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Sneak peek: Taste of Marukai

What to look for at Thursday’s storewide fest of Japanese food and drink

Posted April 8, 2013 by Mari Taketa

Tickets are sold out for Thursday’s Taste of Marukai, a first ever for the eight-year-old fest. For the 800 of you who’ll show up at the wholesale chain’s Dillingham store for one of the quirkiest, most fun showcases of Japanese food and drink, here are this year’s primo points, some pairing tips and your basic 411.

Where: Marukai’s flagship Dillingham store, 2310 Kamehameha Hwy.
When: Thursday, April 11 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Parking: Shuttle service from lots at First Hawaiian Bank, across the street at 1617 Dillingham Blvd., and Puuhale Elementary School, 345 Puuhale Rd.

What to look for

  • Guest chef Russell Siu of 3660 On The Rise prepares two dishes: pan-seared, shichimi-scented mahi mahi with cucumber crab salad and dashi ginger nage; and hoisin-glazed braised short ribs over jasmine rice — tea section, mid-right of store
  • Kagami biraki ceremonial bashing of the giant cask of Tsukasabotan sake at 6 p.m. Sample the brew! — stage, right side next to seafood
  • Live ahi-cutting. Think a 100-pound fish, if we’re lucky, broken down before your eyes in minutes — seafood section
  • Live soba-making. Honda Shoten, a 100-year-old soba enterprise from ultra-traditional Shimane Prefecture, creates buckwheaty strands from start to finish — bento section, back of store

What else

Four sake brewery presidents and representatives, pouring their own labels:

  • Tsukasabotan, known for dry, crisp, clean brews like Senchu Hassaku junmai and maker of the popular Yamayuzu citrus-infused sake (Kochi Prefecture)
  • Kamikokoro, maker of sweet, white peach-infused sake and more traditional sakes brewed from peach yeast (Okayama Pref.)
  • Wakatake, maker of the No. 1-selling daiginjo in the U.S., described as “the Napa cabernet of sake” (Shizuoka Pref.)
  • Ohyama, whose tokubetsu junmai Tomizu carries the higher rice-to-water ratio and round, ricey flavor of old days (Yamagata Pref.)

Most popular food booths

  • Sashimi — in the fish section, right side of store from entrance
  • Tempura — natto section, back right corner
  • Kona Abalone — rice section, mid-right
  • Gokujo Sushi — clothing section, middle
  • Asahi Beer draft machine — furniture section, front left

Other menu items after this video with Marukai’s Yoshi Honma

    More eats

  • Harris Ranch Prime beef medallion
  • Yakitori
  • Yaki miso konnyaku
  • Goya champuru & rafute
  • Tonjiru
  • Pork Shabu Shabu Salad
  • Yamachan ramen
  • House Foods cream stew
  • Aloha Tofu sukui tofu
  • Warabeya musubi
  • Edamame hummus with broiled pimento & green tea cracker
  • Yuzusco tarako potato salad in wonton shell


You can read all of Mari’s blogs at Follow Mari on Twitter @NonStopMari or email at

  1. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

    EO:  The place is crazy at this event.  You feel like you’re at a crowded train station in Japan except everyone is trying to catch a dish or drink.  Say, is this place rated to hold that much people?

  2. nonstopmari
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 11:19 am

    @Annoddah_Dave but it’s a cheerful train station ;) idk abt max capacity, never thot to ask

  3. Melissa808
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Aaaaaah wish I could go.

  4. turkfontaine
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    that was wonderful. i loved the background music and noise. there were moments when i could actually smell Japan. olfactory memories are the deepest. this vignette brought back the delicious feeling of being there, being clueless, illiterate, eating everything my friends told me to, and loving it, while they laughed at my naivete. and it’s all right there in an American city that we stole, fair and square.

  5. nonstopmari
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    @Melissa808 i know!

  6. nonstopmari
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    @Melissa808 i know!

  7. nonstopmari
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    @turkfontaine i had that feeling in vn. here’s to moments of delight recaptured

  8. nonstopmari
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    @turkfontaine i had that feeling in vn. here’s to moments of delight recaptured

About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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