Posts Tagged ‘Wahiawa’

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.

Locations: Varied
Hours: Varied

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! 🙂 ), leave a comment for me below.

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Fave Friday: Touristy Thangs

December 11, 2009

Since my friends were in from outta town recently, I decided to take a vacation day the other day and tag along with them as they took care of some errands. We did some local kine stuffs (ate at Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa, and went to the swap meet), and we also did some touristy kine stuffs (checked out Dole Plantation, and went to the swap meet 😛 ), and actually had quite a good time playing tourist.

Amusing Graphic Tees at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet
Amusing Graphic Tees at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet

Even though many of us have lived in the islands our entire lives, ain’t it still fun to hit up the north shore for some shave ice or stay at a hotel in “waiks” from time to time, just because? Why let the tourists have all the fun in this beautiful state we call home? Let’s list our fave things to do in the islands to “play tourist”. Who knows? Maybe some of you will even do a few of these this weekend. 🙂 Hurr’s mine:

1) Travel to a neighbor island – OK, so technically, I actually AM a tourist when I travel outside of Oahu, but still, it’s fun, and yet, I still feel “local”, naw mean?
2) Show “real” tourists around – I get many visitors from the mainland as well as the muthaland, and there’s no greater joy I get from seeing their faces light up when I show them those great places to eat, drink and be merry!
3) North shore ack-shon – Growing up in town and east Oahu, the north shore was always so far for me that I rarely got to get out there (it was like going to another planet!). Whenever I hit up Haleiwa town or check out the shrimp trucks or get out to Laie side, it’s always new and fun.
4) Stay in Waiks – It’s always fun to feel how the tourists feel when they visit us.
5) Cruise Waiks – Just park anywhere in Waikiki (probably at the Zoo or along the Ala Wai) and walk up and down Kalakaua Ave (and/or Kuhio). Fun times!

So how do you guys play tourist? Post your thoughts in the comment area below!

Happy VHO7V Friday, and have a great weekend y’all! 🙂 Shoots!

Weekend Events!
* Local boy BJ Penn is taking on Diego Sanchez tomorrow night at UFC 107 (5PM HST on Oceanic Time Warner Cable Pay-Per-View). Be sure to support our Hawaiian brutha and root him on k? Watch the UFC 107 streaming events throughout the weekend here.
* Our UH Rainbow Warriors are taking on Chicago State at the Stan Sheriff Center. Support the Bows as well! If you can’t make it to the game, you can always order it on TV! 8)
* The 2009 Honolulu Marathon is this Sunday. Unless you’re a fan of traffic, try to avoid the path that the marathon takes at all costs. (no sales pitch here! 😛 )

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. 😛

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

Kau Kau Kauai – Part 2

November 1, 2006

Part I | Part II | Part III

OK gangy… We’re back as promised. Albeit a month overdue, we’re back nonetheless. Another exciting round of good eats from our friends on the Garden Isle. *ding ding*

Part 1 brought a lot of feedback and suggestions and I thank you all for that. Hopefully, I’ll make my way back and hit up those hotspots you mentioned to put together Kau Kau Kauai – Part 14. 😛 One place cited repeatedly was Dani’s Restaurant. I won’t be covering them here today (haven’t been there just yet), but I thought I’d give ’em some pub since they seem to have a strong following.

Ready to go for part 2 folks? Let’s do this thang!

Since our last stop was at the Lizard Lounge in Kapa`a, why don’t we start our day there – bright and early for breakfast – at another Kapa`a favorite?

Ono Family Restaurant was suggested to us by the good people at Thrifty Car Rentals. They are well-known for their breakfast. Ono’s, not Thrifty’s! 😉

(! – Always ask the “locals” when looking for restaurant suggestions! They know best.)

Ono Family Restaurant menu
Ono Family Restaurant menu

Located just north of central Kapa`a Town, this quiet, little family style restaurant gives you an old town feel with all the comforts of home.

Inside Ono Family Restaurant
Inside Ono Family Restaurant

Don’t drive too fast when going up Kuhio Highway as it will suddenly and inconspicuously sneak up on you on the right.

On this occasion, we decided to go traditional and order your typical breakfast items: omelette, fried rice, hash browns and corn beef hash.

Yes, not very exciting, I know… Waddayah want from me? I was hungry! *grin*

Mushroom / broccoli omelette with a side scoop of fried rice
Mushroom / broccoli omelette with a side scoop of fried rice

Side order of hash browns and corned beef hash
Side order of hash browns and corned beef hash

With both dishes, they included a mini cup of their (I’m assuming) popular Hollandaise-type sauce. It’s hard to really ruin breakfast, but with Ono’s fresh ingredients, everything was, well, ono!

