Posts Tagged ‘Yotteko-Ya’

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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Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part I

October 1, 2011
 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

Anyone who knows anything about me, knows that my love for ramen runs deep. It borders on obsession. So much so that I’m convinced my mom cut her milk with ramen soup before popping the bottle into my mouth.

So it was a no-brainer to follow up my popular “Poke Paradise” series with this here Ramen Quest, a pursuit for the perfect bowl of ramen, right here in Hawaii.

Now when I say ramen (or rahmen / ラーメン as we Nihonjins like to call it), I’m not talking about the localized interpretation of it referred to here as saimin (no offense saimin lovers). I’m talking about the hardcore, straight from the muthaland kine noodle and soup combination that you fantasize of. I’ve tasted some of the best there is in Japan, and have been living to replicate that euphoria ever since. (See, I told you I was obsessed! 8) )

First up is Yotteko-Ya, located on the west end of McCully Shopping Center (opposite Fook Yuen).

Yotteko-Ya entrance
Yotteko-Ya entrance

The specialty here is their Paitan soup base, which is described as a “richer, more flavorful chicken & pork based broth” and simmered for hours. In it, swims their perfectly cooked, al dente (Japanese style) noodles and homemade chashu pork, along with green onions, seaweed and sesame seeds.

Paitan Ramen from Yotteko-Ya
Paitan Ramen from Yotteko-Ya

They also have an amazing Chashu Gohan (which includes chunks of chashu similar to the one in the ramen) that my wife goes absolutely gaga over.

Chashu Gohan
Chashu Gohan

Our go-to meals here are usually the Paitan C Set, which includes the Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan (or Mini Yakibuta Chahan), and Gyoza, or the Paitan D Set, which includes the Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan (or Mini Yakibuta Chahan), and Karaage (fried chicken).

Paitan D Set: Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan, & (Chicken) Karaage - $12.95
Paitan D Set: Paitan Ramen, Chashu Gohan, & (Chicken) Karaage – $12.95

It should come as no surprise that the ramen I featured first in this series is a franchise straight from Japan. In fact, during a trip there in ’08, we actually went to the one in Odaiba.

Yotteko-Ya in Odaiba Japan (Tokyo)
Yotteko-Ya in Odaiba Japan (Tokyo)

Here’s a look at what the Chashu Ramen looked like there.

Chashu ramen from Odaiba's Yotteko-Ya in Tokyo
Chashu ramen from Odaiba’s Yotteko-Ya in Tokyo

Yotteko-Ya
1960 Kapiolani Blvd #214
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 946-2900
Lunch Hours: Mon-Sun: 11am-2pm
Dinner Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm-11pm, Sun: 5pm-9pm
@ramen_yottekoya

I first covered our next spot back when they were located in Waikiki.

Owner Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi outside the original Tenkaippin location in Waikiki
Owner Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi outside the original Tenkaippin location in Waikiki

The restaurant is called Tenkaippin Ramen (which is also a franchise straight from Japan) and is owned by Scott Suzui and his wife Mayumi. If you think they look familiar, they have since become local celebrities of sorts, thanks to their show on OC16 called “Ultimate Japan”.

This is my go-to restaurant whenever I’m in the area, and I usually like to bring along a friend or two. On this occasion, I brought my boy Bari who seems to be enjoying his bowl of ramen just a little too much. 😛

Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen
Bari loves his Tenkaippin Ramen

Similar to Yotteko-Ya, Tenkaippin is known for their soup base (known here as kotteri) which is accomplished by stewing chicken and vegetables for over 10 hours. Most ingredients are actually flown in fresh from Japan too!

Tenkaippin's Kotteri Ramen - $8.75
Tenkaippin’s Kotteri Ramen – $8.75

Here’s a peek at what it actually looks like to scoop a mouthful of noodles from this thick, kotteri soup base.

Video of Kotteri Ramen from Tenkaippin’s

 

Tenkaippin Ramen
617 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 732-1211
Mon-Thu: 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-11pm

I had to fly all the way to Waikoloa on the Big Island (FBI!) to get this next bowl of yummy goodness. It’s the D.K.’s Crab Ramen from Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queen’s MarketPlace, Waikoloa Beach Resort).

