Posts Tagged ‘McCully Shopping Center’

Bubble Tea Mania – The Hunt for Hawaii’s Best Bubble Tea – Part I

May 1, 2014
 Part I  | Part II | Part III

The wife is out of control.

Ever since she was preggers with baby #2, she has had this fanatical craving – bordering on obsession – with the popular Taiwanese-born milk tea drink cleverly referred to as “Bubble Tea”. Pair that with the recent explosion of specialized bubble tea shops popping up around town lately, and ya got one crazed bubble gulp’n momma!

Bubble/Boba/Pearl Milk Tea, named such for the round, tapioca balls that float around at the bottom of the drink, has been around for a while now (it was invented in Taiwan the 80s). Hawaii-wise, I remember frequenting a tiny place in Wahiawa called Lindliz (original location) during our lunch breaks back in the day for a fruity version of the popular bubble drink. And one of the wife’s and my first dates was actually at Coffee or Tea? – one of the pioneers in the industry – which is as good a place as any to start this bubble tea series.

Coffee or Tea?
Conveniently located smack-dab in the middle of McCully Shopping Center, Coffee or Tea? is probably our favorite place to get Bubble Milk Tea on the island.

Outside Coffee or Tea?
Outside Coffee or Tea?

They offer their milk tea in a bevy of choices including green, vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, Irish cream, malt flakes, pudding, taro, honeydew, coconut, almond, lavender, watermelon, peppermint, ginger, and my personal favorite chocolate.

Chocolate Milk Tea with Tapioka Pearls
Chocolate Milk Tea with Tapioka Pearls

I mean, c’mon. Chocolate Milk, Tea, AND sweet tapioka balls? How can you go wrong?

They are a little on the pricier side for their portions, but they make up for it by offering something unique. For $15, you can call ahead and place an order for a “Party Size” (gallon) of their milk tea, which is perfect for milk tea parties or 1 obsessed wife. (I keed, she goin’ keel me if she heard that.) There is a 2 day window that they say you need to drink this gallon by so finishing it by yourself is almost impossible. Individuals should upsize to the Jumbo (23 oz.) or Super Jumbo (33 oz.) instead.

Milk tea party at home
Milk tea party at home

If you want tapioca balls to go with your Party Size order, you will need to call at least 24 hours in advance, but if having the milk tea sans the bubbles is fine with you, in my experience, you often can just walk right in and ask for it.

Before they got “famous”, I used to be able to set up shop and “coffice” there for the day. It was a great alternative to the overcrowded Starbucks option, especially since I don’t drink coffee. Now, they are a little more strict about patrons who do this. I completely understand why, but I do still kinda miss those days. Regardless, their milk tea is #onobu and again, one of our faves.

Happy, milk tea-fed wife, happy life.
Happy, milk tea-fed wife, happy life.

Wife Says: “This is my absolute favorite place to grab a milk tea drink! The milk tea here is consistent, and I don’t have to worry whether the person making it will make it with the right combination of milk, tea & sugar. However, it also means that if you don’t care for the strong sugary milk tea taste, you probably won’t love it as much as I do. You can’t customize the sugar level or choose the size of the boba. But, I do like the simplicity of ordering and the taste of their milk tea. The texture of the boba is perfect & it’s always soft and chewy! Milk tea heaven!”

Coffee or Tea?
McCully Shopping Center (TWC WiFi Here!)
1960 Kapiolani Blvd #106
Honolulu, HI 96826 (Street View)
(808) 942-4357
Sun-Thu: 10am-11pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-11:30pm


Kung Fu Tea
New to Hawaii, but not new to the Milk Tea game is Kung Fu Tea. They are actually a rather large franchise with 16 stores in New York (where they started), and 7 more in key locations like Boston, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, Florida and the one that just opened up last month in Honolulu off Piikoi Street.

