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Hawaii Kai Eats: Tokyo Noodle House

Yesterday and the night prior I had to fast (not eat or drink anything except water) for 12-17 hours on doctor’s orders for a blood test (draw), so naturally after my visit with the clinical phlebotomist, I was VERY hungry. After a discussion about various ono ‘kine grindz with Diner E and A prior to my visit, I was left to decide between either a big, fat ‘n juicy Teriyaki burger, or a silky bowl of Saimin. Shoots, why not both?! At least that’s what we were talking about. My-my, did that taunt my temporary state of starvation even more!

So being my doctor’s office is in Hawaii Kai, I decided to go the “saimin” route, kicking that up a notch by going Japanese style with Ramen over at Tokyo Noodle House in the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center. They’re located on the right side of the center around the corner from McDonald’s, with anchor tenants being Safeway and Longs Drug Store. Other eateries in this shopping center include Cha-Cha-Cha Salsaria, Pheonix Chinese Cuisine, The Shack, L&L Drive Inn, and next door to Tokyo Noodle House, Ba-Le Sandwich Shop.

That’s quite a lot of competition for a hungry fellah just done fasting, yet I was set on immediate gratification with Ramen (Japanese Saimin lol), one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Once I get that hot ramen broth flowing in my veins and them silky noodles filling my tummy, I’ll immediately forget about such cardiovascular concerns such as CBC, lipids, triglycerides, glucose, electrolytes and serum values. At least for the time being!

It’s actually quite a novelty having a Japanese Ramen shop in Hawaii Kai, yet that’s not all they do. Come to find out the people running the place are Cantonese (Chinese), so you can also order quite a few of those dishes, authentically prepared by a Cantonese cook. Further reinforcement of this was the fact that, while the restaurant was completely empty of dine-in patrons at the time of my early, pre-dinnertime rush 5pm visit, there was a steady stream of folks coming in and out to pick up trays of catered-style food, some of which were Chinese in origin. I’ll get to the catered part later.

Let’s check the place out…

Looks like a Ramen shop. They really should get rid of all the clutter on the counter, though. Also, the photos of the food on the wall, while make it easier to decide what looks good on the menu, are slapped on there in kinda’ “ghetto” fashion (how’s that for an oxymoron? lol). But hey, those menu pics also make up for the fact that I was here on a solo mission, so at least I can show you other dishes they offer that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

This version of Ramen looked especially interesting to me…

Sansai are “mountain vegetables”, commonly sold canned or in vacuum-packed bags preserved with shoyu, vinegar and a little sugar. Really oishii just like that on a bowl of hot rice, yet I’m really curious now how it would taste in Ramen!

Chuka Ramen…

Diggin’ all that Menma!

Mapo Tofu Ramen…

It just wouldn’t be a Ramen shop without this!…

Other specialties…

Like most Ramen shops, they also have a variety of “sets”…

Here in the top four photos you can see some of their Chinese dishes…

While waiting for my order, this heaping catered pan of Chicken Katsu rolled out of the kitchen…

Chicken Katsu

The color of this Katsu sauce has me a little concerned it’s your typical plate lunch style concoction of mostly ketchup with worcestershire sauce…

Chicken Katsu Sauce

But that’s OK, I’ve got several bottles of Bull Dog and Ikari Japanese Tonkatsu sauce in my pantry.

The chicken katsu was obviously panko-battered and deep-fried to “GBD” (Golden-Brown-Delicious) perfection. It also looked very moist, so props on that.

The same party also ordered this catered pan of Gyoza…

Gyoza

Me thinks The Travel Channel should fly Adam Richman and crew back to Hawaii for another ‘Man vs. Food’ challenge, this time around having Adam take on this entire pan of Gyoza in 30 minutes. Whaddaya’ say? lol

As I’ve explained before, Diner E has what I call his “gauge plate”, which is the defining dish he uses to determine how bad, .O.K., good or GREAT a particular plate lunch joint is. If they can do Hamburger Steak right, they can do ALL right. Which would be none other than the ever-popular Hamburger Steak plate.

Well I also have what I’ll call my “Gauge Bowl” for Ramen Shops. And that would none other than Chashumen, which is essentially Shoyu Ramen with more Chashu (simmered Japanese pork; a.k.a. Charsiu or Char Siu) in it.

