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Makino Chaya at Aloha Tower

Our office gang had lunch yesterday for the first time at Makino Chaya’s new location in Aloha Tower Marketplace. We were all thoroughly impressed. Even amazed. This place gives Willows some serious hard rubs, especially considering it’s half the price at only $12.95/person for lunch. Certainly several notches above Todai’s lunch buffet, which was impressive itself. I can’t even fathom how MC makes money charging that little for sooooooo much all-you-can eat FOOD! We’re not talking “just food”. We’re talking everything from Alaskan King Crab legs to Ahi Nigiri Sushi to cooked-to-order Teppanyaki steaks! Wow! Trust me, when you go there, you’ll be blown away by how much food there is. Jaw dropping.

You know, it’s kinda’ frustrating with buffet restaurants that have so many great choices, because you only have so much stomach space. As you can see, I refrain from the starches, going strictly for the gold. As in seafood gold!

The soup (technically stew) on the top in the second photo above is Oden. It tasted like they used the same oden nomoto I use in my recipe. I love that had Konnyaku in it (that purplish, black-dotted thing), and lots of various Kamaboko (fish cake) in the steamer to choose from. I wish it had Kombu Maki, but that’s OK, it was still oishii. Below the Oden is Miso soup. Pretty basic, but it worked.

The selections on my main plate (top photo) includes (clockwise from top): Roast Beef (excellent flavor, but a bit tough), shrimp and vegetable tempura (just as great as Hanaki!), “Rainbow” Sushi, (not bad, but not great) Baked Oyster with Bak Choi cream sauce (ono), steamed chili Basa (fish, but not Saba!, mild, moist flavor), Shrimp Tempura Maki, Gyoza (fantastic), Glazed Button Mushrooms (great), seafood shumai and pork shumai (ono).

The crab legs (third photo) were a standout winner. Tasted like they deep-fried them, with a heavy pepper and butter flavor. Yum. That alone over-justified the price of admission.

I can’t remember the Japanese name of the dish on top (blue bowl) in the 4th photo, but it was basically a slice of tako, shrimp and fresh ahi on a dollop of rice, topped with a chiffonade Shiso leaf. The other dish is stewed clams. Both were sugoi oishii desu!

And that was just nipping the bud. There is just WAYYYY TOO MUCH TO CHOOSE. I don’t know if I was in buffet bliss or simply mad that I didn’t have space to try everything! lol What I showed you is probably less than 1/4th of the total item selections available for lunch at MC AT.

You just have to go for yourself to see and taste the experience. It’s much better than the King St. location, IMO (I’ve never been to their other locations). They didn’t have a menu to order from like they do at the King St. location, as it appears most of those items have simply been made available on the buffet line. At $12.95/person (Kama’aina rate), it’s just an amazing bargain for all the high quality seafood and just.. just everything. WOW! is really all I can say.


Makino Chaya at Aloha Tower is located on the second floor, on the Mauka-Ewa end (no view of Honolulu harbor).

Hana hou photos added 3.17.07 from a return visit for someone’s birthday…


Shrimp, Eggplant and Bell Pepper Tempura


Ogo Sesame Salad, Imitation Crab Salad & Edamame (steamed soy beans)


Steamed Clams and rice


Various Sushi


Unagi Eel Sushi and inverted California Rolls


Oysters with a creme sauce, Shrimp Shumai, Lobster and Crab Legs; keep in mind that this place is only charging $12.95 for admission. Wow!


Miso Soup and Sauteed button mushrooms, which go along with the next dish.


Teppanyaki steak, grilled to order. Very tender! A Nigiri sushi adds the “surf” to this “turf”. Yum.


This dessert is made up of unsweetened mochi balls in a sweet Azuki Bean “sauce”. I can’t remember the Japanese name for it, but it was my favorite item on the dessert table. Oishii desu!


Apple Pie, Jello, Mocha Cheesecake (my favorite one on this plate), White Chocolate and Almond Mousse and Bananas floated in Whipped Creme.


Bananas dipped in chocolate fondue.

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24 thoughts on “Makino Chaya at Aloha Tower

  • March 14, 2007 at 9:02 am
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    The azuki beans with mochi is called zen zai. I love that stuff, my mom used to make it all the time. It’s perfectly balanced, not too sweet!

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  • March 14, 2007 at 5:09 pm
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    HEY! At the lunch buffet did they have ice cream (green tea) or mochi or anything? I remember Reid’s blog from the time he went to the king street location they had it for dinner….and I love green tea ice cream. And do you by any chance happen to know about the dinner menu at aloha tower, does it change much?

    About the hana hou for teddy’s…the teriyaki looks so good, I will try it next time…does it only have teri sauce of their special ‘secret sauce’ as well?

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  • March 14, 2007 at 11:25 pm
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    Zen zai. That’s right. There was a sign above the item, but I couldn’t remember it. Thanks! What’s funny is some folks overlooked this item, thinking the Azuki bean “sauce” in the pot was chocolate syrup to be used to pour into the fondue fountain that was located next to it. lol. Once I seen the mochi balls in the other pot of water next to this, I knew this was something different. Luckily the (local) Japanese woman in line behind me kindly instructed me how to serve it.

