Posts Tagged ‘Saimin’

Saimin in Hawaii?

September 24, 2012

Rice Fest countdown =
5 days

A Monday post! Wha-WHAT!? Yes, I’m working on a local saimin series (like I did with my previous Ramen Quest series) and need your help y’all!

So far, I’ve documented my experiences at Shige’s, Shiro’s, Hamura’s, Nakai, and have a few others up my sleeve, but I wanted to put the call out to you folks to see if you had any other suggestions. In the comment area below, please post your list of fave saimin eateries around town and why and I’ll go check um out. If you have da time, let’s eat there together so I can include you in the article! ๐Ÿ™‚

Saimin in Hawaii?
Saimin in Hawaii?

Other than that, my life has been pretty much all Rice Fest (I may even be on tomorrow morning’s news on Hawaii News Now). Hope y’all can make it this Saturday!

3rd Annual Rice Fest!

This year’s Rice Fest will be held next week Saturday, September 29th from 11am-7pm at Ward Centers! There will be cooking demonstrations from Chef Mavro of Chef Mavro Restaurant and his partners Stephanie Lum and Shawn Ching of Hawaii News Now, and Grant Kawasaki of Hawaiian Grown TV & Hawaiian Grown Kitchen and his partner Justin Cruz from KHON2, Santa Miyoshi of Tokkuri Tei defending his “Riceipe” contest belt, live entertainment by Jody Kamisato & ‘Uke’s Rising Stars and Jon Yamasato, and taiko drumming from Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii, our 3rd annual SPAM Musubi eating contest, and our attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s Largest SPAM Musubi! Don’t forget to also bring your brown rice or monetary donations for our beneficiary Lanakila Meals on Wheels. Can’t wait! See you there…

3rd Annual Rice Fest
3rd Annual Rice Fest

Saturday, September 29, 2012
11am-7pm @ Ward Warehouse
Interact: / Facebook / Twitter
RSVP: Facebook Event / Twtvite


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Sam Sato’s – Dry Mein & More!

April 1, 2012

So this review of the legendary Sam Sato’s on Maui is more than a few years delayed. My bad. I guess it’s shmall kine hahd for this Oahu boy to get around these days, especially with the little one around. But trust… It’s worth the wait! ๐Ÿ™‚

Sam Sato’s is a pseudo hole-in-the-wall type eatery, located in Wailuku Maui, in the same “historical” lineage of the Hamura’s Saimins (Kauai), Nori’s Saimin & Snacks (Big Island) and Shiro’s Saimin Havens (Oahu) of the world.

Sam Sato's sign
Sam Sato’s sign

On any given day, there will usually always be a wait to get in. Be prepared.

The wait outside Sam Sato's
The wait outside Sam Sato’s

Don’t forget to sign in on their cute, self-waitlist system: a pen and a pad.

The waiting list system at Sam Sato's
The waiting list system at Sam Sato’s

Once you hit the lottery and your name gets called, you are seated inside, which has all the charm and nostalgia of yesteryear including palaka style window trimmings, old school paintings, and black & white photos from back in the day.

Inside Sam Sato's
Inside Sam Sato’s

You’ll even find posters/photos signed by local celebrities like Na Leo, Frank DeLima, & Maui natives Ekolu, as well as our two Hawaii-born living legends BJ Penn & Shane Victorino (also a Maui boy).

Signed photos from Shane Victorino and BJ Penn
Signed photos from Shane Victorino and BJ Penn

Sam Sato’s has a variety of popular noodle dishes like their Saimins, Won Ton Meins and Chow Funs, but none are as popular as their Dry Noodles, endearingly referred to as Dry Mein, due to their lack of a traditional soup base.

Sam Sato's Dry Noodles, aka Dry Mein
Sam Sato’s Dry Noodles, aka Dry Mein

The noodles aren’t exactly dry-dry. In fact, the consistency and flavor almost reminds you of a fried saimin/noodle type dish. The kicker here is that the dish comes with a small bowl of a chicken based stock/broth, which you are supposed to drizzle on before every bite.

Sam Sato's Dry Mein order with broth (S - $4.95, L - $5.75, Double - $7.25)
Sam Sato’s Dry Mein order with broth (S – $4.95, L – $5.75, Double – $7.25)

Like many of the other old school saimin shops, Sam Sato’s is also known for their BBQ sticks. My buddy Joel, a Maui native, ordered a couple BBQ Beef Sticks for good measure.

BBQ Beef Sticks from Sam Sato's ($1.25 each)
BBQ Beef Sticks from Sam Sato’s ($1.25 each)

Since he’s been here many times, Joel decided to forego the Dry Mein and feed his craving for Hamburger Steak, which he claims was also “Bomb.” Here’s a shot of our food.

