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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, March 6, 2005

New 'dining room' welcomes Island residents

Owner Tetsuya Emura raises a glass to the grand opening of Shokudo at the Ala Moana Pacific Center.

Photo by Randy T. Fujimori


Where: 1585 Kapiolani Blvd., Ala Moana Pacific Center, ground level

Call: 947-3701

Hours: Open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., with last call at 1 a.m.

Parking: Valet off Kaheka St., or self-parking on Kona St.

Executives at Dream Dining Corporation are hoping that their $1.4 million investment will yield multi-million dollar sales at Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar.

Opening its doors this past Wednesday, Shokudo — which translates to "dining room" in English — is an ambitious endeavor by the Delaware-based corporation, whose local Dream Dining Honolulu subsidiary will operate this Kapiolani Boulevard restaurant.

"We want to be the Japanese version of P.F. Chang's (a national Chinese bistro restaurant chain)," said Dream Dining Honolulu president and CEO Tetsuya Emura, with the translation help of Yuki Yokoyama. "Because of its large Japanese population, we chose Hawaii as the launching pad for the restaurant."

Measuring 4,570 square feet with seating for up to 182 guests, Shokudo offers tiered, private and box-seat dining areas. While casual, the room does have an upscale feel to it, in part because of the decor elements that include an imposing chain-suspended three-dimensional-like halo and "curtains" that are made with individual six-inch slats of wood, each connected by S-hooks.

"This is Japanese-style casual dining," smiled Emura, who was once the franchisee holder and president for T.G.I. Friday's in Japan. "P.F. Chang's is a Chinese restaurant that was established by Americans. I want Shokudo to be an American restaurant that was established by a Japanese. This is a new concept that doesn't even exist in Japan."

Somewhere between an izakaya — which is a Japanese pub of sorts where people gather to have tsumami (pupus) and swill a beer or two — and a sushi bar, Shokudo's menu lists more than 60 items and is divided into various sections, including pupu, tofu, salad, fish-and-meat, rice-and-soup, sushi, sashimi, nabe, ishiyaki, noodles and desserts.

"Guests can have pupus here or they can have a complete meal," said Emura, while flipping through the menu. "Or, they can come to the bar and just have a drink."

It's highly doubtful, however, that Island residents will be able to resist the menu, which offers everything from unagi rice to seafood dynamite to freshly-made tofu on the hour, every hour.

"The average cost for a dish is $7," said Yokoyama. "And the average check should be about $25 per person."

With two days left before this past Wednesday's grand opening, Emura remained calm, amidst the cacophony of drills and hammering.

"Maybe, I hope so," quipped this youthful 46 year old in response to whether or not they'll be ready for opening day. "This is exciting and just the beginning. We hope to open 50 more Shokudo locations within 10 years.Yes, it's ambitious. But it's realistic and I look forward to the challenge."