beer.

If you're into sour and tart flavors like me, the shiso chicken ($8) is right up your alley. The marinated chicken is grilled to juicy perfection and served with a side of ume/shiso sauce. Make sure to ask for more sauce and spread it all over the dish.

If you’re into sour and tart flavors like me, the shiso chicken ($8) is right up your alley. The marinated chicken is grilled to juicy perfection and served with a dollop of ume-shiso sauce. Make sure to ask for extra sauce.

After trying a good portion of the menu, our tab for eight came out to $325 or about $40 per person.

If you have a sweet tooth, order the matcha ice cream with kinako ($5). A heaping scoop of green tea ice cream comes dusted with mochi rolled in roasted soybean powder.

If you have a sweet tooth, order the matcha ice cream with kinako ($5). A scoop of green tea ice cream comes with mochi rolled in roasted soybean powder.

Izakaya Kei is also the commercial kitchen for Sasaki and Yokoyama’s new meal program project, Healthy Made Meals. The two-in-one approach helps lower food costs and increase efficiency for both businesses.

Owner Jessica Sasaki.

Owner Jessica Sasaki.

Izakaya Kei is located in the old Off the Wall space in Pearl Kai Shopping Center.

Izakaya Kei is in the old Off the Wall space in Pearl Kai Shopping Center.

Izakaya Kei
Pearl Kai Shopping Center
98-199 Kamehameha Hwy
Mon-Sun 5 p.m.-12 a.m.
Happy hour 9 p.m.-12 a.m.
808-726-8741