Inside Kung Fu Tea in Honolulu
Inside Kung Fu Tea in Honolulu

If I were to close my eyes and visualize what the Milk Teas in Taiwan taste like, I would imagine them tasting like those from Kung Fu Tea. The tea part of the drink is very strong and is somewhat reminiscent of the tea you drink at many of the local Chinese restaurants around town. If it even makes any sense, the Bubble Milk Tea from Kung Fu tastes and feels “legit”. 🙂

Bubble Tea from Kung Fu Tea
Bubble Tea from Kung Fu Tea

One of my pet peeves is when my bubble to tea ratio is off. Kung Fu Tea packs their tea with CHOKE bubbles so I never once had to lift my straw from the bottom of the drink to regulate that ratio.

Choke Bubbles at the bottom of Kung Fu Tea's drinks!
Choke Bubbles at the bottom of Kung Fu Tea’s drinks!

Their bubbles also seemed to be more plump and firm here, just the way I like it. 😉 #twss

Kung Fu Tea
510 Piikoi St,
Honolulu, HI 96814 (Street View)
808-589-0088
Sun-Thu: 10:30am-10pm
Fri-Sat: 10:30am-11pm

Wife Says: “I was only able to visit this shop once, but from my one visit I was pleasantly surprised! The milk tea is creamy and delicious! The boba has a unique, stronger flavor than I’m used to… but I like it. It does take a little “getting used to”, but I was pretty hooked on it near the end! The boba’s texture was also a little more chewy but had a good consistency. You can also customize the milk tea according to your taste. I really wish I could have tried this place more than once to give an honest review. I need to go back again!”


Shaka Shaka Tea Express
One of actually three bubble drink stores at City Square Shopping Center off Dillingham, the wife prefers this one best because it “tastes kinda like Coffee or Tea?”. LOL!

Outside Shaka Shaka Tea Express at City Square Shopping Center
Outside Shaka Shaka Tea Express at City Square Shopping Center

Like Coffee or Tea?, Shaka Shaka also offers many flavors and options, including their fresh fruit options which I particularly enjoy. Along with Thang II (which I’ll cover later in this series) in this same aforementioned shopping center, they are probably two of my favorite fresh fruit bubble drink locations around. Here’s a look at their Strawberry/Banana and Watermelon fresh fruit bubble drinks.

Strawberry/Banana Fresh Fruit Bubble Drink
Strawberry/Banana Fresh Fruit Bubble Drink

Watermelon Fresh Fruit Bubble Drink
Watermelon Fresh Fruit Bubble Drink

And here’s a shot of their milk tea.

Can I get some tea & bubbles with my milk?
Can I get some tea & bubbles with my milk?

Oh great… She’s passing the mania on…

Wife Says: “This place is near the top of my list. The milk tea is tasty and the service is always friendly & knowledgeable. They like to emphasize that they use natural ingredients. You can also customize the milk tea according to your taste and the lady (owner?) is very willing to help you make the right choice. The boba was made perfectly and was soft & chewy! I love that they offer a stamp card and encourage people to come back.”

Shaka Shaka Tea Express
City Square Shopping Center (TWC WiFi Here!)
1199 Dillingham Blvd A, Ste 107
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 377-1583
Mon-Fri: 8am-8pm
Sat-Sun: 9am-9pm

Like the various features I did for poke (Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii), ramen (Hawaii Ramen Quest), shave ice (Shave Ice Ice Baby), pho (Pho Fantasy – A Tour of Hawaii’s Favorite Pho Restaurants) and açai (Açai in Hawaii), this bubble tea series is going to be fun, especially for the wife. She’s already starting to use it as an excuse to drink even more! “Don’t you have to ‘research’?”

Oh boy.

Like I said, she be one crazed bubble gulp’n momma! To be continued…

 

 Part I  | Part II | Part III

 

Tarp Surfing in Hawaii – VH07V Style (Click to Play!)

 

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Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I

October 1, 2011
 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Anyone who knows anything about me, knows that my love for ramen runs deep. It borders on obsession. So much so that I’m convinced my mom cut her milk with ramen soup before popping the bottle into my mouth.

