Fans of contemporary Japanese cuisine can indulge their cravings these days at a number eateries around town. Jinroku in Waikiki is a stand-out, not only for it’s great teppan specialties and okonomiyaki, but for its convivial and authentically Japanese atmosphere.
Located in the Pacific Monarch Hotel, the ambiance and décor convey a tone that feels more like Tokyo than Hawaii and is remarkably not “touristy” feeling. Upon entering, patrons are greeted with a traditional “irashiaimase!” and offered a choice of table or counter seating. There are two dining areas, the smaller of which opens to the quiet street behind the hotel. The counter seating area faces the grill so diners can interact with the chefs as they skillfully prepare their meal.
Adding to the ambiance is the fact that the majority of the patrons seem to be Japanese, and Japanese is the language of choice here. English speakers will have no problems ordering as the menu is available in both languages and the staff is fully bilingual. This Jinroku is the only other branch of the restaurant by the same name in Tokyo.
Jinroku offers a wide selection of teppan dishes such as negiyaki, yakisoba, okonimiyaki and the like. This is not a high-end restaurant. Dishes are simple and straightforward and prices are refreshingly reasonable. A not-to-be-missed appetizer are the pork wrapped asparagus. Crispy green asparagus are wrapped with thinly-sliced pork and cooked to perfection on the teppan grill. The negiyaki selections range from simple to hearty. Negiyaki basically describes a green onion pancake. The green onion is combined with flour and cooked on the teppan grill. Other ingredients are added, as well as spices and sauces. The mixed negiyaki at Jinroku is a hearty offering filled with shimp, pork and squid.
Okonomiyaki is sometimes translated into English as "as-you-like-it pancake". This is, however a bit of a misnomer. While it does consist of batter cooked on a griddle, okonomiyaki is neither sweet nor fluffy, not to mention that it is usually filled with octopus, shrimp, pork, yam or kimchi. Because of this, perhaps a more accurate comparison is between okonomiyaki and pizza. The okonomiyaki at Jinroku are large and satisfying. It is fun to sit at the counter and watch as the chef prepares the dish and it is transformed in front of your eyes from simple batter to a towering creation with bonito flakes dancing happily on top.
Another specialty at Jinroku is yakisoba. Choose either ramen or thicker udon noodles, add your choice of meat and fish and maybe some kimchee and you have a great dish to share. The takoyaki here seems to be larger than at most other restaurants. Looking like a duck egg the crispy outside belies a smooth, piping hot and gooey center flavored with green onions and some tender tako.
Jinroku offers a full bar. Martinis and draft beer seem to be the most popular beverages, but the house sake is surprising clean and crisp and priced so as not to break the bank.
For ambiance and flavors straight out of Tokyo, Jinroku is a welcome alternative to the glitzy tourist restaurant scene in Waikiki.