Posts Tagged ‘Tenkaippin’

Agu Ramen Bistro – Already One of Hawaii’s Best Ramen Spots

December 1, 2013

My journey to Agu actually started online.

As mentioned in my review of Hokkaido Ramen Santouka last month, I haven't seen much of the outside world following the birth of our second child. So looking at the most tastiest looking photos on Facebook and Instagram of a new ramen place called Agu, was about as close to "eating out" as I was going to get.

Finally, the day came… When all the stars seemed to align! We were in town first of all. Baby #1 just crashed out and Baby #2 had a nice, long, scrumptious feeding. I had mentioned to the wife before that I wanted to check this new place out, but she was always worried about how we're going to handle it with two youngins.

Enter the in-laws.

They are ramen lovers just as much as we are, so we all decided that we would attempt an outing together because with 4 against 2, the odds were in our favor. 😉

We headed to 925 Isenberg – the old Da Kitchen location and the back of the Saint Louis Alumni Association Clubhouse – early and walked right in (they had recently opened their hours to include lunch so we weren't sure how the crowd would be). It was cold and slightly wet outside… the perfect weather for ramen.

Outside Agu Ramen Bistro
Outside Agu Ramen Bistro

Inside, things were very clean and new-looking. Cute even. Perhaps a nod to the "Bistro" in their name.

Inside Agu Ramen Bistro
Inside Agu Ramen Bistro

First up was the Agu Gyoza stuffed with ground pork, cabbage and nira (garlic chives) and served fresh daily!

Agu Gyoza - 6 pc, ground pork, cabbage and nira (garlic chives) - $5.25
Agu Gyoza – 6 pc, ground pork, cabbage and nira (garlic chives) – $5.25

Delicious, but nothing I haven't tasted before. And then… dun dun DUNNNNN! The ramen came… BRAAAAAH!

Here's a look at the wife's Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen, topped with house made char siu, aji tamago, menma (fermented bamboo shoots), negi (green onions), chopped onions, kikurage (cloud ear mushroom) & sesame seeds.

Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen - bonito infused shoyu tare served with black sesame paste. - $10.75
Shoyu Tonkotsu Ramen – bonito infused shoyu tare served with black sesame paste. – $10.75

The chashu is marinated in sake-soy, using only premium grade pork from Okinawa called Agu, the namesake of the restaurant, while the Tonkotsu broth is made by cooking hundreds of pork bones at a rolling boil for 18 hours with, as they say "Aloha and patience." They use traditional Hakata style thin noodles, which you can request both the "well done-ness" of (I like um al dente) as well as the quantity ($3.50 to double the amount).

Here's my Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen with house made char siu, aji tamago, menma, negi, kikurage & sesame seeds, sans the chopped onions. My bowl also included garlic chips and seabura (pork fat). Cha-Ching!

Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen - extra rich broth made with garlic & silky back fat - $11.75
Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen – extra rich broth made with garlic & silky back fat – $11.75

You can also opt to kick your ramen up a notch by requesting a spice level from 1-5. If you’re daring enough (or just plain nuts), there is a level that even goes beyond that, appropriately called "Epic". The waiter we spoke with said he sees about 1 in 50 customers crazy enough to go for the Epic Spicy level, most of whom cannot finish it (no can handle Randall). Here’s a look at what levels 1 and 3 look like.

Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 1) - $12.75
Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 1) – $12.75

 

Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 3) - $12.75
Spicy Kotteri Tonkotsu Ramen (with spice level 3) – $12.75

Up until now, my two favorite ramen restaurants in Hawaii were Yotteko-Ya in McCully and Tenkaippin on Kapahulu, hands down. After just this one sitting, Agu has already officially been added to my list of "Top Ramen Fo' Grind"… Yeah, it's that good!

I'm now looking forward to the day when the stars once again align…

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

AGU Ramen
925 Isenberg St. (Back of the Saint Louis Alumni Association Clubhouse)
Honolulu, HI 96826 (Street View)
(808) 492-1637
Hours: Sun-Thu: 11am-9pm
Fri & Sat: 11am-10pm
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AGURAMEN

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

November 1, 2013

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

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

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

Outside Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Outside Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

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

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

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

Soup bases be simmerin'
Soup bases be simmerin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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).