So it was a no-brainer to follow up my popular “Poke Paradise” series with this here Ramen Quest, a pursuit for the perfect bowl of ramen, right here in Hawaii.

Now when I say ramen (or rahmen / ラーメン as we Nihonjins like to call it), I’m not talking about the localized interpretation of it referred to here as saimin (no offense saimin lovers). I’m talking about the hardcore, straight from the muthaland kine noodle and soup combination that you fantasize of. I’ve tasted some of the best there is in Japan, and have been living to replicate that euphoria ever since. (See, I told you I was obsessed! 8) )

First up is Yotteko-Ya, located on the west end of McCully Shopping Center (opposite Fook Yuen).

Yotteko-Ya entrance
Yotteko-Ya entrance

The specialty here is their Paitan soup base, which is described as a “richer, more flavorful chicken & pork based broth” and simmered for hours. In it, swims their perfectly cooked, al dente (Japanese style) noodles and homemade chashu pork, along with green onions, seaweed and sesame seeds.

Paitan Ramen from Yotteko-Ya
Paitan Ramen from Yotteko-Ya

They also have an amazing Chashu Gohan (which includes chunks of chashu similar to the one in the ramen) that my wife goes absolutely gaga over.

Chashu Gohan
Chashu Gohan

Our go-to meals here are usually the Paitan C Set, which includes the Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan (or Mini Yakibuta Chahan), and Gyoza, or the Paitan D Set, which includes the Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan (or Mini Yakibuta Chahan), and Karaage (fried chicken).

Paitan D Set: Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan, & (Chicken) Karaage - $12.95
Paitan D Set: Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan, & (Chicken) Karaage – $12.95

It should come as no surprise that the ramen I featured first in this series is a franchise straight from Japan. In fact, during a trip there in ’08, we actually went to the one in Odaiba.

Yotteko-Ya in Odaiba Japan (Tokyo)
Yotteko-Ya in Odaiba Japan (Tokyo)

Here’s a look at what the Chashu Ramen looked like there.

Chashu ramen from Odaiba's Yotteko-Ya in Tokyo
Chashu ramen from Odaiba’s Yotteko-Ya in Tokyo

Yotteko-Ya
1960 Kapiolani Blvd #214
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 946-2900
Lunch Hours: Mon-Sun: 11am-2pm
Dinner Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm-11pm, Sun: 5pm-9pm
@ramen_yottekoya

I first covered our next spot back when they were located in Waikiki.

Owner Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi outside the original Tenkaippin location in Waikiki
Owner Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi outside the original Tenkaippin location in Waikiki

The restaurant is called Tenkaippin Ramen (which is also a franchise straight from Japan) and is owned by Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi. If you think they look familiar, they have since become local celebrities of sorts, thanks to their show on OC16 called “Ultimate Japan”.

This is my go-to restaurant whenever I’m in the area, and I usually like to bring along a friend or two. On this occasion, I brought my boy Bari who seems to be enjoying his bowl of ramen just a little too much. 😛

Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen
Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen

Similar to Yotteko-Ya, Tenkaippin is known for their soup base (known here as kotteri) which is accomplished by stewing chicken and vegetables for over 10 hours. Most ingredients are actually flown in fresh from Japan too!

Tenkaippin's Kotteri Ramen - $8.75
Tenkaippin’s Kotteri Ramen – $8.75

Here’s a peek at what it actually looks like to scoop a mouthful of noodles from this thick, kotteri soup base.

Video of Kotteri Ramen from Tenkaippin’s

 

Tenkaippin Ramen
617 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 732-1211
Mon-Thu: 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm

I had to fly all the way to Waikoloa on the Big Island (FBI!) to get this next bowl of yummy goodness. It’s the D.K.’s Crab Ramen from Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queen’s MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Resort).

