Posts Tagged ‘ramen’

Saimin Adventures – The Search for Hawaii’s Best Saimin – Part I

November 1, 2012

It wasn’t long after wrapping up the final part in my 5 part series on Hawaii’s best ramen, that people started harassing me. “You need to cover saimin now!” “What about Hawaii’s best saimin places!?”

As good as their suggestions were, prior to my interview with Sun Noodle president Hidehito Uki, I was a full-on ramen snob. I would normally only “stoop” to eating saimin out of desperation. At Zippy’s, in a drunken state, during the wee hours of night during our clubbin’ days. When driving to a ramen place in town was too far. Or when your whole group agrees on a saimin place and it’s too late to renege on your previous “up to you” comment.

I’m of course exaggerating (I love anything with noodles!), but Mr. Uki seriously slapped some saimin sense in me with his life changing, epiphanic quote:

“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.”

Sun Noodle's Hidehito Uki during our Hawaii Ramen Quest - Part V interview back in February
Sun Noodle’s Hidehito Uki during our “Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part V” interview back in February

Hellooooo!? The world now made perfect sense to me. And with that, I was no longer a ramen snob, ready to tackle the next noodle adventure around the state. “Saimin Adventures”, here we come!

We start with my favorite saimin place in the state: Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa.

Shige's Saimin Stand sign
Shige’s Saimin Stand sign

Living and working in the often chilly Central Oahu, it’s easy to pay this place a visit at least once a week to warm the ol’ soul. But it’s not because of convenience that Shige’s tops my list for local style saimin, it’s taste.

Large Wunton Mein
Large Wunton Mein

Although their menu boasts a fair amount of alternatives like Hamburger Steak, Loco Moco, Fried Saimin, Roast Beef Sandwiches, and udon, I *always* order their Wunton Mein. I just can’t bring myself to go to Shige’s and NOT order saimin. The soup base is “clean” & subtle, and not overbearing, while the homemade, signature, flat noodles is always soft and never clumpy (my pet peeve). The balance of noodles to Wunwon/garnishes (another pet peeve of mine) is also jussssst riiiight.

If I’m hungry (or I have someone to share it with), I like to order their BBQ Cheeseburger on the side to round out my meal. She go!

Large Wunton Mein and BBQ Cheeseburger
Large Wunton Mein and BBQ Cheeseburger

I did notice a sudden increase in their prices lately, but I think it’s only because I’ve been spoiled to their 80s style pricing up until now.

Shige’s Saimin Stand
70 Kukui Street
Wahiawa, HI 96786 (Street View)
(808) 621-3621
Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm
Fri & Sat: 10am-midnight
Closed Sundays

The next place has been somewhere I’ve been trying to get to for a long time: Nakai Saimin. There is a family association between Shige’s and Nakai (the noodles are based on the same recipe), and since Shige’s is up there on my list, I wanted to see how Nakai compared. So I enlisted the help of Twitter friends and Nakai regulars Russ Sumida (@ParkRat), Brandon Suyeoka (@WeHeartHawaii) and Rick Nakama (@RickNakama).

Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama outside Nakai Saimin
Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama outside Nakai Saimin

The first thing you notice is the soup base. It’s clearer with a tad less flavor. And I’m hoping I caught them on a bad day, but remember how I said that my pet peeve was clumpy noodles? There were some elements of clumpiness going on there. It seemed that the noodles and the won ton may’ve been of the previously frozen variety.

Small Won Ton Mein ($5.95)
Small Won Ton Mein ($5.95)

For good measure, I thought I’d give their popular BBQ Stick a try.

BBQ Stick ($2.75)
BBQ Stick ($2.75)

Although it wasn’t as hard/crisp as what I’m used to with BBQ sticks (which may actually be a good thing), this one had good flavor throughout.

I’m willing to go back again for sure, but if I had to pick a winner between Shige’s and Nakai (based on this visit), I would have to give it to Shige’s. The boys didn’t agree with me.

 


Russ Sumida, Brandon Suyeoka and Rick Nakama give their review of Nakai Saimin

Nakai is expanding both their hours (see below) and their footprint. Rumor has it that another Nakai Saimin recently opened up in Haleiwa, the town where it actually all started (their original location was in Haleiwa back in the ’50s).

