Posts Tagged ‘Miso ramen’

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka – Japan Style Ramen Opens Shop Outside Don Quijote

November 1, 2013

I know it’s been a little over a month since they opened, but now that another little person has taken residence in my home, the outside life has been severely limited. So when a morning meeting in town recently got on the schedule, my mouth started to water with the possibilities for lunch.

My first desire was to actually try Agu Ramen in Moiliili. Brah! Based on all the pictures I’ve seen online, that place looks legit. Seriously looked like some of the meanest ramen joints I’ve eaten at in Japan. Unfortunately, they are still currently only open during dinner hours (from 5pm).

The other “hot” ramen place that has been hitting the coconut wireless lately was Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, a Japanese chain with 52 locations spanning the globe in places like California, Chicago, New Jersey, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand, in addition to Japan where it all got started. This is where today’s ramen will be.

Outside Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Outside Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

Located in the old Ezogiku location in the food court area right outside Don Quijote Honolulu, Santouka has a reputation (for good reason) of having a long wait. Following my mid-morning meeting, I picked up my friend Bari somewhat early in the hopes of avoiding that crowd. We got there a little before 11:30, and it was already packed (they open at 11am)! Luckily, we were only the second group on their sign in sheet, and there were a handful of groups just finishing up so our wait was only about 5-10 minutes. #BoomKanani!

We got a seat at the “bar” which had some strange saddling type chairs to sit on. I wish I took a picture of it. Not long after looking at the menu, the waitress asked if we were ready to order. Not quite ready, I hastily spurted out miso ramen. Boring, yes, but that’s always a safe bet.

I was actually interested in a thicker soup base like the kotteri or paitan bases we’re all used to from places like Tenkaippin or Yotteko-Ya, but according to the menu’s description, it sounded like I would be ok: “Santouka’s mild and creamy broth, made from pork rib and broth is deliberately simmered for two days. We maintain the cooking standards of Japan at every Santouka location worldwide.”

Soup bases be simmerin'
Soup bases be simmerin’

The wait for the ramen wasn’t long. In less than 10 minutes, behold… a steaming bowl of miso ramen was in front of me.

Miso Ramen - Miso flavored ramen. Pork broth seasoned with miso (fermented soy bean paste) - $9.50
Miso Ramen – Miso flavored ramen. Pork broth seasoned with miso (fermented soy bean paste) – $9.50

The options here are pretty standard: Shio (salt), Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso and Kara Miso (spicy miso). You can apparently choose the fattiness of the soup base and the firmness of the noodle, but if you don’t ask, they’ll give it to you Japanese style (standard soup base with al dente/firm noodles).

You can order from three different sizes: Small, Medium and Large with a different price for each one. For the Shio, Shoyu and Miso, the Small is $8.50, the Medium is $9.50 and the Large is $10.50, while the Kara Miso is $8.99 for the Small, $9.99 for the Medium, and $10.99 for the Large. The photo above was a Medium. Bari went for the Medium Kara Miso and asked for it to be “extra spicy” as well.

Kara Miso Ramen - Spicy hot miso flavored ramen. Pork broth seasoned with hot spices and miso (fermented soy bean paste) - $9.99 [Photo Credit: Bari Carroll]
Kara Miso Ramen – Spicy hot miso flavored ramen. Pork broth seasoned with hot spices and miso (fermented soy bean paste) – $9.99 [Photo Credit: Bari Carroll]

The color is misleading because – according to Bari – it wasn’t that spicy… Although the sweat pouring out of his forehead said otherwise. 8)

Overall, it was an OK experience there. Ramen was fresh and fast with the noodle firmness I wanted. Soup base wasn’t quite what I wanted, but good for being miso based. Workers and clientele were mostly from Japan, which is always a good sign. Hopefully, things won’t change once they send the grand opening employees back to Japan. Then again, it will probably take me a while to get back out of the house again anyway…

For more on ono kine ramen restaurants here in Hawaii, check out my Hawaii Ramen Quest series here: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
801 Kaheka Street (food court outside Don Quijote Honolulu)
Honolulu, HI 96814 (Street View)
(808) 941-1101
Open 11am-11pm daily

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Vegas Kine Grindz – Part II

March 1, 2012
Part I |  Part II 

The last time I wrote an article devoted to the ono grindz of our 9th island of “Lost Wages”, Crash won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and George W Bush was our President. It was actually my very first foray into food articles here on AroundHawaii (way back in April of ’06) and was aptly titled “Vegas Kine Grindz“. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane shmall kine and continue the series with part II, an almost 6 years later!

