Lunch Today at Todai

I couldn’t resist that title. Actually “today” is “kyo” in Japanese. Anyhow, we celebrated a belated birthday lunch today at Todai Seafood Buffet in Waikiki. This was actually the first time at Todai for all but 1 in our party of 5. After hearing mixed reviews from others and less-than-favorable comparisons to the also popular Makino Chaya Japanese Buffet, we decided it was time to see and taste Todai for ourselves.

We arrived just before opening for lunch at 11:30am, with a short wait in front before doors opened. We made reservations, so our party was quickly called in to be seated. A friendly staff greeted the hungry pre-lunch crowd with an enthusiastic “Irashaimasu!” Our waitress explained the “system” of the buffet line and that drinks needed to be ordered through her, making it clear that most of the beverages included free refills. Liquor is also available.
Time now to get up and scope it out! We make a walk-around for a preview. The sushi is the main attraction at the front corner station, which also shares feeding space with the dessert, salads and fresh fruit line. If the house sushi selection isn’t enough for you, opt for the made-to-order hand rolls where you tell the sushi chef behind the counter what to put in, sort of like a Sushi (mini) Subway sandwich.

To the right of the sushi station is the hot foods such as Miso and Egg Flower Soup, a variety of steamed and grilled fish fillets, grilled chicken and pork ribs, Sukiyaki, stir-fries and tempura.

Following are photos of plated selections some of us chose…

Todai offers an eclectic variety of Sushi

Clockwise from top: Made-to-order sushi hand rolls, house-made Gyoza, Crab Cakes, Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura, Curried Potato Fritter (placed on Tempura), Kim Chee (from salad bar) and bowl of Tempura Dipping Sauce with grated Daikon.

Seafood from the hot station. Clockwise from top: Shrimp Tempura, Gyoza, Crab Cake, Grilled (sweet) Saba, Mussel in Soup Broth, Steamed Mahimahi with Asian Pesto, Baked Salmon in Dill Cream Sauce and Miso Soup (center).

More of the same hot items, with the addition of grilled teriyaki chicken, chow mein and fried rice

My favorite of the sushi rolls was this “Shrimp Katsu” Roll, which has an Aioli Sauce and Tonkotsu Sauce drizzled on it. Look at all those flavors and textures that go into each roll. Love it!

After satisfying just about every sense of taste, it’s time to bring on the sweet! Here (above) we have a Blueberry Cheesecake, Strawberry Shortcake, Papaya-Mango Custard and Coffee Mocha Mousse.

Todai Seafood Buffet is located at foot of the Canteberry Condominium in Waikiki, above Singha Thai Restaurant. This is on the corner of Ena Road and Ala Moana Blvd, across from the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Wailana Tower. Parking is located off of Ena Rd., in the same building (The Canteberry). Parking is free for the first 2 hours with validation. You’ll likely be STUFFED long before those 2 hours are up.

In summary, our visit dispelled our skepticism over the hype and left us very satisfied. Everything (except for a few dessert items) tasted made-to-order fresh. Likely arriving when doors first opened for lunch played a key role here. The value is exceptional; regular lunch time ALL YOU CAN EAT! prices are $14.95, reduced even less to the $12.95 Kama’aina rate for our group. The dinner price is about $10 more. Still, even without fresh poke, sashimi, crab legs or other pricey seafood dinner add-ons, there’s enough variety during lunch to leave you wanting to come back just to try something you didn’t have enough room for the last time.

Todai is certainly a contender for “best asian buffet” in Honolulu. Makino Chaya may have an edge with the made-to-order hot foods menu, but Todai seemed to have a cleaner, more refined, elegant and organized buffet line. You can certainly see a “corporate image” thing going on here in a GOOD sense of the phrase.

Next time you consider Willows, Pagoda, Makino Chaya or Hanaki on your lunch buffet radar, Todai should be right there along with them.

Tasty Island Rating:


4 thoughts on “Lunch Today at Todai

  1. what a great bunch of photos of all the food! i’ve been there only twice … but its been awhile. I like the variety of sushi. i love sushi, but i must confess that i don’t eat sashimi. (yeah ..i know “what kind of Japanese are you?” ) but i love the shrimp tempura and unagi sushi. i also love the handrolls!! that shrimp katsu roll looks like a real winnah!! i love them sauces too!!

    even the desserts look pretty good … at least its a little different! I agree with your comparison to Makino Chaya. I like the made to order stuff …but didn’t care for the rest.

    did they still have the ramen station? altho usually full …i enjoyed a little ramen at the end.

    thanks for the review and awesome photos!

  2. Huh. There’s a Todai next door to my office, but I’ve always found the quality to only be so-so. I imagine it’s better in Hawaii, since there’s a larger population with a more discerning palate(?).

    – Chubbypanda

  3. I used to be a huge fan of Todai’s. I made it a point to bring all mainland visitor’s there so I could go to my favorite restaurant. My last two visits there have been quite disappointing. It’s like they have whittled it down to “recreate” the menu. The quality also seems somehow less. Certainly very clean though, with that “corporate” atmosphere noted above.
    A group of us tried Makino Chaya on S. King. On entering it was a very different scene from Todai’s. Seemed small, kind of dark, not spit shined like Todai’s. But my doubts were soon laid to rest. The seemingly small salad and sashimi bar made up for it in taste. And ordering off a menu, all you can eat was a novelty. Tried sashimi plate which was great. My partners really enjoyed the chocolate desert fountain. When I found out it was the same guy starting Makino’s that originated Todai’s it made sense. The missing piece of Todai’s has resurfaced at Makino. Definitely has my vote.

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