Posts Tagged ‘Mililani Mauka’

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part III

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

With winter in full swing and Hawaii’s “chilly” weather freezing everyone to the core ๐Ÿ˜› , there’s no better comfort food than a nice, hot, steamy bowl of ramen. And while eating at some of my go-to ramen picks (i.e. Yotteko-Ya, Tenkaippin, etc.) would be ideal, sometimes, patronizing your friendly, neighborhood ramen spots is the way to go to help warm the soul.

This next batch of spots in our Hawaii Ramen Quest consists of some of the more non-traditional, localized interpretations of ramen. Stemming from what appears to be of local Chinese influence (with the use of cabbage, bean sprouts, corn, mapo tofu, etc.), these ramen joints often have multiple locations in very convenient areas around town, and I would venture to guess that they are conceivably some of the most popular amongst the locals. Although I don’t associate any of these with the “straight from tha muthaland” flavor and style of ramen I’m accustomed to, there’s no doubt that I still frequent many of these for my noodle fix on the regular.

First up is Daiichi Ramen & Curry in Aiea.

I don’t usually venture out around lower Aiea too often except when I take a wrong turn from Aiea Bowl or Ice Garden, so when I actually did one day, I noticed a sign with big red letters calling me. It said Daiichi Ramen & Curry and I immediately thought to myself, “Oh, thaaaaat’s where it is!” Now you gotta understand, with a name like that (which means “#1” in Japanese), I will place very high expectations on the ramen coming out of the pots there. But then again, with a name like that (gotta love the confidence BTW!) it has to be good right? I’ve heard a lot about this place before but it wasn’t until a recent check-in by @abaggy earlier this month that my curiosity got the best of me. I dragged co-workers and friends Maribel and Trina to come along for the ride.

Maribel & Trina pose outside Daiichi Ramen & Curry in Aiea Shopping Plaza
Maribel & Trina pose outside Daiichi Ramen & Curry in Aiea Shopping Plaza

The first thing you notice is that it is very clean (perhaps even remodeled). Surprising, as they been around for quite some time. The next thing you notice is the two giant posters hanging on the wall advertising their “new” Tonkotsu and Tan Tan Ramens. Smart choice as those have been the popular styles of ramen here in Hawaii as of late.

Trina and I got one of each, while Maribel got the “Special Combo” with Mini Ramen & Curry choices.

Tan Tan Ramen - Healthy soup cooked for over 12 hours with chicken bones, pork rib bones and fresh ground sesame seeds, made fresh daily. - $7.75
Tan Tan Ramen – Healthy soup cooked for over 12 hours with chicken bones, pork rib bones and fresh ground sesame seeds, made fresh daily. – $7.75

Tonkotsu Ramen - Healthy soup cooked for over 12 hours with soft rib bones made fresh daily. - $7.75
Tonkotsu Ramen – Healthy soup cooked for over 12 hours with soft rib bones made fresh daily. – $7.75

Ramen from the Special Combo, Two choice - $8.75
Ramen from the Special Combo, Two choice – $8.75

Mini Curry Rice from the Special Combo, 2 Choice - $8.75
Mini Curry Rice from the Special Combo, 2 Choice – $8.75

Maribel and Trina posing with our ramens
Maribel and Trina posing with our ramens

The flavor wasn’t quite there for the Tonkotsu ramen, but the Ton Ton definitely had a lot of kick. It made all of us cry just a bit. LOL!

Daiichi Ramen & Curry
Aiea Shopping Plaza
99-080 Kauhale Road, Bldg A
Aiea, HI 96701 (Street View)
(808) 486-7432
Daily: 10:30am-9:30pm

Note: A new location also just opened up at 1029 Makolu Street in Pearl City (808-455-9898), which is the strip mall with Starbucks, Kozo Sushi and Panda Express FYI.

 

Next up is Sumo Ramen & Curry. They’ve got 6 or so locations sprinkled across Oahu now, but the one we visited for this review was the tiny one in the Moanalua 99 food court area.