Since we literally just completed a 5-part series on Hawaii’s best ramen, and my brain can’t function any other way yet 😛 , let’s start off this trip with one of Las Vegas’ best ramens…

 

Monta Japanese Noodle House

Located conveniently on Spring Mountain Road, this popular noodle house regularly receives rave reviews from tourists and locals alike.

Outside Monta Japanese Noodle House. Expect to wait in a line.
Outside Monta Japanese Noodle House. Expect to wait in a line.

Before we left, my friend Dave’s friend recommended Monta, as did my friend and co-worker Shane. On this occasion, we were taken by Jeff, an old high school classmate turned Las Vegas resident. He says he goes there at least once a week and is practically an expert when ordering his bowl.

Shoyu Ramen ($6.95) with extra Chashu Pork ($2.50) and two Nitamago (soft boiled egg) ($1.50 each) [Photo Credit: Jeff Hee]
Shoyu Ramen ($6.95) with extra Chashu Pork ($2.50) and two Nitamago (soft boiled egg) ($1.50 each) [Photo Credit: Jeff Hee]

If you’ve been following my ramen series for the last 5 months, you’ll know that I’m a tonkotsu fiend, so there really was no other option for me.

Tonkotsu Ramen ($6.95) with Nitamago ($1.50), Nori ($0.75) and Shredded Green Onion ($0.75)
Tonkotsu Ramen ($6.95) with Nitamago ($1.50), Nori ($0.75) and Shredded Green Onion ($0.75)

If you’re a big eater, portions are relatively small here. I would recommend saving some soup at the end and going for the Kaedama (extra order of noodles) for an additional $1.50.

Your other options here for ramen are Tonkotsu-Shoyu ($6.95) and Miso ($7.25), and for Toppings, Takana Mustard Leaf ($1.50), Kimchi ($1), Corn ($0.50) and Butter ($0.50).

Here’s their complete menu: http://www.montaramen.com/menu.php

I would rate this as one of the top 3 ramens I’ve ever had in the U.S. Yes, it’s THAT good. The tonkotsu broth is legit, and the Chashu pork melts in and “brokes” your mout’ at the same time! 😉 This is a MUST visit on every Vegas trip.

Monta Japanese Noodle House
5030 Spring Mountain Road Suite 6
Las Vegas, Nevada 89146 (Street View)
(702) 367-4600
Daily: 11:30am-11pm

 

Secret Pizza (No Name Pizza Kitchen)

When a place has no signage to speak of and goes by the name of “Secret Pizza”, you know you’re onto something good. In fact, the only way people know about this place is by word of mouth. Heck, they even answer the phone with a plain & simple “Pizzeria”! I was super excited to eat there, primarily because of the mysteriousness of it all.

The entrance doesn’t look like much of anything and is pretty much just a dark hallway. You would probably walk right past it if you weren’t paying attention.

Dark, inconspicuous entrance to Secret Pizza with no signage to speak of
Dark, inconspicuous entrance to Secret Pizza with no signage to speak of

Also known as the “No Name Pizza Kitchen” (NNPK), you’ll be sure to find the makings of a traditional pizza kitchen at the end of the hall, in addition to a long line of “in-the-know” patrons.

The line inside Secret Pizza
The line inside Secret Pizza

I’m not really a big pizza eater, but these pie slices literally had me panting for more. The first night I had their sausage and jalapeno slice, and the next night (yes, we went twice! 😉 ), I picked up a mushroom pepperoni slice.

My mushroom, pepperoni slice ($4.50)
My mushroom, pepperoni slice ($4.50)

You can customize any slice of pizza for $0.50 additional per topping. Also popular is their “White” pizzas which have ricotta cheese and no red sauce. They go for $5 a slice.

Rumor has it that all of the ingredients for the pizza are actually homemade right here in the kitchen and restaurants from other hotels & casinos actually buy their ingredients from them. Another rumor is that they only use Evian water when mixing their dough. Not too sure how true these rumors are, but the pizza was really dang good!

