What can you get for $15 at happy hour? At an izakaya, it might be a small dish or two not including drinks, but if you're in Kaimuki during the late afternoon, Japanese Restaurant Aki's offerings could make you ureshii.
Restaurant Aki is a neighborhood joint. A yakitori shop with sushi, hearty nabe hotpots and more than a few otsumami pupus to accompany your shochu or sake. In the early evening it's quiet but once night falls, regulars arrive for skewers, drinks and dinner and the restaurant springs to life. Although bright and airy, Aki retains an izakaya coziness.
What you can get
Start with nomimono (drinks) – at happy hour, beer, highball cocktails and shochu are $4 each. There's also an $8 glass of junmai; red or white wine is $6 a pour. I settle on my norm, a glass of sweet potato shochu on the rocks. Sasuga!
Now onto the food! At the top of the list is a $10 complete teishoku set meal that changes from day to day. I luck out with Japanese-style mapo tofu, a comforting Szechuan dish of tofu and ground pork simmered in a spicy gravy that goes inexplicably well with a steaming bowl of rice. It's reminiscent of Aki's incredible soy milk tantan nabe hot pot. Mmm.
Maybe you're searching for something as simple as sashimi. Aki's happy hour sashimi spread is pretty standard, but gets the job done at $11.50 for three slices each of salmon, akami and hamachi. A five-item omakase sushi plate is $12.50.
I never leave Aki without ordering some yakitori sticks. The three-item plate is left up to the chef's choice, but since I like them all it's not much of a gamble. My plate comes with butabara (pork belly), momo (chicken thigh) and hatsu (chicken heart). The butabara is one of the best in town. Perfectly salted and glistening with grilled fat, it pairs well with shochu and beer.
Cold dishes range from $3.50 for takowasa (raw octopus tossed with wasabi) and tataki cucumber to $4.50 for mozuku seaweed and Japanese pickles. Skinny sushi rolls with fillings like natto or shimp tempura range from $4.50 to $7. In other words, the permutations of this menu are seemlingly endless even if you're on a budget. This happy hour is truly making my broken wallet smile.
The adjacent municipal lot that's usually busy all day ironically finds a break during Aki's happy hour, making for easy and cheap parking.
Japanese Restaurant Aki
1137 11th Ave
462-6267 (text or call)
4 to 6 p.m. Sunday - Monday (last order at 5:30 p.m.)