Pau Hana Patrol: Tokoname serves up quality fish and generous deals
For all the change that’s come to Kailua in the past 10 to 15 years, one constant has been the relative lack of pau hana options.
One reason could be due to the neighborhood’s suburban location on the other side of the Koolaus from where most of us earn — and spend — our discretionary dollars. Another could be the demographics out there; if you’re retired and got more than enough money to relocate from Southern California to a million-dollar property on Kalaheo Avenue, why bother hunting down the best place for a cheap beer — or wait until pau hana when you’re not even working?
Tokoname Sushi Bar and Restaurant, however, has been able to get pau hana right on the Windward side, largely because they’ve been smart about it. Their “Early Bird Special,” consisting of a $5 discount off complete teishoku meals (which start at around $20) and rotating drink specials, is offered from 4 to 5 p.m. daily to provide an option for the retired set. But an even better reason to head out there is the sushi bar’s “Power Hour” from 9 to 10 p.m. daily (except Tuesdays, when the restaurant takes 25 percent off your entire bill).
Tokoname has a pretty sweet setup on the ground floor of the Uluniu Arts Building in Kailua Town, just a few blocks toward Aikahi from Hungry Ear Records and a short walk from longtime neighborhood restaurant fixtures Assagio and Cinnamons. About a half-dozen seats are available at the sushi bar, which provides for a more izakaya-style experience in what could be called the lounge side of the restaurant.
TOKONAME SUSHI BAR & RESTAURANT
442 Uluniu St.
Just off the front entrance, a wall separates this area from another six tables in Tokoname’s dining room. Three more tables outside offer a slightly quieter vibe, although you may have to prod the hostess into seating you out there when it’s slow.
Being that it’s Kailua, don’t be surprised when looking at the prices on the menu at Tokoname. Some of the items on the pupu menu, like Ahi Poke ($9.95), Firecracker Shrimp ($11.95) and Crab Stuffed Shrimp ($9.95) can run up your tab pretty quickly if you’re not paying attention. Take a more austere route and order a bowl of Miso Soup ($1.95), Edamame ($3.95), Agedashi Tofu ($5.95) or Hiyayako ($4.95) for more affordable starters instead.
That leaves more money to spend on sushi rolls like the Sake Dynamite ($11.95) or a Spicy Tuna Handroll ($5.95), or even more substantial items on the teishoku ala carte menu. Instead of ordering a full meal, you can pick and choose items like Miso Butterfish ($13.95), Yakitori ($10.95), Ribeye Steak ($18.95) or Shrimp Tempura ($13.95).
But for the best bang for your buck, be sure to wait until “Power Hour” at 9 p.m. All nigiri sushi is half-off during this 60-minute period, and Tokoname definitely comes correct with their offerings.
Basics like Hotate ($6.95), Unagi ($5.95) and Maguro ($6.95) are pretty darn affordable once you factor in the discount, and I still get hungry thinking about the fat pieces of Sake ($4.95) and Hamachi ($7.95) we got during our visit last week. Special, seasonal items like mirugai, toro ahi, Hawaiian kampachi, aji and abalone often show up on the menu here, which makes it worth coming back to see what may show up next time.
Another bonus is the drink menu at Tokoname, with plenty of options for beer and wine fans, along with those looking for more traditional sake and shochu to go with their sushi. Standards like those bombucha bottles of Asahi ($7.95), Kirin and Kirin Light ($6.95), and Sapporo ($6.95) are offered right alongside local favorites like Bud Light ($5) and Heineken ($6). Order one of nearly 20 different bottles of sake, or have your server bring over a Shiatsu Beer Tower ($34.95 full tower, $19.95 half tower) to share with your friends — this thing must be seen to be believed!
If you can get past the drive out to the Windward side (a moot point if you live out there) and the “Kailua Tax” that appears to affect some items on the menu, Tokoname is a fantastic alternative to sports and dive bars that dominate the neighborhood’s drinking options. And if you time it right, the opportunity is there to stuff yourself on quality fish here at prices that rival sushi bars back in town.
—Jason Genegabus / email@example.com