Secret Pizza, aka No Name Pizza Kitchen, aka NNPK
At the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109 (Street View)
(702) 698-7000
Fri-Mon: 11am-5am
Tue-Thu: 11am-4am

 

Sushi Mon

All-you-can-eats in Las Vegas is like saying beaches in Hawaii. You’ll find them everywhere, some better than others. Sushi Mon is one of those popular all-you-can-eats off the strip that is still reasonable and maintains good quality.

Outside Sushi Mon
Outside Sushi Mon

There were 7 of us there that night for the $26.95 All You Can Eat Dinner special, so I’m sure they were a bit afraid of the damage we were about to cause. They churned out order after order like champs though (and fast!) so mad props to them. Here’s some of what we ordered that night as well as from a previous visit there.

2 orders of Ikura (salmon roe) and 2 orders of Masago (smelt egg)
2 orders of Ikura (salmon roe) and 2 orders of Masago (smelt egg)

2 orders of Hokkigai (surf clam) and 2 orders of Hamachi (yellowtail tuna)
2 orders of Hokkigai (surf clam) and 2 orders of Hamachi (yellowtail tuna)

Their popular Cajun Albacore sushi
Their popular Cajun Albacore sushi

Snow Crab Meat Sushi (you're only allowed one order per person)
Snow Crab Meat Sushi (you’re only allowed one order per person)

Ed’s Tip: Be aware that you only have a 60 minute time limit here, but as mentioned above, the chefs here churned out our orders pretty quickly so it was never an issue for us.

Sushi Mon
8320 W Sahara Ave, Suite 180
Las Vegas, NV 89117 (Street View)
(702) 304-0044
Daily: 11:30am-2am
@SushiMonVegas

 

Hikari Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

In the mood for sushi again, 5 of us headed to a placed called Hikari, based on a tip we got.

Outside Hikari Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
Outside Hikari Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

You can actually get all you can eat steak here too, but you have to choose one or the other. We opted for the $26.95 sushi route.

All you can eat sushi menu from Hikari
All you can eat sushi menu from Hikari

Although they were out of a few items (as was Sushi Mon), the choices here seem to be a little deeper. Here are some highlights of the choices we went with.

Sashimi combo
Sashimi combo

Raw fish without the rice is always a good thing during all-you-can-eat dining! 8)

Soft Shell Crab
Soft Shell Crab

Amaebi sushi
Amaebi sushi

Screem Inor Gazim
Screem Inor Gazim

Hikari
4175 S Buffalo Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89147 (Street View)
(702) 889-6660
Daily: 5pm-2am

 

And finally, we’ll close things out with a sweet sandwich find for this sandwich obsessed lover.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop

Capriotti’s is a franchise sandwich shop with 75 locations across the U.S. (32 in Nevada alone). My friend’s wife swears by their Capastrami subs (Hot pastrami, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and cole slaw), so we had to go and check it out.

Capriotti's sandwich making station
Capriotti’s sandwich making station

We visited the Paradise Road location right near our hotel at the Hard Rock. In addition to the Capastrami, the New Jersey sounding guy taking our order (whom I assumed to be the owner), suggested the Bobbie (The nationally acclaimed best-seller! Hand-pulled, slow roasted, homemade Turkey, fresh cranberry sauce, homemade stuffing and mayo).

Special sign for the Bobbie
Special sign for the Bobbie

Here’s a cross sectional look at the sandwich.

The Bobbie from Capriotti's
The Bobbie from Capriotti’s

Buggah was grindz! I gotta go back and try some of their other subs!

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop
4480 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169 (Street View)
(702) 736-6166
Mon-Fri: 10am-7pm
Sat-Sun: 11am-5pm
@capriottis

 

The primary reason for this trip was to celebrate the engagement of my brother-in-law Lee, bachelor party style. Congratulations bro!!!

Da boyz celebrating Lee's final days as a single bachelor
Da boyz celebrating Lee’s final days as a single bachelor

Now… If we can ever find a bride for my friend Todd (center), we can work on Vegas Kine Grindz – Part III. I wouldn’t hold your breath though. That may take more than 6 years… 😉

Part I |  Part II 

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part V

February 1, 2012
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV |  Part V 

Although varying in sizes and flavors, many of the ramen shops we covered in this series have one thing in common: their noodles are supplied by the same, local, noodle factory based right here in Hawaii. So what better way to close this series out than with where ramen in Hawaii all begins… Sun Noodle.