Sumo Ramen & Curry at Moanalua 99
Sumo Ramen & Curry at Moanalua 99

We had the little one with us so everything had to be ordered in “to go” packaging (… You know, just in case. LOL!), but everything was pretty tasty nonetheless. They have quite an extensive menu with offerings in the curry, fried noodle, udon, fried rice, cold soba and ramen categories, in addition to various appetizers you don’t usually see at a place like this.

Spicy Chicken Wings Appetizer - $3.75
Spicy Chicken Wings Appetizer – $3.75

Wifey ordered the Mochiko Chicken Curry Combo, while I got, what else?, the Tonkotsu Ramen. At least I’m consistent right? ๐Ÿ™‚

Tonkotsu Ramen - $7.50
Tonkotsu Ramen – $7.50

Here’s a shot of our entire meal.

Spicy Chicken Wings appetizer ($3.75), Tonkotsu Ramen ($7.50), and wifey's Mochiko Chicken Curry Combo ($9.50)
Spicy Chicken Wings appetizer ($3.75), Tonkotsu Ramen ($7.50), and wifey’s Mochiko Chicken Curry Combo ($9.50)

Sumo Ramen & Curry
Moanalua 99 Food Court
1151 Mapunapuna Street, Suite W-9
Honolulu, HI 96819 (Street View)
(808) 833-3139

 

IchiBen in Pearl City’s Times Square Shopping Center is a somewhat newer addition to the ramen scene, but has quickly gained popularity amongst the locals in the area. They specialize in fried rice, curries Korean style BBQ, and their ramens. The attention to detail with their ramen broth is evident by the meticulous description on their menu:

Our special cooked-from-scratch broth is low-simmered for 8-10 hours, resulting in a clear stock with layers of intense flavor. The ingredients include pork shank bones, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, kombu, dried shrimps and scallops, onions, garlic, ginger and leek. You can choose from Shoyu or Miso flavor. The third choice, Paitan, is kanchi for white soup. This signature pork and chicken soup is slow-boiled for 10 or more hours until the stock turns a milky white color. It is rich in collagen and flavor, also known as tonkotsu, and it’s a regional style from Southern Japan. Ours is delightfully light and smooth, without the greasy taste because of our constant skimming all day. We do not use MSG in our cooking, including the soup stock.

Here’s a shot of the Seafood Ramen with Paitan style broth.

Seafood Ramen with Paitan broth - $8.45
Seafood Ramen with Paitan broth – $8.45

Wifey seemed to be happy with her order of the Shoyu version.

Seafood Ramen with Shoyu broth - $7.95
Seafood Ramen with Shoyu broth – $7.95

On a return visit, I wasn’t really in the mood for ramen (it was hot out), so I read the menu’s description of their “Flaming Grill” options and was sold. I swear, the guy who wrote these should win some kind of award for always making me so hungry! ๐Ÿ˜›

Our BBQ chicken and Kalbi are marinated in Korean-style sauce with shoyu, sugar, ginger, garlic, black pepper and sesame oil for at least 12 hours to bring out the full flavor. Grilled to perfection and served with steamed rice, macaroni salad and tsukemono.

IchiGrill - 1 fillet of chicken and 2 slices of kalbi short ribs - $9.95
IchiGrill – 1 fillet of chicken and 2 slices of kalbi short ribs – $9.95

I actually liked the Korean BBQ items more than the ramen here. Very flavorful and tasty!

IchiBen
Times Square Shopping Center
98-1254 Kaahumanu Street, Suite B-06
Pearl City, HI 96782 (Street View)
(808) 488-4200
Sun-Thu: 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm

 

Mililani natives would know all about our next stop: Genki Ramen, which has a location on each side of the H2 (Mililani Mauka and Mililani town). Working out here in the often chilly-willy Central Oahu locale, it’s easy to make a quick lunch run to either location. Here are co-workers and friends Wendy and Maribel during a recent visit to the Mauka location.

Wendy and Maribel pose with our spread from Genki Ramen
Wendy and Maribel pose with our spread from Genki Ramen

Wendy ordered the Pork Vegetable Fried Noodles, which, ironically (at a ramen shop), is one of my favorite dishes here.

