Honolulu houses the most vibrant Japanese food scene in the U.S., and Yakitori Hachibei is one of the latest additions to bolster that claim. Managing partner Robert Yamazaki runs the Chinatown branch of a small chain that dates to 1940, when Tokichiro Yashima opened a butcher shop in Maebaru, Fukuoka Prefecture. His son Takemi hatched the idea of opening a yakitori restaurant using meat from the family’s shop, and Tokichiro’s grandson Katsunori Yashima made it happen. Hachibei launched in 1983 in Maebaru, serving top ingredients with creative flourishes.
The company expanded to Honolulu in December 2016, building on the success of five locations in Japan and one in Taipei. A young chef named Tommy started working for Hachibei in Japan and manned the binchotan, deftly grilling skewers starring “the very finest ingredients from Hawaii’s many talented farmers, fishermen, suppliers and purveyors.”
I enjoyed every skewer that passed before me. Apparently the owners consider Butabara ($3.90) “Hachibei’s specialty,” but that is the case. Each juicy pork belly skewer is lightly salted, partitioned with onion and sprinkled with mildly spicy shichimi togarashi. I could have eaten a pound of butabara, but had other stellar skewers to experience.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.