Beyond food, many restaurants sell an experience, so when orders came to close their dining rooms, I worried about those whose experience seemed difficult to replicate via takeout, such as yakiniku and hot-pot spots.
More than a month later, some have adjusted to the change and are finding a viable opportunity in takeout that they’d never imagined before.
2570 S. Beretania St.; 947-3328
After trying to stay open in March, this Taiwan snow ice and boba tea spot closed its doors in early April because business was slow, according to owner Jing Hua Lin.
Although traffic fluctuates, customers who want the shop to survive have been loading up on two to three snow ice bowls to go each time they stop by.
But rather than slurp them up in their cars or in the parking lot, they’ve been driving their icy treats home. Lin said the snow ice will survive a 10- to 15-minute drive.
I ordered a two-flavor Combo Frost ($8.05 small, $9.95 regular) of black sesame and green tea flavors, and though I live only about15 minutes away, I had to make stops at the grocery store and bank en route home. The outer layer melted, but underneath it, the rest of the shave ice was still nice and fluffy.
The usual restaurant portion is like a Mount Everest mound and it now looks much smaller, but Lin said the portion is the same, just wrapped and made more compact to fit into the takeout bowl.
Regular bowls ordered through the end of May come with a drink (regular $4.25 to $4.75) for 99 cents.
ICHIRIKI JAPANESE NABE RESTAURANT
510 Piikoi St. (589-2299), 95-150 Kaonohi St. in Aiea (484-2222) and 46-047 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe (236-2299)
The nabe specialist initially offered to cook up its specialty hot-pot dishes for the home diner, but to co-owner Riki Kobayashi’s surprise, “More people just wanted the raw ingredients to cook at home.
“With as many ingredients as we have to feed a family of four, people find it much more convenient than having to go grocery shopping,” he said. “They also have the feeling of being safe cooking it at home, with fewer hands touching their food.”
The restaurant now offers an array of appetizers, bentos — as requested by area workers — and two nabe sets at $13.95 (light) and $24.95 (deluxe) with choice of broth, and a range of a la carte add-ons.
With its mix of Napa cabbage, tofu, shiitake, carrot, chives, aburaage, tsukune and rice, I found the light version is enough for two when adding one meat selection. Rib-eye and Kobe kalbi are an additional $1 and $2, respectively. Additional protein add-ons are full price at $7 for shrimp to $13.50 for prime rib-eye.
I’m not equipped for nabe prep at home, so I cooked up my order on the stove and enjoyed it as soup, rather than going through the motions of swishing and cooking as I ate.
Kobayashi said many people do have nabe pots at home for communal cooking, so he’s willing to loan out a burner with a can of butane for a $20 deposit, refundable when you bring the burner back.
Kobayashi said he never imagined having a takeout business. But he said there’s long been demand among families who had difficulty bringing young children to a restaurant to make it a viable part of business going forward.
NEW SHILAWON KOREAN RESTAURANT
747 Amana St.; 944-8700
Upon hearing that dining rooms would have to shut down in March, “I freaked out,” manager Jandy Lee said. “I thought it wasn’t going to work out for our business because people just come here to grill.”
Nevertheless, the staff at the Korean yakiniku house started putting their inventory to work as plate lunches, which they’d never done before. If customers requested takeout in the past, they adhered to the menu of a la carte specialties such as mandoo.
“The first two weeks were really slow, but after that our regulars started coming in and asking just for meat,” Lee said.
She started offering two- and three-meat combo platters to cook at home for $29.95 and $34.95, both with enough to feed two.
Despite the popularity of the takeout offers, customers miss the restaurant experience, she said. “Now I see the same people coming in three to four times a week for the platters, but they say they can’t wait to sit in the restaurant and fill up.”
When she is able to reopen the dining room, she said there will be changes, such as individually portioned banchan (side dishes) and cooking utensils for each person instead of one set per table.
But restaurants will have other hurdles to clear, she said. As meat processing plants close on the mainland, she worries about shortages ahead, since meat is the restaurant’s mainstay.
YAKI YAKI MIWA
1423 S. King St.; 983-3838
If two months ago you had told me I would be making okonomiyaki at home, I would have thought you were crazy. For me, the savory Japanese pancake is a specialty best enjoyed sitting at a counter, watching chefs work their magic.
Now you can have your okonomiyaki made for you to go, or you can buy one of the restaurant’s new DIY sets. The set includes shredded cabbage, batter, tenkasu (deep-fried batter) and your choice of protein. Just stir in an egg from home and cook it up on your stovetop, and you’ll be amazed how well it turns out.
The cost is $10 to $11 to have your pork, beef or seafood okonomiyaki cooked for you, but only $6.50 if you go the DIY route.
Also available at the restaurant is a range of bento and a la carte items ranging from dashi tamago ($8) to garlic Kauai shrimp ($15).
Nadine Kam’s restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Advertiser. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.