Pork Vegetable Fried Noodle - $7.50
Pork Vegetable Fried Noodle – $7.50

I usually order the Seafood Fried Noodles sans the radioactive looking ginger or the Mabo Tofu Ramen, but since this is a Ramen Quest, I took one for the team and ordered the marquee item on the menu: The New Genki Ramen (Big Bowl)!

New Genki Ramen (Big Bowl) - $9.75
New Genki Ramen (Big Bowl) – $9.75

Although da buggah is HUGE, it’s rather deceiving because, like many of the other ramens on their menu, the noodles seem to always be lacking. To me, they overstuff the bowl with cabbage and bean sprouts and never have enough noodles at the bottom for me to slurp on.

Maribel got the Combo A Set which included a Mini Shoyu Ramen, Fried Rice and 4 pieces of Gyoza.

Combo A Set - Mini Shoyu Ramen, Fried Rice and 4 pieces of Gyoza - $7.75
Combo A Set – Mini Shoyu Ramen, Fried Rice and 4 pieces of Gyoza – $7.75

Genki Ramen II (Mililani Mauka)
95-1840 Meheula Parkway
Mililani, HI 96789 (Street View)
(808) 626-7829

 

Rumor has it that there was some kind of rift (ala Gomaichi and Goma Tei) that caused one owner to leave Genki Ramen to start this next ramen restaurant chain: Ramen Ya. Although there is one in Kahului (Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center on Maui), and one to open soon in Hawaii Kai, this review is for the somewhat new location in the Pearl Highlands area.

The menu is remarkably identical to Genki Ramen’s one so I went with what I knew best and ordered the Mapo Tofu Ramen. Yep, it’s spelled “Mapo” here.

Mapo Tofu Ramen - $7.25
Mapo Tofu Ramen – $7.25

Co-workers and friends Erin and Diane went curry and ordered the Deep Fried Gyoza Curry Rice and the Curry Ramen respectively.

Deep Fried Gyoza Curry Rice - $7.75
Deep Fried Gyoza Curry Rice – $7.75

Curry Ramen - $7.25
Curry Ramen – $7.25

Erin and Diane with our food at Ramen-Ya
Erin and Diane with our food at Ramen-Ya

If you like Genki Ramen, you’ll like it here as well (and vice versa).

Ramen-Ya
1170 Kuala Street, Suite 308
Pearl City, HI 96782 (Street View)
(808) 456-8868
Daily: 10:30am-9pm

 

I never even knew this next place existed until I did a site visit in the area for work. Since it was lunch time and we were mad hungry, Maribel (yes again) and I decided to scope things out at Ton Ton Ramen.

The menu is fairly extensive with noodle, udon & rice dishes, combos, side orders and a variety of special ramens including the Black Sesame Tan Tan Ramen, Ippin Ramen, Oxtail Ramen, and the one I got, which was the very popular Soft Rib Ramen.

Soft Rib Ramen - Ribs are slowly cooked over 8 hours until tender & juicy. Ramen is served in a garlic shoyu base with traditional half cooked egg. Original Japanese style. - $8
Soft Rib Ramen – Ribs are slowly cooked over 8 hours until tender & juicy. Ramen is served in a garlic shoyu base with traditional half cooked egg. Original Japanese style. – $8

The soft boiled egg was a nice touch, though it wasn’t quite as soft-boiled as I would’ve liked it. The nori was also a good attempt at being authentic. The soup needed more flavor but the soft rib was definitely soft and tasty.

Surprise surprise. Maribel got a combo yet again. LOL! This time around, she got the Mochiko Chicken Combo, which included the Mochiko Chicken, a mini ramen, and gyoza.

