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Waikiki Eats: Musubi-ya Iyasume

Tucked away in an “alley” on Koa Avenue — an access road behind the Hyatt Waikiki Regency & Spa — you’ll find Musubi-ya Iyasume. They’re located on the ground floor of a low-level walk-up apartment building that’s since been converted to a hotel named Hale Waikiki.

Unless you’re a very observant person, the clutter of signs placed near the sidewalk out front to catch pedestrians passing by is the only clue you’d have to know this place exists, along with other neighboring businesses open to the public. This includes next door neighbor Hana No Sato, another tiny Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi and fresh fish, the Aloha Store and Wang Chung, a karaoke bar located upstairs.

“Ya” means “shop” in Japanese, and as that suggests, Musubi-ya Iyasume is for the most part a takeout affair, save for 2 sets of tables inside if you wish to sit in and eat there…

Yeah, you noticed that up on the wall too, huh?! Here’s a closer look…

You can check what other vehicle vanity (custom) license plates are available for the City & County of Honolulu here at this link. I already checked various ways to spell “MUSUBI”, and they’re all spoken for.

Occupying such a small space, they find every place available to put their rice cookers, while also displaying lots of love for SPAM…

I mean, rice cookers EVERYWHERE…

While a musubi is a seemingly simple food that for the most part uses a minimum of ingredients, that very trait makes it that much more important that every one of those ingredients are the best quality they can be. That said, here you see Iyasume uses Tamanishiki brand U.S. No. 1 Grade Short Grain Super Premium Rice…

I went to Don Quijote to check out the various brands and grades of rice they carry, and believe me, all the Super Premium brands are MUCH more expensive than the common $10 on sale/20 lb. bag of “Extra Fancy” Hinode rice most local folks buy. Specifically, a 15 lb. bag of Tamanishiki Super Premium Rice was on sale at DQ for $24.97. Ouch! And that’s just the US-grown brand. Now hold on to your socks and get a load of this: at Ward Marukai, a 10 lb. bag of Minami-Uonumasan Koshihikari Rice costs $60. Sixty bucks for just ten pounds! Totemo takai desu yo (that’s crazy expensive)!!!

Well, like most things Japanese, Iyasume is all about quality, and it’s reassuring to see they offer their customers the best they can within the budget at hand.

Now let’s check out their menu, starting with the star attraction, their Musubi, a.k.a. Omusubi, a.k.a. Onigiri…

Most of the menu items at Iyasume are made to order (a good thing, especially for the onigiri!) and can take about 5 to 10 minutes or more to prepare. Yet if you’re in a rush, they do have some bento lunches and omusubi that are premade and ready to go…

We like this place so much that we’ve already went through one member card and are on our way to filling out another one…

Now let’s check out some of the goodies we recently got from Iyasume, starting with the iconic SPAM Musubi…

This SPAM Musubi has a Shiso leaf underneath it, which adds an interesting flavor and texture contrast to the SPAM. There’s just a hint of shoyu on the SPAM, but it’s not too “Teriyaki-ish” like some other places, which is surprising being this is a Japanese establishment.

Here we have two Onigiri…

The one on the left is Ume and Bonito, and on the right, Takana (Mustard leaf).

Biting into it, you see there’s an abundance of the tart Ume and savory Bonito flakes nestled within the rice center…

Same for the Takana (Mustard leaf) Onigiri…

So every bite you take, you’ve always got that slight saltiness from the various fillings to help flavor the rice. Oishii!

Speaking of rice, THAT is really where the money’s at here, as it’s PERFECT. Just perfect Onigiri rice, thanks in part to them using that high quality Tamanishiki Super Premium grade stock. Every precious granule is soft and “pillowy” and of course not mushy at all. It’s also seasoned perfectly with just a slight hint of salt seasoning on the rice itself.

Most importantly It has plenty of stick, so you eat through the entire Onigiri without barely a grain falling off. Ever ate a musubi where you end up licking more loose rice off your hands, napkin or plate instead of eating it how it should be eaten, where it’s one integrated morsel? Well, that’s never the case here at Iyasume. These folks are pros and really know how to whip up some mighty fine Omusubi.