BBQ Beef Sticks, Dry Mein and Hamburger Steak ($7) from Sam Sato's
BBQ Beef Sticks, Dry Mein and Hamburger Steak ($7) from Sam Sato’s

As if that weren’t enough, these buggahs also make some of the most ono kine manjus & turnovers evaaaar!

Partial Manju display at Sam Sato's
Partial Manju display at Sam Sato’s

Pictured here is the Azuki Bean Manju, with the Coconut, Peach and Apple Turnovers. They also had a Lima Bean Manju along with the Pineapple-Coconut, Pineapple-Peach, and Blueberry Turnovers. I’m not really a sweets person, but bruddah ova hea went to town! For omiyage of course! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Manju and Turnovers from Sam Sato's
Manju and Turnovers from Sam Sato’s

My favorite part was the “key” they stamped on every take out box so you knew exactly which turnover was what.

Turnover 'key' stamped on take out box
Turnover “key” stamped on take out box

Sam Sato’s is one of those “must-visits” whenever you are in Maui. Personally, I’m already trying to figure out when my next visit there will be. Likely not soon enough.

Sam Sato’s
1750 Wili Pa Loop
Wailuku, HI 96793 (map)
(808) 244-7124
Mon-Sat: 7am-2pm (meals), 7am-4pm (manju pick-up)

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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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 I

October 1, 2011
ย Part Iย  | 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 / ใƒฉใƒผใƒกใƒณ 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

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

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. ๐Ÿ˜›

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!

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

Banzai to Kanpai! – Kanpai Bar & Grill

June 1, 2009

When I hear someone say “Eh, we go bar!” I picture some dark musky room with sweaty old men drinking cheap booze as they throw popcorn at the TV or complain about their nagging wives.

And although there ARE actually places like this, there are several watering holes around town that are working hard to completely wipe that image from your head. The relatively new Kanpai Bar & Grill (opened in September of 2008) off Ward Avenue is one such place.

“Kanpai” is the Japanese word for “cheers,” or to toast, and there’s definitely reason to raise a glass and give a little banzai to this “higher class” bar.

Kanpai Bar & Grill sign
Kanpai Bar & Grill sign

Why “higher class”? For one, they’ve done a number to the interior of what used to be Dixie Grill and Tio’s. Lots of great “dining” style seating (indoor and outdoor), three dart machines, multiple-touch screen game machines, and 11 or so flat screens showing the most current sporting events all complete the ambience. And we didn’t even mention the food. Not your typical popcorn and peanut collection here yo! It’s real, restaurant quality food and it’s off the hook!

Having owners/partners with many years of experience in the fine dining and food and beverage worlds probably has something to do with it.

The husband and wife dynamic duo of Nadya & Bryan Yamasaki has 17 years of Food & Beverage experience under their belts. Combine that with the culinary mastery of Neil Nakasone, Brandon Hamada, John Estrella, and Jensen Hirota (aptly named Quatro Foods) in the kitchen – with experiences at such places as The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong, Halekulani, Ritz Carlton, Ruth’s Chris, and Tokuname – and you’ve got yourself a winning formula for some of the best bar eats in town.

Two of their best sellers are the signature steaks (wafu or kim chee), and the shortrib loco moco.

Wafu Style Ribeye Steak with Kabayaki Braised Mushrooms and Onions, Daikon Oroshi, Garlic Chips, and Ponzu Sauce (12oz - $16, 16oz - $22)
Wafu Style Ribeye Steak with Kabayaki Braised Mushrooms and Onions, Daikon Oroshi, Garlic Chips, and Ponzu Sauce (12oz – $16, 16oz – $22)

Kim Chee Ribeye Steak with Kim Chee and Two Fried Eggs (12oz - $16, 16oz - $22)
Kim Chee Ribeye Steak with Kim Chee and Two Fried Eggs (12oz – $16, 16oz – $22)

Braised Shortrib Loco Moco With Natural Pan Gravy and Two Eggs - $12
Braised Shortrib Loco Moco With Natural Pan Gravy and Two Eggs – $12

Other customer favorites according to Nadya include the garlic soybeans ($7), ahi belly ($10), and something off of their daily specials menu.

Favorites of this writer include the Spicy Garlic Chicken, Pork Chops, and Fried Rice. What’s a good meal without rice right? Right.

Fried Rice with Two Eggs - $8
Fried Rice with Two Eggs – $8

Spicy Garlic Chicken - $8
Spicy Garlic Chicken – $8

Pork Chops with Sauteed Onions - $14
Pork Chops with Sauteed Onions – $14

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention their Saimin and Kalbi Fried Noodles.

