We were unable to get into the other two more adamantly rec'd izakaya the night of my brother's high school graduation, so I steered everyone to Nonbei and we had a great meal.
Above, the Honolulu Advertiser gives them a good review and details many of their dishes I didn't get a chance to try. They say,
"Izakaya Nonbei serves a bit of everything in a very homey and warm atmosphere; they offer a good way to get acquainted with Japanese food while satisfying conflicting palates. You'll be enjoying your dinner bellied up to a bar, so it's a friendly and social style of dining. Nonbei is not only a "happy drinking place" — it's also a happy eating place."
The interior is cozy and mysterious. There are tables designed for patrons to sit on tatami mats whilst dining, and large party tables. On the wall writ in Japanese characters are something that must be part of the menu, as a couple had "sold out" written across them on post-it notes.
We took up a sweet corner of the bar, introduced Dad to unfiltered sake, and got started.
First came a generous portion of mackerel sashimi with ponzu sauce.
Next served was a giant wedge of daikon stewed in a thin brown gravy with some cooked albacore. I have had this in several other izakaya, so it must be traditional.
Out marched pickled vegetables, sea eel in a light bbq sauce, and broiled butterfish.
My personal favorite dish of the evening was the poke. I love poke everywhere. The poke at Izakaya Nonbei was delightfully garlicky with lots of green onions and some fresh tangy sprout-like things.
Our served suggested we end the meal with a large bowl of ramen covered in a variety of fresh and pickled veggies in a light steamy broth.
Our meal was delicious with several stand out items, the poke and the broiled butterfish especially. Our service was attentive and friendly. Dad cannot wait to go again and take someone to share his discovery. Afterward, we headed over to the graduation ceremony where I promptly fell asleep on D's shoulder. I missed a couple of reportedly long and arduous speeches. I awoke just in time to pay attention to the talented students' musical performances and didn't miss a second of the traditional balloon naughtiness.
Ho'omaika'i 'ana & Pomaika`i, Punahou grads. Live happy lives!