Along with that perfected Onigiri rice, as mentioned previously, Iyasume makes them to order, so when you receive it, it’s nice and hot. Can’t beat that! Way better than those musubi you see wrapped up in plastic that’s been sitting on the store shelf or the warmer for who knows how long. Well OK, I won’t knock Manabu’s because their musubi can probably sit out all day and still taste great, but still, no matter what, fresh made is always best, and that’s how it’s done here at Iyasume.

Summing up the SPAM & Shiso Leaf Musubi, Ume & Bonito Onigiri and Takana Onigiri, they each deserve an “I’ll be back for more and more!” 4 SPAM Musubi.

On another more recent visit to Iyasume, I tried one of their combo meals…

This is Iyasume’s Deluxe Combo set, which includes two musubi, vege miso soup, fried chicken, takuan and sausage for $7.95. Everything tasted premade except the musubi, which were both made to order.

The “sausage” is actually a regular ‘ole American hot dog, which I was a little disappointed, as I was hoping it would be some exotic Japanese fish sausage, or at least Arabiki. It tasted like it was simmered in a light shoyu broth, Okazuya style.

The fried chicken was lame; the batter soggy and lacking any flavor whatsoever, while the boneless chicken meat inside wasn’t anything to write home or here about. With that, these two items get a “yawn” 1 SPAM Musubi.

You can choose any musubi on the menu for the Deluxe Combo set, where on this occasion I went with Asari (clams) and Salmon and Salmon Roe…

Like all their Onigiri, here you see an abundance of Asari clams and Salmon/Salmon Roe filling in the center of these two…

So there’s happy-happy joy-joy in every scrumptious bite.

The Asari clams were “meaty” delicious, but I think it could have used something else with it, like perhaps Hijiki (tiny seaweed flakes). The Salmon/Salmon Roe was pretty good, but that also could have also used some “oomph”, like perhaps mayonnaise, which is in fact available on their menu. Thankfully the high quality nori wrapped around each onigiri makes up for anything that may be lacking in the filling.

Getting more into that part, the nori isn’t very crispy which some folks might prefer, but more on the soft and pliable side, which is actually how I prefer it. For me, when the nori is stuck to the rice and allowed time to “bond”, it imparts some of its flavors into the rice versus when it’s first placed on and still crispy. I just don’t like biting into a musubi and the nori cracks apart, and simply like it stuck to the rice.

Summing up Asari and Salmon/Salmon Roe Onigiri, they each deserve a still-very-respectable 3 SPAM Musubi.

As for the Vege Miso Soup, now THIS is some oishilicious stuff!…

The broth is very “meaty”, which after confirming with the folks there, come to find out this is the same broth used for their Tonjiru Soup, which is made with pork, vegetables and miso. And I must say, this is one MIGHTY FINE example of Tonjiru Soup. Like I could practically eat a whole bucket of this stuff, it’s that good. It’s loaded with sliced Daikon and Aburage, along with sliced onion and Konnyaku…

Summing it up, a super-duper oishi 5 SPAM Musubi on Iyasume’s Vege Miso (Tonjiru) Soup. So good, I’d recommend instead of getting the Deluxe Combo set, just order any two musubi along with a side order of this soup and you’ve got yourself one mighty satisfying and tasty lunch from Musubi-ya Iyasume.

On another also-recent visit, I tried their Summer Special SPAM Musubi…

My usual bite-through view…

Om-nom-nom-nom-nom-nom. lol

The generous amount of seedless ume spread underneath the SPAM was fantastic, giving it that wonderful tangy “bite” and contrast to the meaty, salty luncheon meat. As for the cucumber, it was sliced way too thin to have any impact on flavor and seemed more for decoration than anything else. While I mentioned earlier that I like my Nori soft and pliable, the Nori on this SPAM musubi was too soft and to the “melting point” already, where if you touch it, it easily breaks apart. So minus a point each for “melted” nori and the cucumber sliced too thinly, where I’m going with 3 SPAM Musubi on Iyasume’s Summer Special SPAM Musubi. Does that sound right? lol

Finally, for dessert I tried their Original Coffee Jelly…

Jello® with cream is always good. Let’s try this Coffee-flavored “jelly”…

Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to invert it on a plate to make a nice presentation, but who am I trying to impress? You, the reader? Come on, we’re all good friends here now, so let’s just dig in and eat the darned thing! lol

How is it? It tastes basically like a quality sweetened black coffee turned into Jello® form. For those who prefer cream in their coffee (like me), that’s where the cream comes in here, which is actually half & half (half cream, half milk). The half & half (or cream) definitely makes this, as I couldn’t see eating this straight “black”, just the same as I am with coffee in liquid form.

