I’ve always been a big fan of izakaya style dining; ice cold beer and a sampling of small dishes break the monotony of sandwiches and plate lunches.
So when a friend of mine asked if I had tried Izakaya Nonbei recently as they had newish owners and had made changes to the menu, I invited some other izakaya enthusiasts to eat our way through the menu.
The current owners are real estate professionals and longtime patrons of Nonbei. In May of 2014, they deepened their relationship with the restaurant with the purchase of the building on Olu Street right off of Kapahulu. Later on that year they capitalized on opportunity to become the new owners of the izakaya.
Here are a few changes to the Nonbei menu that we noticed. There are now rotating chef specials according to seasons and availability. Dishes like the A5 waygu steak, Mitsu bay scallops and nabeta are crowd favorites and a must-order when available.
A5 wagyu beef from Japan is the best in the world and Nonbei chefs have created a superb dish with an amazing garlic onion dipping sauce. At $75 this dish is worth every penny and easily shareable with a party of 4-6. The portion is large enough for each person to get a couple of heavenly, thick cut strips with ribbons of luscious, intensely marbled beef.
Don’t tell anyone, but they have a secret menu that only regulars know of. The salmon combo is an order of salmon kama (collar) and belly. There are limited orders each night, so be sure to ask for it when you first sit down. There’s also the delicate, dashimaki tamago, a meticulously folded sweet egg omelet prepared in a special rectangular pan.
If you’re a fan of fish collars, the salmon combo is perfect for you. The salmon kama and belly meat is plentiful in this hot off the menu dish.
There is a prix fixe menu ($70, add $40 for a sushi and sashimi sampler add-on) served family style with a number of the izakaya’s iconic dishes. The set menu starts with miso soup and a snow crab and avocado salad with a ponzu sauce and includes a hearty portion of nasu kinoko (eggplant and enoki mushrooms), wafu steak, karei karaage (whole fried flounder) and a strawberry dream dessert.
The karei karaage ($20 ala carte), one of Nonbei’s signature dishes is perfect with a tall glass of Asahi draft beer. Every part of the flounder is edible, with the tail and bones becoming crispy like chips that you dip into ponzu.
Nonbei expanded their happy hour (called happy-happy times) to twice a day, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.-11 p.m. and features many dishes for $3-$5, a couple of sushi rolls, sashimi, $2 domestic beers, $3 Asahi drafts and $10 Asahi pitchers.
Crab avocado salad ($5 during happy-happy times)
Here’s a snapshot of the epic izakaya feast we enjoyed.
Sashimi A Course ($75) is loaded with the chef’s selection of fresh fish, fried shrimp heads, uni and…
After you’re done with your sashimi platter, they tempura and fry your shiso leaves!
Tender, succulent tan shio (beef tongue, $8) grilled to perfection.
Kurobuta kakuni ($9) is a long time staple of Nonbei, slow cooked shoyu pork belly until extremely tender with a bit of mustard.
Koebi karaage ($7) are fried, little shrimp that you eat whole. I found myself unconsciously popping these all night long.
To finish the meal we chose the strawberry dream ($3.50), a guri-guriesque shave ice dessert with ice cream and condensed milk. I was already beyond full but this dessert was so good, I had to finish it.
The interior is slightly different than the previous owner with this sakura mural done by local artists.
3108 Olu St.