Outside Sun Noodle's Honolulu Factory
Outside Sun Noodle’s Honolulu Factory

At the helm of it all is Sun Noodle Founder and President Mr. Hidehito Uki who started the business more than 30 years ago (founded way back on July 10, 1981). Uki-san in fact comes from a noodle making bloodline. His family had a fresh noodle making “ya” (store) in the Tochigi Prefecture (then) named the Ikeda Noodle Company. Here, he perfected the art of “men” before moving to Hawaii.

Sun Noodle President Mr. Hidehito Uki
Sun Noodle President Mr. Hidehito Uki

While studying ESL (English as a Second Language) here at Hawaii Pacific University (Hawaii Pacific College at the time), he would often eat at local ramen shops looking for a place that reminded him of home. Frustrated, he set out to do something about it and that’s how Sun Noodle was born.

“There’s nothing more powerful than the sun. When you think of Hawaii, you think of the sun. That’s why I named the business Sun Noodle.”

His 10,000 square foot Honolulu factory on Colburn Street can produce up to 30,000 servings of raw noodles per 8 hour day. They churn out over 100 products like yakisoba, udon, chow fun, pancit, gyoza and won ton wrappers, and, for ramen alone, they make over 30 different styles!

Overlooking the Sun Noodle factory from above
Overlooking the Sun Noodle factory from above

Amazingly, even with that many choices, Mr. Uki’s philosophy is that every noodle order must be custom made for his clients based, on the flavor of their soup.

“Every soup our customer makes is their personality. The noodles and the soup have to have a nice combination. Even if you make good noodles and good soup, if it doesn’t match, it’s no good. That’s why we go out there and taste the soup from each client and try to figure out what noodle would go best with that particular soup. We keep trying until we get it right. Sometimes I spend months to find the perfect noodle to match their soup.”

Most of his factory’s noodles start with the same base: flour, water, salt and potassium carbonate. It is the variances in flour type and water that makes all the difference.

“We are lucky to have good water here in Hawaii. It makes good noodles.”

The ingredients are thrown in (by hand) to a large vat…

Sun Noodle employee throwing in the ingredients for this batch of noodles
Sun Noodle employee throwing in the ingredients for this batch of noodles

… where it is mixed together…

Ingredients are mixed together
Ingredients are mixed together

… and flattened into a thin sheet by automated machinery. Large rolls of these flattened concoctions are then fed into another machine…

Large flour rolls feeding into the machine that cuts them into noodles
Large flour rolls feeding into the machine that cuts them into noodles

… which slices and dices them into their famous noodle shape.

Where noodles are cut into their famous shape(s)
Where noodles are cut into their famous shape(s)

Some are straight, some are wavy, and some even have a different color to them (based on the type of flour). Here’s a batch of noodles being prepared for Zippy’s Restaurants’ famous Zip Min.

Noodles for Zippy's Restaurants' Zip Min
Noodles for Zippy’s Restaurants’ Zip Min

Depending on what is being made, the noodles are then either packaged right there or sent off to the steaming/cooking room where they (usually yakisoba or udon) take a bath before being packaged.

Trays of yakisoba noodles are cooked in hot water before being packaged
Trays of yakisoba noodles are cooked in hot water before being packaged

For a while, he tried to service his mainland customers out of this factory alone, but it proved to be a difficult task with them being spread throughout California, Washington, Nevada, Vancouver BC (Canada), and parts of the East Coast. Ultimately, in order to provide the freshest noodles possible to his mainland customers, he decided to open up another factory in the greater Los Angeles area (on W Mahalo Place ironically) in 2004. Not satisfied, he will soon open up another factory in the New Jersey area so that his East Coast customers and their clientele get the freshest Sun Noodles they can get.

“Providing fresh noodle is the best! Instead of making the noodles in L.A., freezing it, and shipping it to the East Coast, we decided to make a factory in the East Coast so we can provide the freshest noodles possible.”

During the tour, I asked Mr. Uki what he thought of Saimin (compared to ramen), and his answer, which I really enjoyed, gave me that ultimate “a-ha” moment.

“Each area in Japan has their own, unique style of ramen. Kyushu has Hakata style (tonkotsu), Hokkaido has Sapporo style (miso)… Saimin is Hawaii’s style of ramen.”

