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Eat Me: Koko Ichiban-Ya in Kahului

By Kristin Hashimoto

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Hot food, image by Kristin Hashimoto

In Kahului there’s a little local Japanese food place that might be missed if you’re not really looking.  It really is like a kind of hole-in-the-wall type of mom-and-pop establishment. The kitchen takes up most of the space, with a modest hot section for people to pick and choose what’s readily available. Run by a hard-working Japanese family, English and Japanese language flow back and forth from the kitchen to the front, as customers order. The small space gets a lot of traffic. With a little counter, and maybe four to six stools to perch at and eat, most of their customers place orders for take-out.

This cash only eatery boasts menu offerings that are simply comfort food to locals. Roast pork with brown gravy, chicken katsu, tempura combo plates, tonkatsu, fried Saba (mackeral), udon, ramen, oyako (egg) and katsu (breaded and fried chicken or pork) don, and daily specials.

Prices are reasonable at $7 to $11 a plate for the food quality and the portion sizes. Attention to detail is what makes this place worth revisiting again and again. They actually use a paintbrush to apply katsu sauce to their chicken katsu, and will wipe any errant sauce from its container before handing it to you.

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Koko Ichiban-Ya Hamburger Steak, photo by Kristin Hashimoto

The tempura is crisp, light and not oily. The roast pork is tender, juicy and seasoned right for the rich brown gravy that it’s slathered in. Plate lunches come with rice, main dish, mac salad and a choice of vegetable. When ordering tempura udon to go, they pack the broth separate from the noodles and the tempura. They certainly know the lamentable reality of soggy noodles when left in the broth for too long.

A trip to Koko Ichiban-Ya is a must. Order to go, or eat in at their small counter. They also pack set bento lunches for around $9. Located at Dairy Center at 360 Papa Place in Kahului. Call 808-871-9108 to place an order. They’re open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.