I’d go as far as saying if you’re a coffee drinker, consider buying a pack of gelatin and “Jello-izing” a pot of coffee and keep it in the fridge in individual containers like this. It’s an equally satisfying, cool and refreshing alternative to a regular ‘ole hot cup ‘o joe or ice coffee, and would make for a fun thing to munch on before heading off to work or to snack on at the end of your lunch break. 3 SPAM Musubi.

As for parking in the immediate area to hit up Musubi-ya Iyasume,  for the most part forget it. Except for loading and unloading, there’s no street parking available on Koa Street, unless you have someone who can wait in the car while you run in. There’s a parking garage under the hotel, but that’s limited to hotel guests.

Well there you have it. Yet another place to get your musubi on when you demand only the best. Particularly if you happen to be in Waikiki. Next time you’re walking around this world-famous tourist mecca and looking for something delicious to snack on at the beach or back at the hotel room, consider heading a street up from Kalakaua avenue on Koa and check out Musubi-ya Iyasume. Oishii!!!

Musubi-Ya Iyasume
2410 Koa Avenue Suite #4 (behind the Hyatt Waikiki Regency & Spa
Honolulu, Hawaii  96815

Tel. (808) 921-0168
www.tonsuke.com/eomusubiya.html

Other locations:
Iyasume Bento Express
Waikiki Shopping Plaza

Iyasume
611 Kapahulu Avenue
Tel. (808) 735-3530

The Tasty Island Rating (Koa Avenue location):

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related Tasty Island links:
A Marukai Musubi Fest
Musubi Mania at Mana Bu’s
Mana Bu’s Hana Hou

P.S. Guess what time it is? It’s time to have a GIVEAWAY CONTEST! YAY!!!!!

What is it that’s being given away? This!…


2010 Foodland limited edition Musubi Reusable Eco Shopping Bag

PLUS THIS!…


2010 Foodland limited edition Musubi insulated hot cold Bag

Yes, two lucky winners will each receive one (brand spankin’ new) Musubi-themed Foodland Reusable Eco Shopping Bag and one Musubi-themed Foodland Hot Cold Bag. These are limited edition bags that will soon sell out at local Foodland retail stores and will no doubt be a collectible item.

To enter to win these two cool musubi bags, all you need to do is submit your entry via a comment (or eMail me if you prefer to remain private) that says “I want those SPAM Musubi Bags! That’s it. Simple as that. Two winners will be chosen by a physical drawing, where I’m going to print each entry person’s name on a piece of paper and pull it blindly from a SPAM Musubi bag. I’ll record the drawing on video, and when I announce the winners in a future post, I’ll insert the video in that post via YouTube  to show proof that this contest wasn’t “fixed” or “juiced”. Make sure that your comment or eMail includes a valid return eMail address so I know how to contact you if you’re a winner.

PLUS, on top of that, I’m throwing in a BONUS PRIZE!…


2009 limited edition Jack in the Box University of Hawaii Football ‘Warrior Jack’

PLUS THIS!…


2010 limited edition Jack in the Box ‘Throwback Jack’ (from UH’s 1982 football season!)

If you also want a chance to win the University of Hawaii Jack in the Box Warrior Jack and UH Throwback Jack Antenna Ball BONUS PRIZE on top of the two Musubi bags, along with your comment that says “I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!”, in your comment or eMail, you must also submit an ORIGINAL Haiku on the subject of what else? SPAM Musubi! Yes, submit a Haiku on SPAM Musubi. Don’t know what a Haiku is? Learn more about it here.

These UH Football antenna balls are also limited editions, where in fact the 2009 “H” logo helmet antenna ball is no longer available at Jack in the Box Hawaii locations, and the new “Throwback Jack” UH “Warrior Bows” (circa 1982) helmet antenna ball is destined to sell out quickly.

The Haiku won’t be judged on anything else except that it must be your own original work, it must be a valid Haiku, adhering to the 5-7-5 syllable rule, and it must be about SPAM Musubi.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to submit a Haiku to win the Musubi bags. It’s only if you ALSO want to win the Jack in the Box University of Hawaii football helmet antenna ball bonus prizes.