A happy looking Maribel with her Mochiko Chicken Combo - $9.45
A happy looking Maribel with her Mochiko Chicken Combo – $9.45

Ton Ton Ramen
94-050 Farrington Highway
Waipahu, HI 96797 (Street View)
(808) 677-5388

 

Back in the day, when we used to go clubbing (yes, THAT long ago), this next stop was one of our staples: Taiyo Ramen, thanks to its late night hours of operation. Located in between the now two defunct Blockbuster and I Love Country Café locations off Piikoi, this ramen joint has stood the test of time and endured the ups and downs of the market.

I don’t have any current prices or photos, but here are a few dishes from way back in 2006.

Gomoku Ramen
Gomoku Ramen

Seafood Udon
Seafood Udon

Soba from Taiyo Ramen
Soba from Taiyo Ramen

Makes me want to get drunk and go there again for old time’s sake. 8)

Taiyo Ramen
451 Piikoi Street, Suite 105
Honolulu, HI 96814 (Street View)
(808) 589-2123
Mon-Thu 10am-1am
Fri-Sat 10am-3am
Sun 10am-9pm

 

And speaking of late night eats, here’s a quickie shot of my Oxtail Ramen from none other than Sanoya’s. Ahhh, the memories…

Oxtail Ramen from Sanoya's
Oxtail Ramen from Sanoya’s

Not exactly gourmet eating, but good enough for those late night cravings.

Sanoya Rahmen
1785 S King Street, Suite 4
Honolulu, HI 96826 (Street View)
(808) 947-6065

 

And finally, here’s a “fast kine” location we recently hit up at the Manoa Marketplace: Nishi Mon Cho Ramen. As you’ll see in the photos, we again ordered everything in take out containers because we had baby with us. Our parents were pretty hungry, but wifey and I weren’t so we decided to share something small. I got the daily (Friday) special, the Curry Beef Rice & 4 pcs Gyoza combo, while wifey got a mini shoyu ramen.

Nishi Mon Cho Friday Special - Curry Beef Rice & 4 pcs Gyoza - $6.99 (with wifey's mini shoyu ramen on the side). Yes, I'm not a fan of cooked carrots. :P
Nishi Mon Cho Friday Special – Curry Beef Rice & 4 pcs Gyoza – $6.99 (with wifey’s mini shoyu ramen on the side). Yes, I’m not a fan of cooked carrots. ๐Ÿ˜›

Some of the other daily specials at Nishi Mon Cho Ramen
Some of the other daily specials at Nishi Mon Cho Ramen

The warm, fuzzy story behind this visit was that the worker (who appeared to be the owner) was very friendly and accommodating with us, noticing our obvious apprehension (whether to eat in or take out) due to our situation with the little one. She shared information about her own kids and made everyone feel very comfortable.

Nishi Mon Cho Ramen
Manoa Marketplace
2851 E Manoa Road #1-104
Honolulu, HI 96822 (Street View)
(808) 988-9928
Daily: 10:30am-9pm

 

And that’s it! Whew! That was a packed one! If I don’t see or talk to you guys soon, have a safe and happy holiday season. See y’all next month/year! ๐Ÿ™‚

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

Poke Paradise – Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii – Part I

January 1, 2010
ย Part Iย | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

I gotta admit… One of the perks of working on these “best of” pieces is the eating. I’m lucky enough to grind some of the most onolicious foods Hawaii’s got to offer and live to write about it. This month, I’m covering one of my all-time favorite snack/food/pupu/whatever-you-wanna-call-it: Poke! Aurite!

According to Wikipedia, poke (pronounced poh-kay) is “a raw fish salad served as an appetizer or main course in Hawaiian cuisine. Poke is Hawaiian for ‘section’ or ‘to slice or cut’.”

The expert in local kine poke is local kine chef Sam Choy. In his new book, simply named “Poke” he shares some history: “In the old days, the whole slice would be eaten, skin, bones, and all. Inedible portions were picked or spat out. When the raw fish was ‘prepared,’ it meant the fish was mashed (lomi), or other ingredients were added to it, mostly salt and savories like ‘opihi, lobster, sea urchin roe, kukui nut relish, and different kinds of limu (seaweed) – manauea, lipe`epe`e, kohu, lipoa, etc.”