D.K.'s Crab Ramen and Asian Truffle Broth with King Crab, Cilantro, Thai Basil and Mild Jalapenos - $17.95
D.K.’s Crab Ramen and Asian Truffle Broth with King Crab, Cilantro, Thai Basil and Mild Jalapenos – $17.95

One word of caution. After tantalizing our taste buds with this one while on vacation at Waikoloa, we were excited to have it again (and again) at the Sansei closer to home (Waikiki). It was a HUGE disappointment. It did not come close to what we remember enjoying FBI-style, and, if you take a look at the photo below from Sansei Waikiki, you’ll see that it looked nothing like it either.

Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Waikiki
Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Waikiki

We actually tried our luck again on a trip to Maui, and the one at the Kapalua Resort turned out to also be a letdown.

Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Kapalua
Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Kapalua

We’re actually afraid to go back to try the one at Waikoloa in case it was a McDreamy, one time (all-stars-aligned type of) thing. Sansei peeps, if you’re reading this, what’s the scoops?

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queens Market Place, Waikoloa Beach Resort)
201 Waikoloa Beach Drive Suite 801
Waikoloa, HI 96738 (map)
(808) 669-6286
Dinner Nightly: 5:30pm-10pm
Late Night Dining: Friday and Saturday: 10pm-1am

And finally, talk about good timing… Shirokiya is in the middle of their “Best of Japan: Ramen & Gyoza Festival”, where they bring in popular ramen (and gyoza) vendors from Japan to be featured at their new Yataimura area for two weeks at a time.

The first in the series (featured from 08/23-09/05) was Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka who served 7,658 bowls during their two week stint! They presented their Kuroton Shibori (dark) and Akaton Shibori (spicy/red) options. Here’s a look at both:

Kuroton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan - $8.95
Kuroton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan – $8.95

Akaton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan - $8.95
Akaton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan – $8.95

I don’t know if it was because it was the last day of the series and they were running low on noodles, but the portions were REALLY skimpy.

The second in the series (featured from 09/06-09/19) was Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka who served 9,619 bowls of their “Original” Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen. Due to my crazy life as a new dad, I missed this series, but my buddy Rick Nakama was able to check it out (three times!). Here’s his Takana Shibori bowl:

Takana style Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen from Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka - $9.95 [Photo Courtesy: Rick Nakama]
Takana style Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen from Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka – $9.95 [Photo Courtesy: Rick Nakama]

Rick’s main complaints were about the quantity (again) and the inconsistency of the ramen noodles and taste.

The third in the series (which is currently being featured as I write this – 09/20-10/03) is Hakata Chouten from Fukuoka. I was most excited for this because some of the best ramen I’ve ever tasted in Japan came from the Hakata area in Fukuoka.

UPDATE: This series served 7,805 customers.

Barikoku Negi Tonkotsu Ramen from Hakata Chouten in Fukuoka - $10.95
Barikoku Negi Tonkotsu Ramen from Hakata Chouten in Fukuoka – $10.95

The soup base was pretty tasty, but, again, the quantity was very minimal compared to what we had to pay: $10.95!

Rick Nakama finishing his bowl while Russ Sumida "poses" with mine. 8)
Rick Nakama finishing his bowl while Russ Sumida “poses” with mine. 8)

The fourth in the series happens from October 4th through the 17th and features Hokkaido’s Sapporo Menya Yoshiki who will have three choices of soup base: shiro (white), kuro (black) and aka (red). Following that will be Fukuoka’s Hide Chan Ramen from October 24th-November 6th.

Shirokiya Yataimura (at Ala Moana Shopping Center)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste 2250
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 973-9111
Mon-Sat: 9:30am-9pm
Sun: 9:30am-7pm

So there you have it. Some interesting options for ramen here in Hawaii right? And that was just part 1! I still have at least 4 more juicy parts to this series (including Gomaichi, Goma Tei, Menchanko-Tei, Chinpei, Kiwami, etc.), but if you have any others suggestions on where I should hit up, holla atcho boy! Shoots!

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V