We are officially in full summer swing and gallivanting around Pasadena is the thing to do. While trying new restaurants is literally my job, there are few things that I love more than visiting places that are tried and true favorites, whether or not I’ve already been there. Perhaps I trust reviews and recognition of restaurants in the city too much, but if our readers have nothing but good things to say, I can almost guarantee that I’ll love it. It seems as though Kabuki Japanese Restaurant is one of those longtime favorites that never disappoints, so I knew it was time for another visit. After a day of walking around Old Pasadena, a friend and I worked up an appetite and swung by the restaurant’s Colorado Boulevard location at around 2:30 — just in time to catch some of their amazing lunch specials.

It wasn’t too crowded for a Saturday afternoon, so we were seated at a booth right away. I scoured through the menu and was so hungry; it was almost too much of a challenge to narrow down what it was I wanted to try. We overheard a waiter explain the lunch specials to the couple next to us with such enthusiasm that I knew that would be my best bet, not to mention the price-per-portion ratio was amazing.

It was easy to go with the Ninja Deluxe ($12.95), which comes with chicken teriyaki, shrimp and vegetable tempura, and three pieces of a California Roll with miso soup, a side salad and rice. My friend and I shared the entirety of the meal. Miso and the side salad came out first, and both were delicious. The miso broth was one of the more flavorful soups I’ve had, and I got through the entire bowl of salad.

Next came the remainder of the aptly named Ninja Deluxe. The tempura was delicious (although you can’t really go wrong with tempura), and the chicken serving was a good-sized portion alongside the rest of the meal. I don’t do sushi often, so this was the perfect combination for someone like me.

My friend ordered the sushi moriawase, which was the ideal combination to get a roundup of the assorted sashimi that Kabuki serves. It came with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, albacore and a California roll of six pieces, as well as a choice between miso soup or salad. He went with the salad. He wasn’t keen on the California Roll so he requested to substitute to a Philadelphia Roll for an extra dollar, and our waitress agreed. The entire meal came to only $14.95 without substitution and is a must-try during lunch hour. In addition to our combination plates, I ordered the California Tempura Roll ($8.95), which is a fried California roll served with eel sauce. It was clear that we both liked anything of the fried, tempura variety, and this fit the bill perfectly.

Between the two combination plates that we shared with one another, and the additional specialty roll, we could not ask for more in terms of variety, amazing pricing, as well as an overall great experience. The fish and shrimp looked and tasted amazingly clean, the chicken was flavorful and tender, and all of our sides were outstanding on their own — not just fillers as is the case at many of the restaurants that I’ve frequented.

We did request a drink menu but our waitress didn’t make her way back to take our orders. Luckily, we found ourselves too full to add more anyway. It would be best to save that for their great menu for happy hour, which is between 3 and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Small sides ring in at $4.95, $5.95, and $6.95 and include fried gyoza dumplings, sesame chicken, and calamari rings, just to name a few of the offerings. They have a short list of some of their best classic rolls for $3.50 and $4.50, and specialty rolls for $7.50 and $8.50. Happy hour drinks include two different cocktail options: the Tokyo Mojito ($8.50) or the Sake Sangria, my personal favorite for $7.50, and sake, wine, and beer.

Stop by during the day or during the late evening hours and enjoy a good meal and drink. It’s no wonder Kabuki is such a favorite of Pasadena Weekly readers.