I never thought of it that way, but it’s very true! I now have a new found appreciation for saimin. Being from Hawaii, I’m required to be proud of it. 😉

I also asked him what his thoughts were on slurping as a custom. I once asked my parents (who are also from Japan) why people slurp so loudly when eating their ramen. They told me that it is a sign of respect and appreciation for the ramen chef. It tells them that the noodles are delicious and is the ultimate compliment you can give to them. Mr. Uki had a different explanation:

“It looks tasty if you slurp your noodles. If you don’t smell the noodles, you can’t taste it. Of course, when you slurp, you bring in the air, which is important to help you smell and taste the ramen. Nowadays, even the non-Japanese community is starting to slurp their noodles.”

In my brief conversation with Mr. Uki, I could tell that his passion for noodles ran deep.

“We try to make the best noodle possible. We will try to make best noodle market in Hawaii for everybody to enjoy ramen.”

He truly loves what he does and best exemplifies what I love so much about ramen: a warm base with humble beginnings… Here’s to another 30 years!

 

Mahalo for following along during this obsessive, noodle & soup-filled expedition. Although the Hawaii Ramen Quest series has come to an end, the journey continues. See y’all at the next ramen stop!

Note: R.I.P. to Hawaii Journalism legend Mr. John Heckathorn who also covered Hidehito Uki and Sun Noodle in his noodle series: “In Search of the Ultimate Noodle“.

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

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part IV

January 1, 2012
Part I | Part II | Part III |  Part IV  | Part V

We’re already 3 deep in our Hawaii Ramen Quest, but before we get all up into the 4th, I wanted to check in with y’all real quick-like, to see how your holiday season went. Didja get to cruise with family and friends and pound ono kine grinds? Ain’t that da best? And what about your resolutions for the new year? Hopefully, one of them wasn’t to lose weight ’cause here comes another flurry of ramen photos to make you hungry! 😉

First up is Kiwami Ramen. I’ve heard a lot about this place (from reputable resources!) and have been dying to go there for the longest time, but Waiks ain’t exactly the easiest place to get to, or park for that matter… So when a meeting in Waikiki recently came about, I planned my lunch around a visit to this authentic tasting ramen shop in Waikiki Shopping Plaza’s food court.

Taking the escalator down to the Waikiki Shopping Plaza's Food Court
Taking the escalator down to the Waikiki Shopping Plaza’s Food Court

At first glance, this place looked legit. Japanese customers (from the muthaland kine) being waited on by a hardcore Japanese wait staff with Ramen Chef Yasuyoshi Sato manning the ship. I kept having to remind myself that d’uh… we were in Waikiki, where most of the Japanese tourists who visit us in this great state, congregate (mate!).

Then came the food. Although we ordered just ramen, we were given a complimentary small bowl of their Charsiu Rice. Wasn’t quite sure if it was because we were kama`aina, super handsome 😉 or if it was complimentary for everyone, but I wasn’t about to question it. Into my trap went the pork!

Small Charsiu (Roast Pork) Rice - $2.50
Small Charsiu (Roast Pork) Rice – $2.50

It wasn’t quite as flavorful and tasty as my favorite from Yotteko-Ya, but it was an ono start nonetheless… and it was FREE! 🙂

Then came my jam-packed order. While most ramens on Kiwami’s menu hover in the $8-$10 range, I saw a big ticket item at the top of the menu, smack dab in the middle. Referred to as the “Special Topping” Ramen, this $13.75 option – which included charsiu, egg, bamboo, corn and green onions – was the one I just had to have.


“Special Topping” Shoyu Ramen – $13.75 (Miso & Shoyu Thick Noodle options are $14.25)

Their soup base comes from a chicken feet & fruit combination that is boiled together for over 5 hours. Chiyu (chicken oil) is also added to select ramen dishes.

My buddy Todd got the Shoyu Thick Noodle ramen option, which resembled the kotteri style of ramen that I was looking for a little more, came with a shoyu based soup with pork fat. Here he is showing off his choice (and trying his best to smile).

Todd with his Shoyu Thick Noodle ramen - $9.25
Todd with his Shoyu Thick Noodle ramen – $9.25

You can really tell their attention to detail when it comes to the flavor and temperature of the soup and the consistency of the noodles. In fact, according to their web site, Chef Sato stands by three simple rules: 1) the ramen must be served quickly, 2) the soup must be hot, and 3) the taste must be consistent. They definitely hit on all three. So much so that I am looking forward to going back to try it again (and again).