Nakai Saimin
1329 Nuuanu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96813 (Street View)
(808) 531-9000
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 6am-2:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Fri: 5:30pm-9pm (Dinner)
Sat: 7am-2:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Sat: 5:30pm-9pm (Dinner)
Sun: 7am-3:30pm (Breakfast & Lunch)
Wed: Closed

Lastly, let’s pay a visit to everyone’s favorite late night eatery: Zippy’s! Like Shige’s, it’s difficult for me to go there and NOT get the saimin. In this case, it’s Zippy’s signature favorite: the Zip Min.

Zip Min (Saimin noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fishcake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork, and green onions.
Zip Min (Saimin noodles, wun tun, breaded shrimp, choi sum, fishcake, dried seaweed, egg, sweet pork, and green onions.

In a recent visit there, the wun tun had a noticeably different (and stronger/”garlic-y”) taste. Over the years, the portions – as with many of the other menu items here – seem to be shrinking while the cost continues to rise. A sign of the economic times I suppose.

Zippy’s
Locations: Varied
Hours: Varied
808-973‑0880

Look for more during our “Saimin Adventures” where we explore the famous noodles from places like Hamura’s on Kauai, Sam Sato’s on Maui and Shiro’s right here on Oahu. If you have any other suggestions for places I should visit (yes, Palace is on my list! πŸ™‚ ), leave a comment for me below.

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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. πŸ˜‰

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 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 πŸ˜› , 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? πŸ™‚

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! πŸ˜›

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. πŸ˜›

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! πŸ™‚

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

Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? (Ramen edition!) – October 5, 2011

October 5, 2011

Keeping it simple last week obviously did not work. LOL! We’re gonna go back to tree photos and see how da buggah goes.

Dis week, to go along with my new AroundHawaii series called Hawaii Ramen Quest, we goin go wit da Ramen theme. Can? Can!

Photo #1
Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? - October 5, 2011
Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? – October 5, 2011

Points for Photo #1…
* Location: 2 points
* General area?: 1 point
* Closest street(s)?: 1 point each
* Google Street View link?: 2 points
* Name of ramen?: 2 points
* Why wuz we dea?: 3 points
* Month photo was taken?: 1 point
* Day of the month photo was taken?: 1 point
* Day of the week photo was taken?: 1 point
* Year photo was taken?: 1 point
* Exact time photo was taken?: 5 points

Photo #2
Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? - October 5, 2011
Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? – October 5, 2011

Points for Photo #2…
* Location: 2 points
* General area?: 1 point
* Closest street(s)?: 1 point each
* Google Street View link?: 2 points
* Name of ramen?: 2 points
* Name of side dish?: 2 points
* Where was our first choice to eat? (this was our second choice): 3 points
* Month photo was taken?: 1 point
* Day of the month photo was taken?: 1 point
* Day of the week photo was taken?: 1 point
* Year photo was taken?: 1 point
* Exact time photo was taken?: 5 points

Photo #3
Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? - October 5, 2011
Where In the Hawaii is Edward Sugimoto? – October 5, 2011

Points for Photo #3…
* Location: 2 points
* General area?: 1 point
* Closest street(s)?: 1 point each
* Google Street View link?: 2 points
* Name of ramen?: 2 points
* Why wuz we dea?: 3 points
* Month photo was taken?: 1 point
* Day of the month photo was taken?: 1 point
* Day of the week photo was taken?: 1 point
* Year photo was taken?: 1 point
* Exact time photo was taken?: 5 points

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Don’t forget to check out Part I in my hunt for the best Ramen in Hawaii: Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I:

Hawaii Ramen Quest - Part I
Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I


Have a happy VH07V Wednesday y’all! Don’t forget to post your guesses below k? Shoooots!

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I

October 1, 2011
Β Part IΒ  | 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 / ラーパン 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. πŸ˜›

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!

Β Part IΒ  | 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? πŸ˜› ]

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 πŸ˜› ), 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! πŸ˜› ), 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 (Β₯940) and one Strawberry Roll (Β₯280). Typical Starbucks prices...
Two Tall Tazo Chai Tea Lattes (Β₯940) and one Strawberry Roll (Β₯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? πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜›

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? πŸ˜›

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