A shout out for Izakaya Nonbei!
Where: 3108 Olu Street in Kapahulu (Honolulu, HI)
Hours: Mon-Sat: 5:00pm to 11:30pm, Sun: 5:00pm-11:30pm
I’ve lived in the Kaimuki/Kapahulu area for a long, LONG time. Decades. I’ve passed this little neighborhood hole-in-the-wall establishment on occasion, and it would pique my curiosity, but then I would quickly forget about it. The small restaurant, which has been at this location for 36 years, is tucked away on a side street off Kapahulu Avenue (Olu Street) across the Safeway complex. My friend and I were looking for a place close by to grab a bite, and I wanted to check out a restaurant that I had never been to because there are so many in our area. Viola! Izakaya Nonbei. The parking lot is limited and the street parking…not so much. You could probably park at Safeway and walk over (but you didn’t hear that from me).
As soon as I walked in the door I liked the atmosphere. Having been in Japan, I thought it reminiscent of an eatery one would find there. The place was packed (all eight tables), and we were asked if we had reservations. We didn’t, but there were two seats open at the counter in front of the sushi chef. Izakaya Nonbei is very casual, but popular, as we found out, so I would recommend making reservations. We noticed that at a few of the tables were Japanese-speaking patrons, which is definitely a good sign for a Japanese restaurant in Honolulu.
I thought the prices were very reasonable. Five dollars for a house red wine. There is an extensive sake selection, which includes a sampler, as well. We started with the Garden Salad tossed in Yuzu Dressing ($8), which was fluffy fresh and a generous size. Then we ordered the Gyoza ($6), served piping hot and delicious. Our last choice was the Rainbow Roll ($15); delicate sushi, each covered with two types of fish, a fragrant chizo leaf, and a few pieces with shrimp.
The service was attentive and polite. It’s always nice to know a place where they have a late-night happy hour: 9:00-closing. I will definitely be back and am happy we stumbled upon this gem in our neighborhood.