Oahu’s best yakiniku – Sizzle

Yakiniku Sizzle
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Oahu’s best yakiniku – Sizzle

Deeming Yakiniku Sizzle “Oahu’s best yakiniku” restaurant may be hyperbolic but considering our small sample size of one (1) such non-chain Japanese barbeque establishment in the past 10-or-so-years, we are sticking with our assessment and our enthusiastic recommendation. Also, it’s close to the HAT Blog Home Office, it’s quite reasonably priced, and it’s run by a guy that some would likely describe as “super chill”. Buy local.

We went there this past Labor Day weekend Saturday. After a steady diet of leftovers, my wife and I decided that it was time to have someone else cook for us. I had a very specific taste for yakiniku for lunch. Yakiniku Sizzle is in Kakaako, just off the corner of Queen Street on Cooke Street. It’s that part of the neighborhood that has yet to give way to the slick gentrification of SALT and the all-but-empty new high-rise condominiums and boutique cafes and coffee shops closer to the waterfront. I’ll call it “old Kakaako”, where auto body shops and plate lunch joints are still the “anchor properties”.

Yakiniku Sizzle menu selections
Oahu’s beat yakiniku. According to us.

Oahu’s best yakiniku is tiny

“Hi. I’m hoping I can get a table for two for lunch in about a half-hour,” I said to the man on the other end of my call to Oahu’s best Yakiniku. Long weekend, lunch in Kakaako…best to make a reservation.

“Sure. Come in,” said the man on the line. “We can.”

We have walked past Yakiniku Sizzle countless times over the years, parking in front of it or near it on forays to Waikiki Brewing, the (now long gone) Brewseum, and barbeques at the surfboard shaping shack of a colleague and longtime friend of the HAT Blog. Yakiniku Sizzle is a tiny storefront, with a few tables and a booth filled with the overflow of cooking utensils and implements required to prepare the dozens of dishes on the menu.

Yakiniku Sizzle interior
Yakiniku Sizzle is not a big restaurant.

Holiday weekend lunch in Kakaako

We were the only customers, which was a pleasant surprise. I’ve been chided by my bar and restaurant industry mates for my affinity for off-hours, when my local feeding stations and watering holes are slow. The chatter and clamor of the lunch or dinner “rush” tends to unsettle me because of tinnitus ringing constantly in my ears that makes trying to hear people next to me over background noise frustrating. “This is nice,” I’ll say. “I like it quiet.”

“We know, Winpenny,” they’ll say. “Buy a round.” I usually do.

A local radio station played familiar Jawaiian music hits (they are all familiar, all possibly the same 30-year-old song repurposed and remixed for the present) with a tasteful sprinkling of classics by Bob Marley and Steel Pulse. Now those are my jams! My wife pretended to be entertained by my repurposed and remixed stories of beach bonfires and house parties during the marginally profligate years of my twenties. The vibes were, as Philadelphia Phillies fans like me now say, “immaculate”. By then, I’d already decided that I had found Oahu’s best yakiniku restaurant.

Yakiniku Sizzle 5
Yakiniku Sizzle. You have to know what you’re looking for.

The food was unequivocally delicious. I went with the Yankiniku Beef, barbequed flank steak sliced thin with a light sesame and shoyu flavor. It came with three sauces: sesame shoyu, sake, and a spicy miso gravy that had my nose running. A large pitcher of Asahi washed it down perfectly. It was exactly what I wanted. I love when that happens. That’s why I’m calling it Oahu’s best yakiniku.

My wife went with a giant bowl of steaming sukiyaki. She spent a year living in Japan and she loves Japanese food. She bounced along to “Roller Skates” by Steel Pulse as she sipped the broth. Then, plucked at tender bits of pork and vegetables. She reminded me of a kid enjoying a decadent ice cream sundae in her obvious delight.

The man who took my phone “reservation”, Tadashi, checked by our table. We were still the only customers there, but a couple of people had swooped in to pick up take-out orders during our meal. “Everything good?”

Yakiniku Sizzle Tadashi
Yakiniku Sizzle’s Tadashi Yamamoto.

My wife and I nodded and murmured with our mouths full and our eyes wide with gratitude and appreciation. “Sure, sure,” Tadashi said, smiling broadly when I asked to take his picture.

One worldwide travel maxim when it comes to finding a destination’s best food is to ask locals not where to eat, but where they eat. For my wife and I (a 23-year transplant and lifelong resident, respectively), Yakiniku Sizzle is undoubtedly Oahu’s best yakiniku, even if we don’t get out much.