As in Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Oxtail Soup!
While the gist of Asahi Grill’s offerings feature the usual modern Japanese fare, being the younger sibling to the same owners of Kapiolani Coffee Shop, an entire page on the menu here is dedicated to “Kapiolani Coffee Shop Specialties”. This includes their famous Oxtail Soup, Fried Rice, Lup Cheong Fried Rice, Kim Chee Fried Rice, Hamburger Steak, Loco Moco, Chicken Cutlet with Brown Gravy, Pork Cutlet with Brown Gravy, Chop Steak, and Chicken Stir-Fry. In other words, “local style”.
As it turns out, the variety on their menu makes Asahi Grill a great choice if the folks in your party don’t really know what they feel like eating, with something for just about everyone.
This was our first time here, and believe it or not, MY first time trying Oxtail Soup. I know, I know, you’re gonna’ say, “Whoah brah, what ‘kine local you? Nevah try Oxtail soup. Sheesh”. lol Well, there’s a first time for everything, so I decided to set the par with the best known example of the dish. And Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Oxtail soup continues to win reader polls as “Hawaii’s Best”.
They also say that KCS has good fried rice, so I ordered that “on da’ side”. But I came here for one dish, and one dish only, and that was to try Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s “famous” Oxtail Soup…
First let’s take a closer look at the Fried Rice…
I was going to order the fried rice separately, which costs $4.75 for a small order, but the waitress was so kind to offer me an “upgrade” to the standard white rice that comes with the Oxtail Soup for just $1.50 more. Sweet!
If you look closely, you see there’s little pieces of Portuguese Sausage and chopped green onions, and that appears to be it. Quite simple. No eggs either. At least none that I could see or taste.
Well, how is it? Pretty good. I wouldn’t drive from Waianae to town just to get my hands on some, but it’s good. Tastes like they season it primarily with shoyu and pepper. The rice had more of a soft texture, like they use fresh rice, not day-old or two-day-old rice.
I think the main reason the fried rice wasn’t striking for me was because it didn’t compliment the Oxtail soup – more throwing it off. The neutrality of the white rice would have been better for sure. Still, I can see this fried rice working great as a foundation for an ono breakfast. Throw one sunnyside egg on top and one papaya on da’ side and nuff. Winnah right there.
Now let’s look what we have here with this Oxtail Soup…
There’s two sizes of Oxtail Soup on the menu: small for $9.75 and regular for $11.95. Notice they no call ’em large, eh? Da’ buggah not ‘dat beeg! Not dat’ small eedah, but ‘dis not going be ’nuff fo’ braddah Konishiki, das’ fo’ sure. When I asked the waitress about the size of the “small”, brah! ‘Day not kidding! Da’ small stay one size of one Miso Soup bowl! No way, das’ not enough! At least if this going be my entree.
Actually, this regular order turned out being just right in quantity for my lunchtime hunger. After polishing off this bowl, along with a little of the fried rice, I was stuffed!
For “Wow Factor”, most impressive was that massive Oxtail piece towering out of the soup surface as the bowl was brought to the table. The cook knows the customers will be asking “where’s the beef?”, so he makes sure you see the beef! I see it! I see it! lol
$12 is quite a chunk of change for a bowl of soup, especially when you consider you can get just as much TLC and greatness in Pho or Ramen at those respected establishments for considerably less cash than this. At least you feel somewhat compensated by the generous servings of meaty oxtails included in the bowl…
There were a total of 7 meaty pieces of Oxtail, including that MASSIVE one that was towering the bowl.
Looking closer at that massive Oxtail, you can tell this had been simmering for a very long time, as the marrow in the bones have all dissolved away…
…and there’s only one place for dissolving Oxtail bones to go, and that’s in the broth!
The broth had a nicely-balanced beef flavor, being neither too mild or too deep. At least for my amateur Oxtail Soup tastebuds, it seemed spot-on. There was nicely-scattered bead slicks of fat (oil) on the surface which provided added character to the soup. There was also a noticeable, yet mild presence of Star Anise flavor in the broth, almost reminding me of Pho. The broth wasn’t as complex as I thought it would be, though. Just beef and anise flavor. That’s all I could detect. It was salted perfectly, but I did add just a drizzle of shoyu for an added boost. You know da’ rules!
