Hakkei is a relatively new home-style Japanese restaurant that was recommended by a chef friend. The original Hakkei is a hot spring resort in Okayama, Japan. Part of the draw of Japanese hot springs is the cuisine served at the inn where you stay. The food is comforting, intricate and varied. In this regard, the Hakkei in Honolulu is extremely authentic. Serving mostly Japanese patrons, it’s a small restaurant that seats around thirty, including some counter seats. The lunch special, served from 11am to 2pm, changes daily. Hakkei is known for its oden (hot pot including pieces of fish cake, tofu, and vegetables simmered in broth), as well as its kamado rice — rice cooked in traditional ceramic kamado that produces a crispy bottom layer, okage — but you have to order the kamado rice in advance (when you call the restaurant to make a reservation). Hakkei offers true comfort, not just in the food but the atmosphere as well. There’s jazz playing in the background and no one is rushing you to do anything but enjoy the food. The Nanking manju was exquisite — steamed kabocha pumpkin encrusted with arare balls (tempura-like crispy balls). If I lived in Hawaii, I’d hang out at Hakkei all the time. It’s a great place to linger for hours over drinks paired with delicous food. The service is extremely friendly, too.