Posts Tagged ‘rahmen’

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

Eating Your Way Through Japan – Part I

January 4, 2009
 Part I  | Part II

[A hearty welcome to all you new World Wide Ed readers from the print world… Much love for visiting! Let’s make um a habit from now k? 😛 ]

About a month ago, the brand spankin’ new wifey and I went back to the motherland for our honeymoon. ‘Twas ten days of ‘moonin bliss, complete with shopping, temples, trains, onsens, monkeys (yeah, monkeys!), snow, wedding reception #2, and, best of all… food.

I’m hoping to eventually break this out into a full-fledged review of Japan (little girl diary style 😛 ), but for purposes of this blog, let’s just concentrate on the eats yo! Cool? Cool! Let’s do this!

Our first night was spent touring the Odaiba area where we stayed. We walked over to the Aqua City and Decks Tokyo Beach (Tokyo Joyopolis) shopping districts for some product-browsing and sight-seeing.

Night time view of Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba
Night time view of Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba

In the mood for some good kine Japanese rahmen, we poked around the food courts at Decks to see if anything spoke to us. Nothing did. So we took it to the streets. Awesome choice, as we ran into Yotteko-Ya Ramen. Yeah, the same one that made its way to McCully Shopping Center on Oahu.

Located on the ground floor between Decks Tokyo Beach and the Yurikamome Line (local train), the flamboyant exterior quickly catches your eye.

Outside Odaiba's Yotteko-Ya Ramen
Outside Odaiba’s Yotteko-Ya Ramen

I swear, every time we visited the one in McCully, they were sold out of their popular Paitan soup base ramen (the thick, creamy one). We’ve been there on at least 5 different occasions at 5 different times (even like 10 in the morning!), and, every single time, they were sold out. We were beginning to think that it was some kind of a conspiracy, and that they only made enough soup base for three bowls or something. We were glad to get the authentic one straight from the source.

Char Siu Ramen from Yotteko-Ya Ramen
Char Siu Ramen from Yotteko-Ya Ramen

Yotteko-Ya Ramen

Much like some Las Vegas hotel packages, the great thing about some of the hotels in Japan is that the price of the room includes meals. The next morning, we enjoyed a delicious Japanese style buffet breakfast at Ocean Dining Restaurant.

Buffet table at Ocean Dining Restaurant, Hotel Nikko Tokyo Hotel, Odaiba
Buffet table at Ocean Dining Restaurant, Hotel Nikko Tokyo Hotel, Odaiba

Our view of Rainbow Bridge during our eats was amazing!

Our beautiful view with my not so beautiful mound o' food
Our beautiful view with my not so beautiful mound o’ food

Hotel Nikko Tokyo – Odaiba

Then, it was off to see the town baby. We took the Yurikamome line to Shimbashi Station and walked to the Ginza district. There, the wife shopped at various department stores, including the (apparently *rolling eyes*) popular H&M store from America. We also found some time to snack in between.

Treats at Nenrinya
Treats at Nenrinya

Yes, we’re posers. We didn’t actually buy anything from here (if you saw the crazy lines, you wouldn’t either! 😛 ), but we did capture some shots for you curious bees out there.

The line at Nenrinya
The line at Nenrinya

Nenrinya

One place we weren’t posers at was Starbucks (the Ginza Matsuya-dori store to be exact). We stopped to fill our tummies here real quick like.

Two Tall Tazo Chai Tea Lattes (¥940) and one Strawberry Roll (¥280). Typical Starbucks prices...
Two Tall Tazo Chai Tea Lattes (¥940) and one Strawberry Roll (¥280). Typical Starbucks prices…

On the wall, we noticed a sign that said “Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. The 1st Store August 2nd 1996″… Pretty cool! We’ve been to the first store in America (Seattle) and now Japan. Where’s next? 🙂

Sign at Starbucks Ginza Matsuya-dori store: Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. The 1st Store August 2nd 1996
Sign at Starbucks Ginza Matsuya-dori store: “Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. The 1st Store August 2nd 1996”

Starbucks Ginza Matsuya-dori

Refueled, we caught the JR Yamanote Line to Harajuku to check out the famous Takeshita Doori. There we went to a food court and ate at the best looking option: Umaya.

Umaya
Umaya

They are famous for their Miso Fried Noodles, which I loaded up with all the toppings I could get my hands on (including Nori, Katsuobushi (dried tuna), Sansho (Sichuan pepper), and Black Pepper)!

Miso Yakisoba (Fried Noodles) from Umaya (with my bevy of sprinkles!)
Miso Yakisoba (Fried Noodles) from Umaya (with my bevy of sprinkles!)

The next day, we headed to Ueno to check out the popular Ameyayokocho shopping street.