    Anuhea, unfortunately they didn’t have any ice creams at the lunch buffet, something I also really wanted, as the afternoon temperature began to warm up. A vanilla/chocolate soft-serve ice cream machine would be great. Still, for just $13, I’m not complaining!

    Like Todai, IIRC, the dinner menu is about twice the price of the lunch menu (around $26). With that, their current newspaper ad is touting a new Kobe Wagyu beef offering on the line-up. Something that wasn’t available on the lunch buffet. As for seafood offerings, we were surprised the king crab legs and the lobster claws were present for lunch, as we thought these premium items were reserved for the more expensive dinner line-up.

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  • April 27, 2007 at 6:40 am
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    My daughter and I were invited to dinner here by our friends. We were only in Oahu for about a week. Besides Hawaii’s beautiful scenery I would say our dinner at Makino Chaya was the highlight of our trip. We have seafood buffets at our local restaurants back home but very pricey, about $37 a head and that does not include lobster and a lot of other stuff MC has. I wasn’t sure how much it cost to eat at MC since our hosts treated us but after reading the above I was quite surprised. After eating at MC, I’ve recommended it to everyone back home as well as friends living in Hawaii who have not been there. Can’t wait to go back when I’m on the island again!

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  • August 4, 2007 at 7:55 am
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    My wife and I were shocked when we had dinner and found out Adult meal pricing start for children when they are 8 years old. The standard children prices at Hawaii Buffets generally is 3-12. Children under 3 eat free. Those 4-7 pay children price which is 1/2 Adult price which is $15.00

    Total rip off. We will never go back.

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  • August 6, 2007 at 2:14 am
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    Todd, What about the food???? You didn’t mention a thing about the food!

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  • August 7, 2007 at 10:22 pm
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    Excellent experience! I went to the Pearl Ridge location to celebrate my wifes birthday, she got half-off from her dinner. There was so much food offered, every I had was great.If you want shrimp tempura, king crab and lobster, this is the place to eat. Check it out!

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  • August 14, 2007 at 12:20 am
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    At least their buffets here in hawaii taste the best & they give alot which is worth your money. I’d rather pay that price then having to paying for dinner at a restrant thats not buffet especially in california no one can beat Hawaii’s Ono Food.

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  • October 23, 2007 at 1:52 am
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    Why are they serving char siu at a seafood buffet at the pearlcity restuarant??? Thats a real turn off!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • June 5, 2008 at 8:36 pm
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    My husband and I visited the MC Westridge location on 5/27/08. There were flies and gnats covering the cold crab legs, sushi, sashimi and desserts. NONE of the staff seemed concerned. It was unsanitary and disgusting. I’m not a fan of eating regugitated insect larva on uncooked meat. I’ve attempted to contact the manager several times about this serious situation without a call back at all.

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  • June 12, 2008 at 10:50 pm
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    Hi Julie,

    I think ANY buffet – especially those that are in an open air environment such as Makino Chaya – are going to have “those days”. But I can honestly say on the several visits we made there, we never noticed such problems. And BELIEVE ME, there are sticklers in our group who would quickly notice those things and walk out if there were issues like such.

    But if you think about it, you could just as well be eating the a prepared meal under the same unsanitary conditions coming out of a restaurant kitchen where you CAN’T see what’s going on. It happens all the time. Just best not think about it too much I guess. God Bless Germs!

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  • July 30, 2008 at 10:07 am
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    for lunch I pigged out at the Aloha Tower Makino Chaya for the 1st time today. seriously pigged out to the point where I haven’t eaten anything for the past 12 hours.

    looking at the pics I’m thinking: did I miss out on the crab legs, steamed clams and the desserts (except the Jello cuz I saw that)?

    I wonder if the selections changed from a year ago? I have to go there again. love the place.

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  • October 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm
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    The food has gone down in quality. I remember the first time I went to Makino Chaya in Aiea about two years ago it was great. When I went this week to the Aiea location, on Wendnesday, October 1st, 2008, the food was more like the fare at the mall’s food court. It was nowhere close to what it was. It wasn’t very good. I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth. It almost seems like you have to gorge yourself to do it. The price has gone up for sure but the quality has gone way down. They also got the tab wrong (charging me for an extra plate). And this happened on a previous occasion, too. The last time I went was for dinner and I didn’t get any lobster even though I got there pretty early. I got the same experience at the Aloha Tower Marketplace location by the way. The forks were dirty at the Aloha location. Needless to say I will not be going to either location ever again.

