Honolulu’s Back Alley Yakitori; Kohnotori

by jamie bandos on July 20, 2012

The hot paced grill @ Kohnotori

The restaurant’s weighted swinging glass door opened and a round of ambitious greetings were fired upon entry.  First impressions are hard to pass up, and Kohnotori’s lively feel consoles one of a late night neighborhood hang out rather than a posh eatery.  Brightly painted yellow and rust orange walls are scrawled upon with signatures and comments from loyal customers.  You gather the family value that it encounters on a daily basis from the breath of the ambiance.  The fast pace of the restaurant is matched with the racing rock and roll that booms over the stereo and onto the conversations at each table that offer a challenging chatter.

The Kohnotori restaurant is based within the University District of Manoa-Makiki University in Honolulu.  As you walk off of the main road of King St. and into the tiny parking lot that is shared with Imanas Tei Restaurant you are transcended to a back alley diner within the bustling city of Tokyo.  The outside lighting is dim and iridescent red chandeliers adorn the walkway at the entrance.  A hum of conversation fills the air with guests waiting to enter, but it is not English that is most commonly heard from the majority of Asian clientele that is seen.

The yakitori menu @ Kohnotori

Upon entry you will be given a two sided sushi like menu by the gracious wait staff (ie 1 in English & 1 in Japanese).  As they find the right words in broken English to explain the dynamic of this grill based restaurant; start yourself with a refreshing drink of Shochu (rice spirit) and grapefruit juice.  Kohnotori is a yakatori or yakimono restaurant in which a majority of the dishes are grilled on small skewers and seasoned with either salt & pepper or Teriyaki sauce.  The grilled menu offers so much more than what can be listed here, but you may have a sampling of chicken wings, meatballs, pork & onion, asparagus, and okra.  If hot salty skewers are not pleasing to your nightly wants then dive into the fried tofu, gingko nuts or dipped spinach from the A la carte menu.  Or sample a refreshing spicy bite of watercress or daikon radish sprouts from the Salad section.   The available options go on and on with rice balls, ramen, fried oysters, and chicken egg rice soup to name just a few.

It is highly recommended to eat and enjoy as a family style dining experience.  So be sure to bring an appetite and all of your friends.  Order one of many dishes to experience the magnitude and diversity held within the menu.  You can always ask for more, and it is best to order 4 or 5 dishes at a time and have your culinary experience come in waves as the night continues.

A sampling of skewers from the menu.

As you set aside the last of your tiny plates and push your chair back from the bar you will understand the true meaning behind contentment.  You will find yourself with  a smile and a great satisfaction for your Japanese culinary experience.  Kohnotori is a true testament to simplicity, but don’t underestimate it as anything but pure deliciousness.

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