Okata Bento

This is one of those places that are often closed by the time I'm out of the home and roaming around town. If you're a typical night owl by choice or profession, you know what I mean. So many eateries in Hawaii are breakfast-lunch joints. Once the clock hits 2 o'clock, it's their pau hana time. I never felt like I missed any of these places.

It's different with Okata Bento. I'd passed by it a thousands time, paid no mind. So many places to satisfy the hunger up there on the hill, on top of Kaimuki. But I was at the camera shop on this day, and really hungry. Okata stands next door, so I took a look. It wasn't just the menu I scanned. I looked inside the small kitchen and liked the way the cook went about business. The pots and pans were straight out of a classic diner scene, down-home cooking, not a fusion cathedral of perfection — which would've been just fine, too.

But the kicker was the food that was in my hands after a few minutes. Oyako donburi, done just right by a guru. To them, it's just another sale, another customer. To me, it was the perfect breakfast at 2 p.m. on an otherwise normal day. I felt grateful. I felt satisfied. The bowl never made it home. I consumed most of it while I sat in my car across the street, in the 3-minute parking zone, too hungry and too happy to remember my time was up.

Nov. 4, 2011