居酒屋呑兵衛 Izakaya Nonbei

The word 居酒屋 Izakaya refers to bars in Japan where home style dishes and pupus are served along with alcohol (beer, sake, shochu). Usually these small establishments are family-owned and appeal to the “common people” or working class seeking booze and comfort food at the end of a long work day, all at reasonable prices. The word 呑兵衛 nonbei roughly translates to a drunk person or alcoholic.

The moment you step into Izakaya Nonbei, it’s like being transported to a neighborhood izakaya decades ago in Japan, complete with seating areas surrounding an 囲炉裏 (irori, or open fire pit) to seating on tatami mats and dim hanging lanterns. It even has a teapot hanging over the fake red flame in the irori. It’s a little dramatic and delightfully corny; you’d think this was a movie set or a some wax museum display. The only things missing are the drunk Japanese men and the haze of cigarette smoke. The menu items hung on the walls and daily specials include favorites like Deep Fried Flounder, Nikujaga and Buri Daikon. I can only describe this restaurant as 渋い (shibui, there’s no good translation for this word except maybe “old school”).

Izakaya Nonbei - interior

Izakaya Nonbei - interior

Izakaya Nonbei - menu signs

Izakaya Nonbei - menu signs

The unique vibe attracts an eclectic mix of people including hip young professionals (ourselves included, or at least we like to think so). I met up with some friends and we were so busy chatting over dinner that I completely forgot to get the menu item pricing and to take photos of some of the items. This is what happens when you’re with good company.

We enjoyed:

  • Nasu Miso: A simple dish of sauteed eggplant in a sweet miso sauce
  • Moro Q: An even simpler dish of cool cucumber with a miso paste. Refreshing.
  • Agedashi Tofu: Served with grated daikon, ginger, and dashi broth
  • Fried Whole Moi
  • Nonbei Steak: I loved the sauce on this
  • Oden: Daikon and egg
  • Tori Kara: Their version of chicken karaage is tossed in a ponzu sauce
  • Oyster Zosui: Rice porridge with oysters and egg, large enough to share (they use fresh mitsuba as a garnish, which is my favorite but a rare find in Hawaii restaurants)
  • Ume Zosui: Rice porridge with egg and umeboshi
  • Isobemaki: Mochi drizzled with shoyu and wrapped in nori. Everyone should follow Nonbei’s version and deep fry the mochi instead of grilling it!
  • Zenzai: Mochi with sweet azuki beans

If you dine there, you must try the Agedashi Tofu, Tori Kara, Nonbei Steak, and end your meal with the Isobemaki.

Izakaya Nonbei - Agedashi Tofu

Izakaya Nonbei - Agedashi Tofu

For my initial impression, I thought that their food is good, but there’s nothing special about it. But as I thought more about it, I realized that this is exactly what a good izakaya is: good home style food, nothing fancy, with friendly service in a relaxed atmosphere. I must congratulate Izakaya Nonbei for recreating this izakaya experience worlds away from Japan, here in the middle of the Pacific.

The only thing is that the prices are a little higher than compared to some other izakaya type restaurants in Honolulu. After we shared everything and split the bill three ways, it came out to $40.00 each (including tip and tax).

Overall: GOOD
Price Range: Sorry, I forgot to take notes!
My Bill: $40.00
Returning?: Yes

Izakaya Nonbei
3108 Olu Street
Honolulu, HI 96816
(Just off of Kapahulu Ave. across from Safeway)
Mon-Sun 5:00p-10:30p


2 Responses to “居酒屋呑兵衛 Izakaya Nonbei”

  1. 1 sachi February 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm



  2. 2 MCAT March 1, 2009 at 3:52 am


    今日は昼食アンドショッピング。昔はOrganicやら輸入もんやら買ってたけど、最近はBudget Shopping。Cityから車で20分くらい走ったところのベトナム人街近辺で買う。

    Beef Stew With Egg Noodles。$8.50。
    トマトベースのいわゆるBeef Stew風味だけどさらっとしたスープに麺が入っている。この洋風のスープにPhoの例のごとく生もやしとベトナム風バジルを入れる。MSGが強烈だけど結構いける。にんじんがよく味がしみていてヨッシーのお気に入り。肉はスジ系のところは柔らかいが普通の場所はだしが出きったぱさぱさ肉。麺は極細の小加水のEgg Noodle。ゆでるときにほぐさないから玉のままで入っている。自分でがんばってスープの中でほぐす。
    Combination Broken Rice。$8.50。
    割れたもちごめっぽい米が普通に炊いてありその上にLOCOMOCOみたいにPork Chopと豚と春雨の炒め物、ベトナム風MeatLoafと目玉焼きが乗っている。Pork Chopはレモングラスが効いておりおいしい。ここもそうだが、中華系のShopは柔肉剤とでもいうのだろうか、肉が不自然に柔らかい。それがこれらの店では通常でこれはこれでおいしいのだが。
    単品のCrispy Skin Chicken。$6.00
    Fresh Lemon Soda $2.50(K)とUnsweetened Iced Tea(Me)$1.50。
    Overall まあまあ。MSGの多さなんとかならないかなー。のどかわく。
    Price Range。Mains 6.50-15.00
    Returning? Already am!

    買い物。まずはバナナ。最近のバナナダイエット用に一週間持たせるために大量に購入必要。また痛んだり、完熟過ぎると一週間もたないのでこれは見切り品系の極安は買ってはいけない。15本くらい。1.99/kgのCavendishと2.99/kgのGolden Fingerという新種を買ってみた。

    今旬のPeachも6.99と3.99があるが3.99はすこし傷がついているだけのよう。種類はYellow Flesh Peach。かえって食べたらジューシーでかつ甘みも最高で大当たり。どんな込んだデザートよりも美味い。

    あと、ブドウSpecial $1.00/Kg、たまねぎ、Cos Lettuce(ちょっとはっぱが細長くまるまってない)、Continental Cucumber(大x2で$1.00)、だいこん($2.99/Kg)。



    揚げだし豆腐。かたくりまぶし、Olive Oilで両面おおめのあぶらで焼いてあんかけをのせる。辛目の大根おろしとねぎを添える。かりっとさせるくらい長く焼くとおいしいと思う。今日は焼きが足りなかった。

    きゅうりの酢の物、トマトとCos Lettuceのサラダ(味はLocalのCold Pressed Macadamia Nut Oilと塩だけ)。このオイルがいける。サラダのレタスでしゃきしゃき系だとCosのほうがIcebergよりもおいしい。

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