Yagura is a small Japanese restaurant on Middle Street in Honolulu's Liliha neighborhood. If you live in the area, it’s handy. If not, you have to have good timing to snatch one of four parking stalls in front of the place. Otherwise, good luck finding street parking.
I ate there once before, a few decades ago, say sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. The menu is typically Japanese, the usual popular entrees you can find at many other Japanese establishments.
Seating is limited, but ample for a lunch crowd. The interior is well-lit and … it smells good, with aromas of Japanese cooking in the air. Rather simple décor, with a kind of homey appeal.
In the back is a little nook with Japanese samurai armor on display, with flowers in a vase and a little sign imploring customers not to touch the armor.
We sat directly in front of the display so I could turn around and study the medieval war artifact.
These things fascinate me. The only thing they couldn't stop was bullets. So when firearms were adopted in Japan, that spelled the end of this type of armor.
I had been in the mood for some teriyaki beef – you know, the heavily charred, burnt shoyu kind. So that’s what I ordered. The usual starters came: Miso soup, tossed green salad with creamy French dressing, salted cabbage, and steamed white rice.
The teriyaki beef was served on a sizzling hot platter. Quite impressive, I must say. Hopefully the entrée would live up to its promise.
Unfortunately, the flavor was a little too mild for me. I wanted dark grill marks and got none. Plus, the rib eye was on the tough side. Heck, it WAS tough. But as disappointed as I was, I was hungry, so I ate it all. What did help were the onions under the steak; they added quite a bit of flavor to the dish.
To top off my meal, I had a huge scoop of green tea ice cream. Now … THAT hit the spot, and mitigated some of the disappointment over the teriyaki beef.
The wife had a teishoku combo – her misoyaki butterfish was divine, the sashimi was very good, and she gave me one of her shrimp tempura. So the lunch turned out well anyway.
By the way, lots of people came by to order take-out meals for lunch.
Yagura: 1655 Liliha St. Phone (808) 533-2160.