Sit at the counter for a front row seat of the yakitori grill in action.

$15 happy hour: Japanese Restaurant Aki

$15 goes surprisingly far at this Kaimuki izakaya
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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.

 

The scene

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! 

Mapo tofu teishoku set with glass of sweet potato shochu
Happy hour: A mapo tofu teishoku set with a glass of shochu are $14. 

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.

Assorted happy hour sashimi plate with a glass of shochu.
The happy hour sashimi plate is $11.50. 

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. 

plate with three types of yakitori sticks
A three-item yakitori plate is just $5.50. With a $4 drink, you've got $5.50 left to spend on another small dish if you're on a budget. 

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. 

Aki's mozuku seaweed dish
If you're partial to slippery things from the sea, Aki's vinegary mozuku with cucumber, tobiko and lemon isn't a bad choice for $4.50. 

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. 

Plus tip

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
Kaimuki
462-6267 (text or call)

Happy hour
4 to 6 p.m. Sunday - Monday (last order at 5:30 p.m.)
Closed Tuedays