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Heavenly rewards await at Yoshi’s temple of meat

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    photos by fl morris / The interior of the former Kai Okonomiyaki and Hale Macrobiotic Restaurant was worth keeping in the space's current incarnation as Yakitori Yoshi.

  • One of Yakitori Yoshi's grillmasters, Taiki Hayakawa, prepares a selection of meats, musubi and quail eggs.

I want to live as long as the next person, but at what cost? If the price of longevity means subsisting on seitan and tempeh, there’s only so much a nonvegan can take. Give me a fruit or vegetable any day instead of wheat gluten and soy products masquerading as meat.

That might have been the problem at Hale Macrobiotic Restaurant, where true believers in the macrobiotic religion and secular foodies could always count on a wonderful, nutritious meal, but the food just didn’t incite the same ardor as a good burger or a multicultural taco.

So now, the space across Makaloa from Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club has been turned into a temple of meat, home to Yakitori Yoshi. That’s something that will attract attention because it appeals to our most primitive instincts. Few can resist the lure of sitting around a grill, salivating over the promise of food to come.

The setting itself is quite civilized. The austere beauty of both the former Kai Okonomiyaki restaurant and Hale has been left intact, though now a small grill is the centerpiece of the open cooking area. You can spot a regular by how quickly they pick up the order forms left on the table and start marking it up with their selections. Newbies will likely sit there and wait for someone to take their order. Either method works.

Grilled specialties are priced per single skewer, ranging from gizzards ($1.95) and pork stomach ($1.95) to bacon-wrapped asparagus ($2.25) or enoki mushrooms ($2.25). Bacon with anything is always welcome, so you could also get it wrapped around tomato ($2.25), mochi ($2.50) and quail egg ($2.25). In the latter case, the bacon might mask the egg’s unwelcome rubbery texture. But the asparagus was great, as were the enoki mushrooms that were chewy but sweetened by the bacon fat, giving it a quality similar to shredded, smoked scallops.

Shiitake is a grill option, but I don’t find the treatment optimal for this ‘shroom. It is sautàeing that brings out its silky, velvety characteristic and depth of flavor.

Beef skewers are made with tender and juicy short ribs, enhanced with your choice of garlic ($2.25), garlic ponzu ($2.50) or radish ponzu ($2.50) sauces. The only sauce I found somewhat overwhelming was the spicy miso on the skewered, grilled pork ($2.25). It was more salty than spicy.

Tsukune lovers will find their chicken meatballs served with a choice of shiso ponzu, mentai (cod roe) mayo, shiso plum or garlic ponzu, at $2.25 each for a portion about the size of half a Popsicle.

It may be tempting to try a specialty of sliced sirloin steak, served with a small portion of a Yoshi lettuce salad topped with a creamy carrot dressing. The steak is dry and overcooked and didn’t have the same appeal as the skewered specialties. If you do get the steak, you might want to add a side order of compatible fried garlic ($4.20).

If you stick to skewered specialties, you probably won’t spend very much on food here. It’s when you start adding $4.50 to $6.70 pupu, not to mention sake, shochu by the glass or bottle, and wine by the glass or bottle, that your bill will start to climb.

I made the mistake of assuming that by ordering a six-stick assortment for $11, I would be able to pick my own assortment, so I started rattling off my six selections. I got those and was feeling quite satisfied. Then the actual six-stick assortment, chef-selected, arrived. As full as I already was, I got to work on that, and thought they had done a wonderful job basing the selections on what I had already ordered, without duplicating a single item. In other words, if you hadn’t ordered anything challenging, they’re not going to present you with any offal or cartilage.

Those scouring the menu for something different will likely spy the fried fish sausage ($4.70), but that is merely a nori-flecked fishcake equivalent.

Whatever you select might be accompanied by croquettes of sweet potato ($1.95), creamed corn ($2.95) or potato curry ($1.95). You can also go the rice route, selecting mentai, plum or butter-sauced rice balls off the grill.

Just as with bacon, the butter rice is so ono that I, a non-white-rice eater, was tempted to order one of my own after sampling a tablemate’s order.

Lunch is still new and comprises combination plates of teppan-grilled beef and chicken ($7.50), beef and shrimp ($8.50), and chicken and shrimp ($8.50) served with two scoops of rice and Yoshi Salad.

I’ll definitely be back for more.

Nadine Kam’s restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser. Email

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