Ono Family Restaurant
4-1292 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 (map)
(808) 822-1710

For reasons of proximity, better judgment would tell us that we should go to Bubba’s Burgers located right around the corner (still in Kapa`a), but for reasons of insanity and a strong desire to drive for no reason, let’s take an unnecessarily out of the way drive to Hanalei to visit Bubba’s up north. (Editor’s note: The real reason is because I’ve never visited the Bubba’s in Kapa`a and I didn’t know how else to admit it to you… 😛 ). So let’s take a superfluous drive won’t we!?

Located in the middle of historic Hanalei town, you can’t miss the bright yellow building that houses this popular burger joint.

Patrons ordering at the Bubba's Burger window
Patrons ordering at the Bubba’s Burger window

The entire staff on this day were comprised of scantily clad women, an obvious play towards the Hooters crowd. And, from the look of their web site, I’m sure this day was no exception (you didn’t see me complaining).

Employees at Bubba's Burger in Hanalei
Employees at Bubba’s Burger in Hanalei

Skimpy unis notwithstanding, the burgers (and fries) were actually pretty tasty and delish.

Bubba's Burgers and fries
Bubba’s Burgers and fries

Bubba’s Burger – Hanalei
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96714 (map)
(808) 826-7839

Bubba’s Burger – Kapa`a
4-1421 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 (map)
(808) 823-0069

Both locations open 7 days a week from
10:30am to 8:00 pm

Before you hear about the location of our next stop, let’s just close our eyes for a second and imagine ourselves back in town. Dream a little dream that tells us that we didn’t just drive a billion miles north only to turn around and drive back for our next meal. Don’t be mad, get glad. 🙂

[insert Wayne’s World teleporting here]

YUM, wasn’t that some burger from the Kapa`a location of Bubba’s Burger!? Just play along! *nudge*

You Kauai natives will love the next stop… The ever so popular Hamura’s Saimin. Like Tasaka Guri Guri in Maui, Big Island Candies or Kona Coffee from the Big Island, or Leonard’s Malasadas or Waiola Shave Ice on Oahu, Hamura’s is synonymous to Kauai. Whenever you return from a trip to Kauai, the first thing someone inevitably asks you is “You wen go Hamura’s or wot?”

Before we head over to this legendary eatery however, let’s first stop by The Fish Express to pick up some poke. It’ll be a yummy supplement to the hot saltiness of the saimin.

Sign outside The Fish Express (and some goon's reflection)
Sign outside The Fish Express (and some goon’s reflection)

Located on Kuhio Highway in Lihue, right across from the Wal-Mart parking lot, this popular fish market sells an assortment of fish treats you’d typically see at other fish markets.

Fish selection at The Fish Express
Fish selection at The Fish Express

I went for a quarter pound of my favorite Ahi Limu today.

My Ahi limu poke sitting atop the table at Hamura's, waiting to be demolished
My Ahi limu poke sitting atop the table at Hamura’s, waiting to be demolished

(! – For those of you like me who care, the fish was of the previously frozen variety. I’m hoping it was only this batch and not always this way.)

The Fish Express
3343 Kuhio Hwy. # 10
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 245-9918
Monday-Saturday from 10am-6pm
Sunday from 10am-4pm

With poke in hand, we made our way to Kress Street in Lihue.

(! – If you’re a first-timer to this area, drive slow, as it’s easy to miss.)

Once your circle the block a couple of times looking for that dang street sign, you’ll make your way onto Kress Street and eventually the gem they call Hamura’s Saimin.

They really have to get someone to pencil in that
They really have to get someone to pencil in that “S” (on both sides no less!) on the Hamura’s Saimin sign.

Hamura’s has all the familiar makings of an old world, old town, old Hawaii place making you feel like you’re in an old plantation town taking a break from picking pineapples.

Inside Hamura's
Inside Hamura’s

The reminiscent feel however is also part of its lure.

A look into the kitchen
A look into the kitchen

Grab a seat, check out the menu and order away. They are most known, obviously, for their saimin, but their BBQ beef and chicken sticks also have a strong following. Whatever your tum-tum desires, the simple menu is sure to suffice.

