In a fast-paced world of cookie-cutter chain restaurants with production-line food, it is comforting to go to a place once in a while where you can sit down and chat with the guy behind the bar as he cooks your food. In our Nov. 7 issue, we said we were recommending three izakayas, but only included two by mistake. At long last (we’ll pretend it was to build suspense), here’s the third one: Naru.
As a chain hailing from Sangen-jaya, Tokyo, Naru serves up Okinawan dishes from a tiny kitchen, in an intimate location tucked not far away from UH Manoa. Their menu is far from extensive, as well as their staff, so if you start to become a regular they will most definitely remember you and make you feel a part of the family; this is the charm of the izakaya. And when your food comes out of the small, home-like kitchen that you can peer into while you drink a beer, Naru has the taste and feel of sitting down in a house in Japan and eating a dinner with your friends or family. The food is phenomenal and you won’t find fare like theirs at most other restaurants around. And for the price-range–around $60–$70 for two, with some drinks–there aren’t many other options with as much character and value.
The Okinawan diet varies greatly from that which can be found in other parts of Japan, so don’t cruise into Naru expecting to find the usual array of izakaya norms. You won’t see much sushi or grilled foods on their limited, hand-carved wooden menus–carpaccio and poke are available, however–but do yourself a favor and grab the pork ribs and some nabe (soup in a pot). Save room for the creme catalina dessert, which they will bring out in a bowl and cook right in front of you with a flame. You can thank me later.2700 S. King St., open every day, 5:30pm–2am, [naru-honolulu.com], 951-0510