Buy This Book from Amazon.com

Growing up as a second generation Japanese-American, raw fish and seafood has always been a part of my life, so poke was a natural and, frankly, easy transition for my taste buds. In high school, I worked in the seafood department at my neighborhood market and became somewhat known for my poke concoctions. I remember customers asking if I made the poke that day, and, if I said, “No, I just came in,” they would frown and walk away. I took that as a great compliment.

My goal with this article is simple: Give props to the local establishments, big and small, who are doing poke right, right here in Hawaii. I’m proud to be from Hawaii, and feel that it’s almost my duty as a local boy to spread the word about those who are doing their part to perpetuate the rich culture that is poke.

Yama’s Fish Market
Yama’s is a small fish market I used to frequent during my old school UH days, back when they were near Poha Lane. Now, they’re right down the road on Young Street and is almost always a pumpin’!

Yama's Fish Market Sign
Yama’s Fish Market Sign

Though their Hawaiian plate lunches are pretty mean, my main focus whenever I go to Yama’s is their Ahi Masago Poke. It’s to die for! Trust.

Ahi Masago Poke - just made for me! - $11.95/pound
Ahi Masago Poke – just made for me! – $11.95/pound

Masago is already an escape from the norm of “standard” poke ingredients, but furikake on top of that? Combine that with green onions, sesame seeds (which may be part of the furikake), shoyu maybe?, and choke sesame seed oil, and you getcho self one winnah!

Yama's Ahi Masago Poke up close
Yama’s Ahi Masago Poke up close

I’ve been trying to reach Yama’s Fish Market’s President Brian Yamamoto for a soundbite, but da buggah is hard to reach. If you’re out there Brian, holla, and I’ll add your quote here.

(UPDATE! Mr. Yamamoto emailed me, thanking me for the plug. Mahaloz!)

Until then, go give the Ahi Masago Poke from Yama’s a try, but be sure to save some for me kay? ๐Ÿ™‚

Yama’s Fish Market
2332 Young Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 941-9994
Mon-Sat: 9am-7pm
Sun: 9am-5pm
(Holiday Hours)


Golden Mart
Not too many people know about this hidden gem in Mililani, but it’s quickly become one of my all-time favorite places to get my poke fix on (like Donkey Kong).

Outside Golden Mart in Mililani
Outside Golden Mart in Mililani

Located in a small strip mall on the Mililani Golf Course side of Kamehameha Highway (across Mililani Shopping Center), Golden Mart sells what you’d traditionally find at a local mini mart like snacks, beer and cigarettes. How they separate themselves from the pack however, is their mouth-watering selection of hot foods, boiled peanuts, and poke.

Three popular pokes from Golden Mart: Creamy Wasabi Ahi, Spicy Tuna and the Golden Mart Special
Three popular pokes from Golden Mart: Creamy Wasabi Ahi, Spicy Tuna and the Golden Mart Special

Employee Cori, and owner Julie Miyatake, who doubles as a USPS employee, both agree that Fridays are the best days to come if you’re looking for poke as the entire display case is filled with the different varieties they carry. My personal favorites are the Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke…

Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke in the display case
Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke in the display case

Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke up close - $10.99/pound
Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke up close – $10.99/pound

… and the Golden Mart Special.

Golden Mart Special with the special sauce on the side -$9.99/pound
Golden Mart Special with the special sauce on the side -$9.99/pound

Golden Mart Special with the special sauce inside
Golden Mart Special with the special sauce inside

Although, I’m not a fan of wasabi (I don’t even use it on my sashimi/sushi), the Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke brok’ da mout’! How they make it is still a mystery, but if I had to guess, I’d say the tobiko-like topping (they’re green!) is filled with (or marinated in?) wasabi flavoring, while the rest of the poke is mixed with mayo (and wasabi?) in a creamy ahi sorta way. ๐Ÿ˜›

The Golden Mart Special’s lure is the Golden Mart special sauce, hands down. Filled with a concoction of liquids including shoyu, sesame seed oil and other mysterious ingredients that I’d pay to know ๐Ÿ˜› , this sauce is what keeps ’em comin’ back. You can’t even get the special sauce (other than paying for it separately) if you don’t order the Golden Mart Special!