Kiwami Ramen
Waikiki Shopping Plaza
2250 Kalakaua Ave, Suite LL102
Honolulu, HI 96815 (Street View)
(808) 924-6744
Daily: 11 am – 2:30 pm (lunch)
Daily: 5 pm – 10 pm (dinner)

 

My earliest memory of pounding ramen in Hawaii was at an Ezogiku, and, looking at their web site, it looks as though I’m right. They opened their first ramen specialty shop here way back in 1974! Wow, that was before some of us were born! Nobody I know, but still… 8)

With only a limited supply of poor quality photos of take out dishes from a previous visit to the Pearl City Ezogiku, I was in dire need of some better looking shots for this piece. Four friends/co-workers stepped up to the plate for me as we took a little field trip to the Ezogiku in Waimalu for some quickie lunch hour fooding.

Maribel, Trina, Wendy and Dennis ready to grind at Ezogiku Waimalu
Maribel, Trina, Wendy and Dennis ready to grind at Ezogiku Waimalu

Afraid that I would tease her for ordering yet another combo (see Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part III) Maribel threw me off the scent by ordering something totally different than her norm. She went with the Seafood Ankake Crispy Noodle.

Seafood Ankake Crispy Noodle - $7.25
Seafood Ankake Crispy Noodle – $7.25

Trina was torn between the Seafood Champon and the Ankake Ramen, but, since she likes her food spicy, she went with a suggestion from aunty (our waitress): the Spicy Ankake Ramen.

Spicy Ankake Ramen - $7.75
Spicy Ankake Ramen – $7.75

Wendy seems to like her fried noodles (see Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part III). She’s not really helping a brutha out on this RAMEN quest is she!? Haha, nah, nah Wen! Variety is good right? Here’s her order of Pork & Vegetable Fried Noodle.

Pork & Vegetable Fried Noodle (yakisoba) - $6.25
Pork & Vegetable Fried Noodle (yakisoba) – $6.25

Ezogiku is known for their Miso. In fact, their miso paste, fermented for over 2 months, is homemade and produced only out of their Honten (Main Branch at Waseda, Tokyo). The recipe, consisting of more than 30 spices, is super secret and is only known by their late Ezogiku chief cook Tomoji Onishi’s successor and founder Kenichiro Mitsui. Whether he knew all of this or not 😛 , Dennis ordered the Miso Ramen like a champ.

Miso Ramen - $6.25
Miso Ramen – $6.25

I went with the other dish that Trina was hung up on: the Seafood Champon Ramen. It was tasty, but reminded me of many of the ramens covered in Part III. Perhaps I’ll go miso next time.

Seafood Champon Ramen - $7.25
Seafood Champon Ramen – $7.25

Although Ezogiku started its Sapporo style ramen in Japan, they have several locations in Hawaii as well as Vancouver, BC. Fun tip: The name Ezogiku derives from the two words Ezo & Giku. Ezo is the original name of the island of Hokkaido (where their Sapporo style ramen originated) and Giku (kiku) means chrysanthemum, the national flower of Japan. You can’t say you never learn anything from my articles now. 😉

Ezogiku
Waimalu Shopping Center
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy
Aiea, HI 96701 (Street View)
(808) 488-9850
Daily: 11am-10pm

 

I noticed this next place when lunching it with my boy Bari one day at our usual hotspot: Mama Woo’s BBQ on South King Street. Located on the backside of this tiny strip mall, the sign and entrance to Chinpei Ramen is rather unassuming.

Sign outside Chinpei Ramen
Sign outside Chinpei Ramen

The interior still has that old school feeling (I remember eating here when it was an old Japanese restaurant long ago), but it is very clean with new tables and chairs, paint and furnishings. One freshly painted wall then takes us back to old school again with hand-written menu items taped haphazardly throughout.

Handwritten menu items at Chinpei Ramen
Handwritten menu items at Chinpei Ramen

I ask the waitress in her native Japanese what the most popular ramen is and she tells me it’s the Samma-Men. Samma-Men it is!

