Cousin’s Seafood and Bento “Locally Grown”

Owner Ken Arakawa shares his restaraunt

By Keylan Sato, Arts & Community Writer

A stack of Cousins bentos. Photo by Ken Arakawa.

A stack of Cousins’ bentos. Photo by Ken Arakawa.

Have you ever eaten something so amazing in Hawaii that it just took your breath away? That feeling of pure bliss as your mouth tastes the awesomeness that is rarely felt amongst your “usual” food. The heavenly feeling that time stands still and all that is left is you and your cuisine. At this moment nothing else in the world matters and every savory bite takes your breath away as if telling you personally “Da ono.” That worthwhile feeling is just the tip of the iceberg for college students who are broke and want delicious food for their dollars. Cousins Seafood and Bento is a locally owned business that specializes in providing local food lovers the cheap meals they deserve.

Here in Hawaii everyone treats others as if they’re family. Whether it be friends, neighbors, friends of friends, etc. everyone takes care of each other here. The owner of Cousins Seafood and Bento, Ken Arakawa, spent 21 years distributing seafood on Oahu, then decided that he wanted to leave the big city and spend time with his family. He wanted to spend his time in quiet retirement, but coming from the gathering place he’s used to being on the move, so his plans quickly changed. Less than 3 years after moving back Arakawa purchased the former Soontarees Deli on Lanika`ula Street next to Subway. After 5 months of renovations and permits, “Cousins Seafood and Bento” opened its doors.

Seafood is definitely the main focus of any seafood restaurant, but fish can be a bit pricey at times. Arakawa indicates he’s not planning on changing the prices anytime soon and they will continue to stay low as long as customers are constantly purchasing their food items here. He’s relying on low cost-high sales numbers to counteract the usual high cost- less sales. The problem is that the fish market is a very touchy field that is probably his greatest challenge. “With seafood, you have to be constantly thinking ahead,” he comments.

When asked who he feels is his ideal target customer, Arakawa was quick to reply “locals!” His goal was to create a family-run business that adhered to local cuisine. His restaurant is in an ideal location to cater to our Hilo community as well as designing a menu that can be accessed by the University students as well. When he created his menu he wanted to have it cater a little on the healthy side as well as the local-favorite side. In this note he made the executive decision to make sure his restaurant was predominantly locally supported and grown items. All beef products on the menu are all grass fed beef from the islands. All Ahi and Mahi is locally caught. The Mexican menu’s ingredients are all locally manufactured on the big island. Every bun and bread product on the menu is locally made by Mamane bakery which utilizes preservative free ingredients. All the produce on the menu is about 70% locally grown making the entire menu approximately 75% local. Everyone wants to support the small mom and pops business now days to fight off industrialization on our community, so support this restaurant that was designed for the local cuisine.

Inside a Cousins bento. Photo by Ken Arakawa.

Inside a Cousins bento. Photo by Ken Arakawa.

Enough about the history and goals of this wonderful establishment.  What everyone is waiting for is the food.

Popular products include pan-seared ahi and salmon steaks, garlic chicken, and garlic shrimp with lemon-buttery and sherry. Bentos also move quickly, and are available in the moning until they “sell out”. The prices range from $4.95 for a pan-seared ahi sandwich, to $12.95 for a Ribeye Steak with Shrimp (Full menu located below). Daily specials are available. Breakfast is from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Current hours of operation are 6:30a.m. to 7:30p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

So the next time you’re in the mood for some ‘ono local grinds try this little shop out and you won’t be disappointed

Local Tip: It takes time to prepare food and we’re all busy college students, so I suggest calling them (808-969-9900) about 10-15 minutes prior to heading down there so your food is hot and ready for consumption.

Local Favorite: If you have about $8 on you, many locals highly recommend getting the Pan-seared Ahi sandwich meal on gourmet bread with grilled onions. Your sides should include mashed sweet potato and fries.

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