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  • October 17, 2008 at 6:28 am
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    what is the real price for the adults and kids!!!!!!@@@@#####%$$$$$$$$$%%%%%^^^^^&&&&&*&

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  • October 19, 2008 at 10:20 pm
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    what is the real price dinner time for adults and kids!!!!!!@@@@@@@@@@@@@@############%$$$$$$$$$$$$$%%%%%%%^^^^^^^^^^^^*^&)P_&&$)(^&*(^)( $^

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  • October 19, 2008 at 10:20 pm
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    what is the real price dinner time for adults !!!!!!@@@@@@@@@@@@@@############%$$$$$$$$$$$$$%%%%%%%^^^^^^^^^^^^*^&)P_&&$)(^&*(^)( $^

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  • November 22, 2008 at 5:00 am
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    i miss the location on king street… the other locations kinda sucked… but, i hope the king street locations quality transfered over to the new aloha tower location

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  • November 27, 2008 at 10:20 am
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    taking the fam bam there for dinner this week at aloha towers…. about 15 of us… Where can you get a variety of sushi, lobster, crab, tempura and the infamous “Wagyu” steak plus extra goodies for that price! No place…..Quit complaining bout the little things and enjoy the finest japanese buffet on the island….. good food, great friends and a humble prayer before you eat, is the best soul food makino chaya offers!!!!! So dig in and enjoy!!!!

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  • December 29, 2008 at 9:20 am
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    We went to Makino Chaya in the evening of the City Block-out (12/26).
    We’re seated around 6:45p and waited for our first drinks.
    some of us went get plates but even before I got up to get foods,
    all lights went out around 7p.
    There were no instructions, no flash lights. We just sat there in dark.
    Then our waitress came to our table and handed us a check.
    There was no discount taken from a full buffet price of $29 per person.
    I went talk to the Manager, “Chris”. The way he was handling the situation
    was very unprofessional and emotional. He shouted at me as well as at other customers
    “we’re not charging you for any drinks; you just have to pay for your food”
    I protested “I hadn’t had any food, yet. I don’t think it’s fair for you to charge
    A full price” The manager, Chris was yelling at everybody and I could see he was really impatient and agitated. It shows the true Rank of the restaurants when encountered
    Unusual situations. Makino Chaya’s Manager, Chris failed to demonstrate his managing-skill, instead he proved the whole world, his incompetency as a manager and lack of knowledge and experience in service oriented industry. Pretty sad…

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  • June 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm
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    VERY BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE. We went to this Makino Chaya @ Aloha Tower to celebrate a co-worker’s last day. We made reservations for 11 people at 12:00pm. But when we arrived at 12:00pm, we were told to wait. We were seated at 12:15pm. We went to the buffet to find that half the item trays were empty. When we asked what certain items were (the signs were not in english), an unfriendly employee barked back answers. When we wanted udon, we waited by the station for 10 minutes and no one came. We walked to ask a nearby employee about udon, we were told very curtly to just wait. We all wanted crepes, but were greeted by another unfriendly employee who had a mean face, and didn’t ask you what you wanted. He just stared at you until you said something. It felt like we were inconveniencing him by wanting some dessert. Then, when the check came, I went to the cashier to ask if they accept personal checks. She didn’t even look up and said “no” and pointed to a sign on the cash register. The sign said “we do not split bills, checks, or payments.” To me, that does NOT mean that you don’t accept personal checks. Then, as we were leaving, we asked the same cashier to take a group photo. She did not answer us, she just looked at another employee and said, “I’m going to get money,” and left. Then that other employee took our picture. I am never going here again. Who would want to be treated like that–and have to pay for it! P.S. The food was okay. Maybe it would’ve tasted better if we had better customer service.

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  • July 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm
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    unhappy customer, sorry to hear it didn’t work out for your at Makino Chaya.
    As you see by other folks’ comments here, unfortunately there seems to be a trend heading in that direction. There’s also similar sentiments on Yelp.

    Hopefully M.C. management will hear about these complaints and make the changes necessary to improve their service.

    I’ll have to back there soon and see for myself what’s goin’ on here. Or should I?

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  • August 14, 2009 at 9:34 am
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    DO NOT EAT AT MAKINO CHAYA at the ALOHA MARKETPLACE.

    This was honestly the worst “dining” experiece i have ever had the displeasure to spend money on. There was a long wait, despite tables being open. The staff were all rude or oblivious to that fact the people need silverware, drinks, plates without dishwater on them to get food, good tasting food or any other service you would expect from a restaurant. The food itself on most occasions was bland, over-cooked, under-cooked, and just plain bad. I was worried eating most of it, that it would make me sick. I waited in line for “lobster”, “steak” and later a dessert. I spit out both the lobster and steak, because both tasted liked already chewed bubble gum. The dessert i waited for was an Eggo waffle with some wholesale icecream on it and a rude employee dishing it out. And once this nightmare of an experience was over, i was actually charged for parking validation, which has never before occurred in my life.

    I have not once in my life been so displeased with service and food enough to come on a website and write about how terrible it was. I am writing this in the hopes that someone reads it and saves themselves the time and money. Go to McDonald’s instead. If you still want to throw good money away and leave with a bad taste in your mouth, give a bum some money and lick his feet, it would probably be better than this place.

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  • August 29, 2009 at 6:43 pm
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    8/14/2009 unsatisfied…….
    you are the last comment made about makino chaya
    we are planning my husbands 50th b’day dinner party 7:30 – 9:00 pm seating.
    should we cancel the reservation or shoud we go for it as we want to make it memorable 50th…….half of century !
    thanks,

    Reply

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