Originally from Tokyo, Izakaya Mai owner Yoichi Ito worked in the airline industry as a dispatcher, but loved to cook and pursued traditional sushi training. He then moved to Northern California and opened a breakfast place, before working for Benihana restaurants as a sushi sensei. A decade ago, he opened Izakaya Mai in San Mateo, Calif., which became a hit among locals. But after deciding to retire in Honolulu, he sold the eatery to new owners and moved his family to the islands.
Ito’s son, Hide, a computer programmer, convinced his dad to open a second Izakaya Mai location in Honolulu. After four months of renovation and permitting, the eatery quietly opened its doors on Aug. 20 and is celebrating the grand opening today, Sept. 17.
The interior is divided into three parts — a sushi bar, an area for table dining and a tatami room. Overall, it’s more of an American-style izakaya than an izakaya straight from Japan, both in terms of its vibe and menu. The extensive menu features favorites, such as sushi, noodles, donburi, teishoku and okonomiyaki. While the menu has distinctive Japanese items — grilled squid, champon and sara udon — there are also sushi rolls and combo meals, that would appeal to more Americanized diners.
Open for lunch and dinner, Izakaya Mai has a changing daily lunch special for $12.95 and happy hour from 9:30 until 11:30 p.m. featuring $2 Kirin drafts and $8 organic sake along with rotating food specials.
Here’s a closer look:
1718 Kapiolani Blvd.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dinner: 5:30 p.m.-midnight