Ameyayokocho, also known as Ameyoko, in Ueno
Ameyayokocho, also known as Ameyoko, in Ueno

This area is good for buying snack-type omiyage or produce if you were gonna whip up something yourself at home. We walked by a fresh fish/sashimi type street stand that seemed to be getting a lot of action Jackson. Perhaps, if it were lunchtime we would’ve checked it out, but, ah, next time!

The line at a popular sushi/sashimi stand in Ameyoko
The line at a popular sushi/sashimi stand in Ameyoko

Next stop: Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa

The path leading to the temple is full of vendors selling anything from gifts, to good luck charms, to food.

Mall leading to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Mall leading to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa

We ate our share of fresh snacks like kinako mochi on a stick, fresh senbei (cooked right in front of you) and red bean manju in the shape of birds.

For lack of a better name, let's call this one mochi-on-a-stick. :P
For lack of a better name, let’s call this one mochi-on-a-stick. 😛

Frying up fresh senbei and dipping it in their shoyu-sugar base. YUM!
Frying up fresh senbei and dipping it in their shoyu-sugar base. YUM!

Wifey got her hands on all the warm, an filled manju
Wifey got her hands on all the warm, an filled manju

Then it was back to Ginza for a kushikatsu restaurant recommended by pops. To kill time, we did more browsing/shopping and ended up at a neat, little Tea Lounge on the top floor of Ito-Ya (a popular paper/pen/office supply type store).

Ito-Ya Tea Lounge, Ginza, Japan
Ito-Ya Tea Lounge, Ginza, Japan

There, we rested our bones from the day’s travel, next to a hot (and cold) cup of Joe, er Tea.

Hot and Cold Tea from Ito-Ya's Tea Lounge
Hot and Cold Tea from Ito-Ya’s Tea Lounge

And that concludes Part I yo. WHEW!

Sorry, but there are CHOKE photos from the kushikatsu restaurant, so you’re gonna have to wait for those in part II. *grin*

Talk to me!
* Been to any of these hotspots yourself?
* How were your experiences there?
* Gonna check um out next time you go to Japan?
* What are the “must-trys” at the places I went to so far, but missed?
* Did I make you hungry yet? 😛

Happy New Year y’all! Hope you’re still holding strong by your resolutions this, what, 4th day into the new year. 😉 Shoots!

 Part I  | Part II

P.S. No fo-get fo check out my latest AroundHawaii.com column:

Anuhea Jenkins - Reppin' Hawaii One Song At a Time
Anuhea Jenkins – Reppin’ Hawaii One Song At a Time

Tenkaippin – A Taste of Kyoto In the Heart of Waikiki

June 1, 2006

So there you are. Sitting in your teeny little 5′ x 5′ cubicle, with no money or vacation time, daydreaming of getting away to a far away land… Preferably someplace that involves an exciting nightlife and good eats for cheap. No?

Ok, so you’re not like me. Let me repaint the picture for you. There you are, loungin’ in your ergonomically-correct Lay-Z-Boy-like office chair in your colossal suite of an office, with wads of sweaty cash seeping out of your ears. Your administrative assistant meticulously plans the exotic destination of the month that your private jet will take you to. Better?

If this is the case, two things: 1) I hate you and 2) this column is not for you! 🙂 Kidding of course, but this column is geared more for the common folk. You know, the everyday man or woman who likes a good deal and a fun time when he/she sees one. If this is you, come along with me to explore a place serving up a little bit of Kyoto, Japan right in the heart of Waikiki: Tenkaippin Hawaii.

A quick search on your favorite airline reservations web site will give you a round-trip ticket from Honolulu to Japan for anywhere from the upper $600-700s to over $2000! I even saw a ridiculously priced Air France option for a mere $7305! Merrrcy! And, unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family who live there and are willing to put up with you for a week or two, let’s not forget to include the costs of hotel and daily expenditures. By the time you come back, you’ll be wishing you just went to see the Duke Kahanamoku statue and considered it a vacation.

Duke Kahanamoku statue, Waikiki
Duke Kahanamoku statue, Waikiki

So flying to Japan for 7,000 big ones is not your bag. That’s ok, I feel you. But what is one to do if one desires the pleasures of travel, but lacks the needed time and fundage? Well, your options are simple. Either find yourself a generous sugar momma or daddy or pay a visit to the streets of Waiks.

Ahhh, Waikiki. If you concentrate really really hard, you can almost trick yourself into thinking it’s a vacation in and of itself. The white sandy beaches, the melting pot of cultures and languages, and the multitude of shopping options and eating establishments. Taking a stroll down Kalakaua Avenue will give you a first person’s view of living the life as your typical tourist.

(! – If you’re from these parts pard’ner, I suggest you park your horse ride at one end and walk through Waikiki, rather than drive it. It gives you more of a touristy feel, helps you get circulation through your otherwise dormant legs, and allows you to notice a lot more than you probably would if driving.)

