OKinawa cuisine can be described as a Champuru or blend of flavors from the Ryukyu Kingdom, China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia. I’ve always thought Honolulu was incredibly lucky to have three restaurants offering a taste of this unique cuisine. But on April 23, after 21 years, Mō’ili’ili’s beloved Hide-Chan restaurant will close its doors for good. With their lease, Hidemitsu and Chizuko Tamayose decided it was the right time to change jobs, to keep their grandson.
Hide-Chan doesn’t have fancy, Instagrammable, or trendy dishes. What they serve is Okinawan home cooking which, ironically, we don’t know how to cook at home anymore. Eating at Hide-Chan was like reconnecting with my grandparents.
You may not remember this, but when Hidemitsu opened Hide-Chan (that’s his nickname), he only had Japanese dishes on the menu. But Okinawan customers kept asking him to cook Okinawan food for them. He went through old Okinawan cookbooks, tasting and adjusting recipes until he was satisfied. This attention to detail is apparent in its goya (bitter melon) champuru, nakami soup and rib soup. Today, his Okinawan dishes are the most popular dishes.
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One of my favorite dishes that I will miss is miso rafute, which is tender, melty pork belly. A lot of the fat is rendered from long hours of cooking, so it looks really greasy but it isn’t. Hide-Chan is the only place that combines pork belly with a light miso sauce. Miso rafute over rice is my ultimate comfort food.
The small restaurant is famous for its pig’s feet soup. Alan Tsuchiyama, a culinary arts teacher at Kapi’olani Community College, told me that the broth “is simmered just long enough, where the meat and skin are soft but still intact, which is not not easy to do. Timing and years of experience are crucial to getting it right. I admire the meticulous care, as it takes the time to lightly scorch the skin of the pig’s feet to ensure the best possible product.
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Hide-Chan’s Japanese dishes will also be greatly missed. Besides the miso rafute, my other favorite dish is the nasubi hasamiage, a pork and eggplant “sandwich” breaded in katsu and fried. I don’t know what I’m going to do without it in my life. My other go-to dishes are the ‘ahi belly nitsuke, which exceptionally includes soft tofu, and the Japanese potato salad (which I like to spread on bread and eat with ham). Last year I made it my goal to try every dish on the menu and enjoyed everything. Each dish is guided by the taste and skills that Hidemitsu has developed over five decades of cooking.
What I also mourn is the passing of these tiny moms and dads who have been around for decades, who know generations of their customers and play such a pivotal role in becoming gathering places for their communities. With each closure, we say goodbye to invaluable treasures that are directly linked to our culture, our community and the places of origin of our ancestors.
One mainstay of Okinawan cuisine will soon be gone, but two remain: Sunrise Restaurant and Utage Restaurant. For a breakdown of all the Okinawan dishes offered on O’ahu, I’ve compiled a list here.
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Hidemitsu, Chizuko, their daughter Iris and their son Joey want to tell everyone ippei nifee debiru (thank you) and are grateful for their customers’ support, especially during the pandemic. But I want to thank the Tamayose family from the bottom of my heart for the decades of delicious Okinawan and Japanese dishes they have worked so hard to bring to us.
One request: Remember that Hide-Chan is a family business and will have a hard time dealing with crowds and large orders. There is limited seating for dinner, so if you want takeout, it’s best to place your order by phone in advance. Be patient and understanding as they go through these final days. Many dishes need to be prepared a day in advance, so once they run out it’s all until the next day. And note that Hide-Chan only takes cash.
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 2471 S. King Street, (808) 942-7900. Cash only.