For good measure (and since I’ve got the photo ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), here’s also a shot of Golden Mart’s Spicy Tuna poke for kicks… another winnah!

Spicy Tuna Poke
Spicy Tuna Poke

Golden Mart
95-119 Kamehameha Highway
Mililani, HI, 96789 (map)
(808) 625-2442โ€Ž

While, we’re in the Mililani area, let’s visit the place that Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’ Guy Fieri recently visited: Poke Stop.

Poke Stop
Chef Elmer Guzman, a graduate of the Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts program, has trained under Alan Wong, worked as a sous chef under Emeril Lagasse, and was the Executive Chef at Sam Choy’s Diamond Head Restaurant before opening his two Poke Stop locations (one in Waipahu and one in Mililani Mauka).

In addition to serving up “gourmet food at plate lunch prices” (their catch phrase), Guzman and company offer a bevy of poke to live up to their namesake. Some of their “must tries” are the Sweet Onion Ahi poke, the Blackened Ahi poke, the Furikake Salmon poke, the Ginger Scallion Shrimp poke, “Da Works” Oio poke, and my personal favorite, the Spicy Creamy Ahi poke.

Spicy Creamy Ahi Poke - $10.95/pound
Spicy Creamy Ahi Poke – $10.95/pound

Poke Stop – Waipahu
94-050 Farrington Highway, E-4
Waipahu, HI, 96797 (map)
(808) 676-8100

Poke Stop – Mililani Mauka
95-1840 Meheula Parkway
Mililani, HI, 96789 (link on Google maps is inaccurate. Should be here.)
(808) 626-3400

And, to my neighbor island bruthas and sistahs, no worries. I gotcho back! Here’s a little Honolulu love to The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai.

The Fish Express
Very conveniently located on Kuhio Highway in Lihue, Kauai…

Outside The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai
Outside The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai

… I like to pick up a quarter pound or so on my way to Hamura’s Saimin. The cold saltiness of the fish matches perfectly with the hot saltiness of the saimin.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke from The Fish Express - $6.99/pound
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke from The Fish Express – $6.99/pound

The Fish Express (Kauai)
3343 Kuhio Hwy. # 10
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 245-9918
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Sun: 10am-4pm

Alas, I’ve been tasked to make my poke for a New Year’s family gathering, so here’s a lil’ step by step action that will 1) help you if/when you make your own batch and 2) help to refresh my memory! LOL! Enjoy!

Diced/Cubed Ahi blocks with Hawaiian salt and green onions added (props to Ryan Moriguchi for reeling in the fish!)
Diced/Cubed Ahi blocks with Hawaiian salt and green onions added (props to Ryan Moriguchi for reeling in the fish!)

Inamona (kukui nut) added
Inamona (kukui nut) added

Limu Kohu/Ogo (seaweed) added
Limu Kohu/Ogo (seaweed) added

Close up of each portion greeting each other
Close up of each portion greeting each other

Everything mixed together with sesame seed oil and shoyu
Everything mixed together with sesame seed oil and shoyu

Though, I’d love to continue, I don’t think my stomach can take any more of this torture (it’s lunch time as I write this ๐Ÿ˜› )! Besides, I need to save some poke shots for parts 2 and 3 (and 4?)! ๐Ÿ˜›

Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve got in store: Tokkuri-tei, Tamashiro Market Inc., JJ’s Seafood, Pa`ina Cafรฉ, Off the Wall, Safeway, Costco, and Sam’s Club. My “To Do” list includes: Ruger Market, Ono’s (Kapahulu), Fresh Catch, Masa & Joyce, Alicia’s Market,ย Tamura’s, and Tanioka’s.

If you have any hook-ups/connections to any of the places above, holla! I’d love to interview them! If you have any poke (dish) suggestions for the above as well, or new locations altogether, feel free to let me know in the comment area below!

Happy New Year y’all! Shoots!

ย Part Iย | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V