Deadline to enter is Saturday, September 18, 2010.

NOTE: CURRENT HAWAII RESIDENTS ARE NOT ELIGIBLE to enter this Musubi Bag and UH Football Antenna Ball contest. Upon selecting the winners, if your mailing address is in Hawaii, you will be disqualified.

2 winners! 2 Musubi Bags + possibly 2 UH Football antenna balls to each winner! Good luck! Go Warriors! Err, Go ‘Bows! Err, SPAM Musubi! Bag that is.

90 thoughts on “Waikiki Eats: Musubi-ya Iyasume

  • September 10, 2010 at 10:13 am
    Permalink

    I want those SPAM Musubi Bags !

    Casper da O’Nig
    Lifeless without ono SPAM
    Now it’s musubi

    Reply
  • September 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm
    Permalink

    I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!

    Reply
  • September 10, 2010 at 4:55 pm
    Permalink

    I don’t want those bags! (cause I’m already getting some:) But I want to play along:

    Here in Philly, SPAM
    is like Hawaiian scrapple –
    don’t ask, just eat it.

    Reply
  • September 11, 2010 at 5:40 am
    Permalink

    What a wonderful blog! It was love at first bite when I had my first musubi and just cant get enough of it.

    Reply
  • September 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm
    Permalink

    Once again, the SPAM Musubi Haiku poems you folks all submitted are FANTASTIC. Many of them a RIOT! LOL!

    As of this comment, there’s a total of 80 of you that are entered in this Musubi Bag giveaway contest and IN IT TO WIN IT!

    If you haven’t already, the deadline to enter is next Saturday, September 18th.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2010 at 4:58 am
    Permalink

    “I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!“

    Aloha from Maryland! Thanks for this great blog! It keeps me in touch in between trips to my favorite place in the world. You DO know how lucky you are to LIVE there, right?

    Mahalo!!!!

    Reply
  • September 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm
    Permalink

    I WANT THOSE SPAM MUSUBI BAGS!!!

    <3 your blog!

    Reply
  • September 14, 2010 at 9:21 am
    Permalink

    “I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!”

    Aloha from Minnesota. My husband was born and raised on Oah’u and would love love love those prizes.

    Across the ocean
    Minnesota makes the SPAM
    For your musubi

    Reply
  • September 14, 2010 at 9:29 am
    Permalink

    I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!

    O beloved Spam
    Bed of rice, drop of shoyu
    Unctuous delight

    Keep up the great work! This site makes me homesick and hungry. The Spam Museum is in Austin, Minnesota though and its great.

    Reply
  • September 16, 2010 at 10:19 am
    Permalink

    “I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!“

    Hot Texas Summer
    Wishing for cool island breeze
    NEED Musubi Ya’ll

    LOVE your site! Gives me my island fix until can make it out there again! Mahalo!!

    Reply
  • September 16, 2010 at 7:55 pm
    Permalink

    “I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!“

    I want Foodland Bag
    Reusable Eco bag
    I really want one!

    Da spam musubi
    teri sauce and takuwan
    Ono spam musubi

    Reply
  • September 17, 2010 at 6:09 am
    Permalink

    I want those SPAM Musubi Bags!

    Love your site. Looking forward to being back there in November and trying out a few new places.

    Reply
  • September 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm
    Permalink

    I want those SPAM Musubi bags!
    The hot cold bag would be perfect for my beachgoing.
    My Haiku is not technically about SPAM Musubi.
    Nihon dewa SPAM takakute kaemasenu (I can’t afford SPAM here in Japan)
    SPAM costs like $6 a can in Japan, so no SPAM Musubi.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2010 at 8:06 am
    Permalink

    OK folks, that’s it! The deadline to enter is now up. No more comment or eMail entries for the Musubi Bags plus Bonus Prize giveaway contest will be counted as of last night, September 18th at 11:59 midnight.

    Big mahalo to all of you who entered and many of you for the creative and quite amusing SPAM Musubi Haiku poems!

    I will announce the two lucky winners in a post later this week, which will be by a drawing. As promised, I’ll video tape the drawing and post the video on YouTube along with the announcement.

    Once again, good luck!

    Reply

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