Hamura's simple menu
Hamura’s simple menu

Now, it’s time for the good stuff… Da Food! We ordered a Wuntun Min ($5.50), which comes in only one size, and a Medium (regular) saimin ($4.25).

Wuntun Min ($5.50), which comes in only one size
Wuntun Min ($5.50), which comes in only one size

Medium (regular) saimin ($4.25)
Medium (regular) saimin ($4.25)

Don’t forget the condiments!

Mandatory saimin condiments: pepper, chili sauce, mustard and shoyu
Mandatory saimin condiments: pepper, chili sauce, mustard and shoyu

OK, I know I’m going to be vilified for saying this, but Hamura’s isn’t the best “local style” saimin I’ve ever had. That award goes to Shige’s in Wahiawa (Oahu), my favorite by far. I dunno, maybe I just have strange taste buds compared to all y’all, but I don’t think it’s crazy delish like its popularity merits. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fun meal and experience… I just don’t want to convey the same “to-die-for” message that everyone else preaches about Hamura’s. It’s just ok for me.

Side note: Whenever I give my boy (and Kauai native) Kenji my not-so positive review of Hamura’s, he gives me this angry stare like he’s about to pull out my spleen and rip it in two. The look is so priceless that nowadays, I just cut down Hamura’s in front of him so I can see that look. But he’s not alone with his Soup-Nazi-type love affair for Hamura’s. So don’t take my word for it… Here’s Kenji’s quote about Hamura’s:

“Hole in the wall atmosphere with wooden stools, good prices and the best damn saimin on the planet. What more could anyone ask for?”

Hamura’s Saimin
2956 Kress Street
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 245-3271
Open daily at 10am

Since we’ve done nothing but eat our brains out thus far, I think it’s time we head back to the hotel, rest our fat bellies and take a quick power nap. We’ll meet back in 2 and 2 and head over to Pizetta in Kapa`a for din-din.

Now that we’ve had enough time to rest our heavy selves, let’s head on over to Pizzetta’s Italian Family Restaurant on Kuhio Highway in Kapa`a.

Outside Pizzetta's Italian Family Restaurant

As you enter, you are met with a strong Italian energy that starts from the bar that sits up front.

Pizzetta's Italian Family Restaurant Entrance

The energy continues to the kitchen and comes through in the flavors of their foods. On this evening, we ordered their Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer (stuffed with petro & quattro formaggio, baked until golden) for $6.95 and their Penne Siciliano (Penne tossed with homemade marinara, Italian sausage, sauteed green peppers, onions & mushrooms) for $10.95.

Stuffed Mushrooms - stuffed with petro & quattro formaggio, baked until golden for $6.95
Stuffed Mushrooms – stuffed with petro & quattro formaggio, baked until golden for $6.95

Penne Siciliano - Penne tossed with homemade marinara, Italian sausage, sauteed green peppers, onions & mushrooms for $10.95
Penne Siciliano – Penne tossed with homemade marinara, Italian sausage, sauteed green peppers, onions & mushrooms for $10.95

Pizzetta’s Italian Family Restaurant – Kapa`a
4-1387 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI 96746 (map)
(808) 823-8882

Pizzetta’s Italian Family Restaurant – Koloa
5408 Koloa Road
Koloa, HI 96756 (map)
(808) 742 8881

Since we all feel like Jabba the Hutt after stuffing our faces all day long, I promise… no more eats. Let’s end our day, by going to another local favorite bar/hangout in Duke’s.

Located on the sands of Kalapaki Beach in front of the Kauai Marriott Resort, Duke’s Canoe Club Barefoot Bar & Restaurant is a frequent stop for locals and tourists alike.

Duke's Canoe Club - Kauai

Duke’s Canoe Club – Kauai
3610 Rice Street
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 246-9599

Shooting the breeze here while dreading that plane ride home tomorrow morning is bittersweet, but we’ll no doubt be back. I think I have enough in my photo arsenal for a 3rd and final part in this Kau Kau Kauai series, so keep an eye out for that. Yeah yeah, I have Brick Oven Pizza, Polynesia Cafe and Sunday Brunch at Cafe Hanalei (among others) lined up so relax tampax… I’ll get to it, guaranz.

Until then, much love for listening. I’ll be coming to a town near ya soon…

P.S. I’m going to Denver–>Las Vegas–>L.A.–>Diego next month, so if you have any hot tips on places to go (I’ve already got Versailles and Pink’s lined up), be sure to let me know. I’ll also make it out to the Big Island one of these weekends so same smell… let me know a-ight?

Part I | Part II | Part III