Large Samma-Men (Thick Soup) Ramen - $9.30 ($7.60 - Small / $8.30 - Regular)
Large Samma-Men (Thick Soup) Ramen – $9.30 ($7.60 – Small / $8.30 – Regular)

You can also choose the size of noodle you’d like (Egg Thick Noodle or Thin Noodle) in a variety of styles (udon, yam noodle or shirataki, harusame, or organic flour noodle).

Bari and I were in the mood for Shumai as well so we ordered the 6 piece. Here’s Bari with the Shumai and a mouthful of Samma-Men. Sorry B! 8)

Bari with his Samma-Men and our 6-piece Shumai order ($5.93)
Bari with his Samma-Men and our 6-piece Shumai order ($5.93)

You can order the Shumai and Vegetable Gyoza in quantities of 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12, and the regular Gyoza (Pot Sticker) goes even further with additional quantities of 14, 16, 18, 21, or 24!

Chinpei Ramen
2080 S King Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (Street View)
(808) 947-5919
Tue-Fri: 11am-2:30pm (lunch)
Tue-Fri: 5pm-10pm (dinner)
Sat: 11am-10pm
Sun: 11am-9pm
Closed: Mondays

 

On a rare drive out to the Windward side, we decided to hit up Rai Rai Ramen in Kailua before taking some hacks on the Bay View Mini-Putt Pali course. I remember the experience (taste) being really good at Rai Rai, with various new and special menu items, and vowing to return again the next time I set foot (or tire) on Oneawa Street.

Rai Rai Ramen (Kailua) sign
Rai Rai Ramen (Kailua) sign

Wifey had the Miso Ramen, which included konbu, wakame, char siu, kamaboko, green onions and garlic chips.

Miso Ramen - $7.50
Miso Ramen – $7.50

I got something off their new (at the time) menu called Hot & Spicy Seafood Ramen. It wasn’t as spicy as I expected, which was a good thing since I am still attending Spicy Training University. 😛

Hot & Spicy Seafood Ramen - $9.75
Hot & Spicy Seafood Ramen – $9.75

I also ordered a side of Fried Oysters for good measure.

Side Order of Fried Oyster (3 Piece) - $3.25
Side Order of Fried Oyster (3 Piece) – $3.25

Rai Rai Ramen (Kailua)
124 Oneawa Street
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 230-8208
Wed-Mon: 11am-8:30pm
Closed Tuesday

 

I will refer to these final two locations as our one hit wonders. Not necessarily because it’s the only ramen option they got. Quite the opposite actually. More so because it’s the only photo I took at the time. *blush* Check it.

Mr. Ojisan is one of my friend Grant’s favorite restaurants. Amongst a menu chock-full of Japanese eats, they carry 5 different ramens: Miso Charsiu Ramen, Vegetable Charsiu Ramen, Cold Ramen, Tonkotsu Miso Ramen (which I must go back and try!) and the one I got on this particular visit: the Ojisan Ramen.

Ojisan Ramen - $8.95
Ojisan Ramen – $8.95

Mr. Ojisan Japanese Restaurant
1016 Kapahulu Ave #140
Honolulu, HI 96816 (Street View)
(808) 735-4455
Mon-Fri: 11am-1:45pm (Lunch)
Mon-Thu: 5:30pm-10:30pm (Dinner)
Fri-Sat: 5:30pm-12am (Dinner), with Karaoke from 10pm-2am

 

Even though Yakitori Yoshi is primarily a yakitori house, they still have three ramens on their menu: Butter Ramen, Tonkotsu Ramen (which, again, I must try), and the Yoshi Ramen below.

Yoshi Ramen - $5.90
Yoshi Ramen – $5.90

At least I think it’s the Yoshi Ramen. My friend Rick, who was the one who actually ate it, can’t even remember eating at the restaurant, let alone what he ordered that night. LOL! We’ll go with the Yoshi Ramen. 😛

Yakitori Yoshi
1427 Makaloa Street
Honolulu, HI 96814 (Street View)
(808) 941-6891
Daily: 5:30pm-12am

 

And there you have it. Part 4 of the Hawaii Ramen Quest is in the books. Next month, we wrap things up with a visit to Sun Noodle Factory and an interview with the man himself Hidehito Uki. Space permitting, I’ll also try to mention a few must eat ramen spots in the muthaland itself… Japan.

Now get back to your New Year’s diet! 😉

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

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 😛 , 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? 🙂

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! 😛

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. 😛

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! 🙂

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