Saimin with all the Fixins - $8
Saimin with all the Fixins – $8

Kalbi Fried Noodles - $10
Kalbi Fried Noodles – $10

How does Kanpai pull all of this off in such turbulent economic times?

Nadya explains, “In today’s economy, quality and value are important factors in any business. Providing good food with good value is a challenge that motivates us to meet and satisfy our customer’s expectations.”

This kind of attitude is what sets Kanpai apart from the rest. It also helps to explain the loyal customer base that packs this place on the regular.

So if you’re tired of eating peanuts with sweaty old men, give Kanpai a try the next time someone says “Eh, we go bar!” Your tummy will thank you.

Kanpai Bar & Grill
404 Ward Ave # 100
Honolulu, HI. 96814 (map)
(808) 593-9202
Open 11am to 2am daily

The Best Local Style Saimin? Shige’s Fo’ Shizzle!

February 1, 2007

With the rarefied (cold) air we’ve been facing these last few months, I thought now was as good a time as any to feature one of my favorite local style saimin spots to help keep us warm…

All my life, I grew up a townie. Living in the Salt Lake, Pensacola, Punahou, Kahala and Hawaii Kai areas, I was spoiled by the sun and all its glory. With parks and beaches always just minutes away, cold weather was as foreign to me as mouthwash is to a Maltese.

After working in the higher elevations of Central Oahu for almost 10 years now, I’ve come to realize that there actually is this thing others refer to as seasons. Not quite winter snow, spring colors, summer heat and fall leaves, but “hot around June” and “cold around December” is about the extent of it.

Aside from “bundling up,” which in Hawaii means long pants and a long sleeve, the next best thing you can do to battle these “extreme” conditions is to eat or drink something warm. So why not do both with noodles and soup?

Shige’s Saimin Stand is just the place.

Shige's Saimin Stand Sign
Shige’s Saimin Stand Sign

Located in the heart of Wahiawa, Oahu, Shige’s is, to me, the best local style saimin around. Notice how I said “local style” though? There is a distinct difference between local style saimin and Japan kine rahmen and comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. But on the real, Shige’s, on either list, is in my top 3.

Note: Apologies to those who love Hamura’s in Kauai or even some of the ones I haven’t been to yet like Sam Sato’s or Hanafuda in Maui or Nori’s in the Big Island… Shige’s rules and everyone else drools. ๐Ÿ˜›

At Ross and JoAnn Shigeoka’s shop, their trademark flat noodles are actually homemade and made fresh daily. Initially, I was simply in love with the saimin and tasty soup base, but after learning that the noodles were homemade, I grew another layer of appreciation for this island specialty.

Another one of the pleasant delights of Shige’s is their hours. They close at 10PM during the week and stay open ’til MIDNIGHT on Fridays and Saturdays. If you’ve got that late night craving/itch, they’re ready and open for you and if you’ve never tried Shige’s before, you now have no excuse.

Shige's Saimin Stand Hours
Shige’s Saimin Stand Hours

Alas, we’ve come to my favorite part… da grindz!

Shige's Menu
Shige’s Menu

Shige’s menu is quite simple. For saimin, you’ve got your choice of their regular saimin, wunton mein or vegetable saimin in two sizes: small and large. They’ve got other items including burgers, sandwiches, bbq sticks and select plate lunches, but to me, the saimin is the way to go. Going to Shige’s and not ordering saimin is like going to McDonald’s and buying a salad. Borrrrrrring!

My personal favorite is their large wunton mein. Unlike those other noodle shops around town who seem to dominate their saimin dishes with toppings rather than noodles, Shige’s is quite generous with their noodle portions. I find comfort in knowing that when I leave Shige’s, my hunger will be completely and utterly satisfied.

Shige's Large Wunton Mein
Shige’s Large Wunton Mein

If I am feeling really daring, I lose the battle of the bulge and splurge on a homemade hamburger as well. Dem buggahs probably raise my cholesterol by 50 points, but the soft, buttery bun and lusciously juicy patty lure me in with their inviting ways.

Shige's Hamburger
Shige’s Hamburger

The best part of the entire Shige’s experience is when you receive your bill. All dishes retain their old school prices and fall under $6, and, depending on the size of your party and your appetite, your total usually never exceeds $20!

To recap:

Shige’s Gem #1: Ono grindz fo battle da cold weather
Shige’s Gem #2: Homemade, fresh noodles l’dat
Shige’s Gem #3: Dey stay open late kine
Shige’s Gem #4: Dey geev choke
Shige’s Gem #5: Ho da cheap!

Delicious, keeps you warm, homemade, fresh, convenient, filling AND cheap??? I’ll drink (soup) to that!

Shige's Saimin

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

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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 (, 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.

board (waiting list) for Tenkaippin
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).