Among the myriad of eateries is an authentic, Japanese noodle-shop style restaurant called Tenkaippin (pronounced as two words, Tenka Ippin) on the more western end of Kalakaua. As part of a chain of restaurants in Japan carrying the same name (www.tenkaippin.co.jp), this little, unassuming shop carries a big chopstick when it comes to taste and popularity, and has been doing so for the last six years.

If you come at just the right time, the first thing you’ll notice is the bright, but welcoming red doors, signage and noren, or door curtains.

Front entrance of Tenkaippin Hawaii
Front entrance of Tenkaippin Hawaii

I say “right” time because this place is almost always crowded. If you come at the wrong time, all you’ll see is a large crowd outside and the sign-in board staring you in the face.

Sign-in board (waiting list) for Tenkaippin
Sign-in board (waiting list) for Tenkaippin

(! – If you can help it, get there early or at off-peak hours to avoid the crowds)

Once you enter, you’ll immediately notice the cleanliness and just-like-home atmosphere the place gives you. The effervescent aroma of the unique soup base also tickles your nasal cavities.

A view of the kitchen with President Scott Suzui hard at work
A view of the kitchen with President Scott Suzui hard at work

Rare open seating with unique condiments adorning the tables
Rare open seating with unique condiments adorning the tables.

Since much of their clientele are those from Japan, you’ll notice that, as you look around, a lot of the signage caters to the them.

Menu options in Japanese
Menu options in Japanese

Even the takoyaki specials are in Japanese!
Even the takoyaki specials are in Japanese!

Information on their specialty: the kotteri rahmen
Information on their specialty: the kotteri rahmen

No worries though, they’ve got an English menu for us gaijin (foreigners) too. And, if you think that that reading thing is overrated, you’re in luck. Just plop down in your seat and announce to the world kotteri onegaishimasu! You’ve just ordered yourself the specialty in which they’re known for, the kotteri rahmen.

The famous Tenkaippin kotteri rahmen
The famous Tenkaippin kotteri rahmen

“The kotteri rahmen is what we’re famous for,” says president Scott Suzui. “It has an unusual taste that’s almost addicting.”

The kotteri rahmen noodles swim in a soup that is very thick and rich. This thickness is accomplished by cooking chicken and assorted vegetables for over ten hours, bringing out the collagen, which Suzui points out is also good for healthy looking skin. Grindz that takes care of the tummy and the face? What more could you ask for!?

It all starts with the thick kotteri soup base
It all starts with the thick kotteri soup base

Amazingly, all of the soup ingredients are flown in directly from Japan. Now that deserves an exclamation point on the end of Authentic!

A couple of words of advice before embarking on your inaugural kotteri adventure:

The kotteri rahmen and soup base is an acquired taste. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, local saimin stand flavoring. If you’re used to eating “real” rahmen from Japan, then you’ll be ok here. If not, consider yourself warned.

Be prepared for some sore limbs, especially on the hand and nether regions! By my 4th bite, the ol’ money makers started to get really tired. The soup is so thick and the noodles are so heavy with the flavoring that it takes a good amount of effort to shovel this delicacy into your pie hole. You may want to consider doing finger bicep curls before trying your hand at this.

Taking a stab at the heavy kotteri noodles
Taking a stab at the heavy kotteri noodles

On your table, you’ll notice an assortment of condiments, some more recognizable than others. Scott recommended using the chili/garlic concoction with my kotteri to enhance the flavor. I’ve never had that before, but YUM! Strong garlic taste, with a hint of spice! And for those who can’t eat garlic (or are part vampire), he recommends using the chili/miso.

Chili/garlic concoction used to add flavor to your meal
Chili/garlic concoction used to add flavor to your meal

For those more in the mood of the mainstream stuff, Tenkaippin also serves up your traditional combo meals like the miso rahmen/fried rice combo below.

Tenkaippin's fried rice
Tenkaippin’s fried rice

Tenkaippin's miso rahmen
Tenkaippin’s miso rahmen

And what’s a virtual vacation to Japan without experiencing a little takoyaki (fried octopus dumpling) on the side?

Half dozen order of takoyaki please!
Half dozen order of takoyaki please!

So you see, going on vacation doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost very much for that matter. And let’s face it… Avoiding that 8 hour flight ain’t so bad either. Whether you’re daydreaming from a 5×5 or a Lay-Z-Boy, one thing’s for sure… you can find a bit of Kyoto right in the heart of Waikiki. Itadakimasu!

Scott Suzui and wife Mayumi in front of Tenkaippin Restaurant
Scott Suzui and wife Mayumi in front of Tenkaippin Restaurant

Tenkaippin Hawaii
617 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 732-1211

2132 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 926-1100
(808) 926-1103 – FAX

NOTE: Tenkaippin Has Moved!
New address above (on Kapahulu Avenue, next to Zippy’s and around the corner from Tokkuri-Tei and Dave’s Ice Cream).