The oxtails were cooked perfectly; fall-off-the bone tender, yet they still had enough integrity to hang on; and they still tasted “beefy”, not all rendered out. The cartilage between the barely-hanging-on meat and bones was a pure delight to gnaw at and chew on, and very tasty as well.
What really enhanced the dish was the generous amounts of Chinese Parsley and green onions sprinkled on it. I LOVE those two together, no matter what the dish is. It provided a refreshing taste and texture contrast to the savory broth and oxtails.
Being an “Oxtail Soup Amateur”, I actually had to ask the waitress what was the proper way to eat this, to which she instructed me to mix grated ginger, shoyu and hot sauce in the provided side bowl, and dip the Oxtails in that….
Yum!. Very nice! I must note, trying to eat any meat on the bone is most effectively done with what God gave you, which would be your hands. And that’s exactly how I ended up eating the Oxtails themselves. Scoop one out, dip it in the sauce with my hands, eat it, then chase it with a spoonful of soup broth. Hey, it worked! Winnahz. So ono.
On taste and execution alone, I give Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Oxtail Soup (c/o Asahi Grill) a solid 4 SPAM Musubi rating. Factor in price, and the rating must be reduced to 3.
My girlfriend didn’t know what she felt like eating for lunch when walking in, and indecisive looking over the menu. Then, when our neighboring table’s onolicious-looking plate arrived, she told the waitress to get her “one like that!”….
Don’t we all do that? See a dish land at a table and think, “Oohh, that looks good. I want that!”.
This comes as a “set” which includes rice, macaroni salad, tsukemeno and soup…
So how was her order? First of all I’ll mention the not-so-good, which was the somen “soup”. This should’ve been called more like Somen “water”, as that’s practically how the broth tasted. Suggestion to the cook: TASTE YOUR PREPARATIONS BEFORE SERVING IT!.
There was barely a hint of dashinomoto in there and zero presence of miso. The tap water from your refrigerator door dispenser probably has more character than what was in that bowl. lol The somen noodles were overcooked (soggy) as well. But ah, minah, You know us locals: when no’ mo’ flavah, pour on some Shoyu and it’s alllll goood! So that’s what she did and it was much better. At least the shoyu enhanced the dashi flavor. I’d say the best thing in there was the Wakame.
The mac salad was also, eh… ok. Too much stuff inside, and the mayonnaise used in it lacked flavor. “Whott?!, wen’ run outta’ Best Foods?” lol
The good news is, the rest of the dish saved the day, which my girlfriend gave a solid 3 SPAM Musubi for overall flavor, texture and presentation. Notice the grill marks on the Kalbi, giving it that seared taste, which is very, very important when making Kalbi. I would tell the cook to sear it more though. I tried a piece of the Kalbi and Shrimp Tempura and it was good. Not the best in town, but pretty solid.
As for the establishment, Asahi Grill’s dining room was very clean and – perhaps because of the small size – quite cozy and intimate for an open table setup…
The air conditioning wasn’t freezing cold either, as some other reviewers have mentioned. Just right. Service was also friendly and accommodating on our visit. There were two waitresses on duty. If one were to call in sick, and this place was a full house, then I can see there being problems. On our visit during lunch, it was steady, with about a 30% capacity of mostly working folks in the nearby area on their lunch break, families and friends. I didn’t see any tourists in there. You’d fit right in either dressed up or in t-shirt, shorts and slippahz.
Asahi Grill is located on the Diamond Head side of Ward avenue, a block mauka of Ross & Sports Authority. There’s a Shell gas station right across the street.
There’s parking on the side of the building with about 10 stalls and 2 handicap stalls (don’t quote me on that)…
I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of eating Oxtail Soup, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Asahi Grill. So much that we’ve added it to our “great casual, please-everyone place to entertain guests” list.
515 Ward Ave.
Monday – Friday 6:30am to 10:00pm
Saturday 6:30am to 11:00pm
Sunday 6:30am to 10:00pm
The Tasty Island Rating:
(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)
• The Great Ox Election – Star Bulletin
• Kapiolani Coffee Shop in Kapalama – Honolulu Advertiser blog
• Kapiolani Coffee Shop at Kam Bowl – Ono Kine Grindz
• Asahi Grill – Yelp User Reviews
• Oxtail Soup is Going, A Mouse is Coming – Star Bulletin