D.K.'s Crab Ramen and Asian Truffle Broth with King Crab, Cilantro, Thai Basil and Mild Jalapenos - $17.95
D.K.’s Crab Ramen and Asian Truffle Broth with King Crab, Cilantro, Thai Basil and Mild Jalapenos – $17.95

One word of caution. After tantalizing our taste buds with this one while on vacation at Waikoloa, we were excited to have it again (and again) at the Sansei closer to home (Waikiki). It was a HUGE disappointment. It did not come close to what we remember enjoying FBI-style, and, if you take a look at the photo below from Sansei Waikiki, you’ll see that it looked nothing like it either.

Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Waikiki
Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Waikiki

We actually tried our luck again on a trip to Maui, and the one at the Kapalua Resort turned out to also be a letdown.

Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Kapalua
Disappointing Crab Ramen from Sansei Kapalua

We’re actually afraid to go back to try the one at Waikoloa in case it was a McDreamy, one time (all-stars-aligned type of) thing. Sansei peeps, if you’re reading this, what’s the scoops?

Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Queens Market Place, Waikoloa Beach Resort)
201 Waikoloa Beach Drive Suite 801
Waikoloa, HI 96738 (map)
(808) 669-6286
Dinner Nightly: 5:30pm-10pm
Late Night Dining: Friday and Saturday: 10pm-1am

And finally, talk about good timing… Shirokiya is in the middle of their “Best of Japan: Ramen & Gyoza Festival”, where they bring in popular ramen (and gyoza) vendors from Japan to be featured at their new Yataimura area for two weeks at a time.

The first in the series (featured from 08/23-09/05) was Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka who served 7,658 bowls during their two week stint! They presented their Kuroton Shibori (dark) and Akaton Shibori (spicy/red) options. Here’s a look at both:

Kuroton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan - $8.95
Kuroton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan – $8.95

Akaton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan - $8.95
Akaton Shibori Ramen from Menya Ifudoudou Ramen from Osaka Japan – $8.95

I don’t know if it was because it was the last day of the series and they were running low on noodles, but the portions were REALLY skimpy.

The second in the series (featured from 09/06-09/19) was Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka who served 9,619 bowls of their “Original” Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen. Due to my crazy life as a new dad, I missed this series, but my buddy Rick Nakama was able to check it out (three times!). Here’s his Takana Shibori bowl:

Takana style Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen from Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka - $9.95 [Photo Courtesy: Rick Nakama]
Takana style Tonkotsu Shibori Ramen from Manshuya Ga Ichiban from Fukuoka – $9.95 [Photo Courtesy: Rick Nakama]

Rick’s main complaints were about the quantity (again) and the inconsistency of the ramen noodles and taste.

The third in the series (which is currently being featured as I write this – 09/20-10/03) is Hakata Chouten from Fukuoka. I was most excited for this because some of the best ramen I’ve ever tasted in Japan came from the Hakata area in Fukuoka.

UPDATE: This series served 7,805 customers.

Barikoku Negi Tonkotsu Ramen from Hakata Chouten in Fukuoka - $10.95
Barikoku Negi Tonkotsu Ramen from Hakata Chouten in Fukuoka – $10.95

The soup base was pretty tasty, but, again, the quantity was very minimal compared to what we had to pay: $10.95!

Rick Nakama finishing his bowl while Russ Sumida "poses" with mine. 8)
Rick Nakama finishing his bowl while Russ Sumida “poses” with mine. 8)

The fourth in the series happens from October 4th through the 17th and features Hokkaido’s Sapporo Menya Yoshiki who will have three choices of soup base: shiro (white), kuro (black) and aka (red). Following that will be Fukuoka’s Hide Chan Ramen from October 24th-November 6th.

Shirokiya Yataimura (at Ala Moana Shopping Center)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Ste 2250
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 973-9111
Mon-Sat: 9:30am-9pm
Sun: 9:30am-7pm

So there you have it. Some interesting options for ramen here in Hawaii right? And that was just part 1! I still have at least 4 more juicy parts to this series (including Gomaichi, Goma Tei, Menchanko-Tei, Chinpei, Kiwami, etc.), but if you have any others suggestions on where I should hit up, holla atcho boy! Shoots!

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