Which is exactly what I ordered…

Tokyo Noodle House – Char Siu Ramen ($6.25) and side order of 4-piece Gyoza ($2.75)

As you can see, the prices here are incredibly affordable. About $2 cheaper on average per dish than many other ramen shops around town; all of which are already affordable to begin with. Sounds good to me!

Let’s take a closer look at my Char Siu Ramen…

The broth doesn’t look as dark as the one depicted in the photo of this dish (bowl) on the wall (scroll up). The charsiu also doesn’t generously cover as much surface area as the one in the photo.

Must say, I’m not one for Kamaboko in Ramen. In saimin? ABSOLUTELY! In Ramen? Nah. It’s O.K., but I would have preferred if they swapped that out with Menma. I could have suggested that, but I didn’t want to deviate from their original preparation.

Chopped green onions is also very “Saimin-ish”. lol True Japanese style Ramen uses Negi, which is an Incredible Hulk-sized version of Green Onion from Japan. They usually only use the white part at the base and sliver it very thinly.

Don’t get me wrong, after around 15 hours of not eating a thing, this looks absolutely GREAT! But we must cover some basics in “Ramenology 101” first. lol

O.K. let’s dig in and try some…

I swear, every time I look at photos like this of ramen noodles being fished out of the broth, my mouth waters. That is such the “money shot”!

So anyway – ehem, cough, cough – yeah, the noodles (confirmed by my server as Sun Noodle) were perfectly cooked al dente tender with the right “bite”.

The broth had a subtle pork-based shoyu depth to it and seasoned right, but lacked the complexity that I desire of a genuine Tokyo style Chashumen broth. It wasn’t where at the very first sip my eyes and tongue lit up in amazement, but overall, a satifyingly authentic Japanese Shoyu Ramen broth. So far the noodles get 4 SPAM Musubi (they’re Sun, common!), while the broth gets 1 SPAM Musubi.

Now let’s try the Char Siu (Chashu)…

It’s a little on the stiff (not tough) side. Also a bit salty, as if it’s saturated with shoyu from the simmering process. I must say, the saltiness did add some boost to the noodles’ flavor as I ate through the bowl. Otherwise an acceptable Chashu that brought at least its C game to the party. Better than none at all. I’ll give their Chashu (Char Siu) 1 SPAM Musubi.

With that, overall I give Tokyo Noodle House’ Char Siu Ramen a satisfying (especially since I was STARVING!) 1 SPAM Musubi based on flavor alone. 2 SPAM Musubi if you factor in the exceptional value and convenience of the location into the criteria.

Now let’s try the Gyoza…

Common Adam, a whole pan of these babies in 30 minutes. Can? No can? lol

Let’s check out what’s inside…

Your typical Gyoza filling of seasoned, finely ground pork and chopped cabbage. Gotta’ say, these house-made Gyoza (no pun intended) are quite large. Large enough where I could only finish two of them along with my Ramen.

The only problem I had was that the Gyoza filling didn’t seem to have any binder, making it difficult to hold in my chopsticks while trying to dip it in the Shoyu, chili pepper and vinegar sauce without falling apart. I had to figure a way with my chopsticks to nestle the loose filling within a pouch of the tender, slippery wonton wrapper, lest I lose it all in the “drink”.

Otherwise, the Gyoza are delicious and a highly recommended side dish with your Ramen here (as if I need to tell you that).

When I return to Tokyo Noodle House (which I will since it’s convenient), I’ll try that Sansai Ramen.

Tokyo Noodle House

Hawaii Kai Shopping Center

377 Keahole st. #105

Honolulu, Hawaii 96825

Tel. 395-6556

Menu:

The Tasty Island Rating:

(2) Good. Iā€™m glad I tried it. (Ono)

14 thoughts on “Hawaii Kai Eats: Tokyo Noodle House

  • October 3, 2009 at 11:47 am
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    Pomai, just want to say I really enjoy Tony entry of Japan. Do you plan to other bloggers submit entries to you for review? That guy from Okinawa could he submit some photos since I never been for seen what it like in Okinawa just on Flickr and their new flavors andagis they sell there. This Tokyo Noodle House I will try their set meals it seem more reasonable price and so many dishes it come with.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2009 at 11:55 am
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    Michael, that was indeed an enjoyable change to the Honolulu landscape. I’ll be featuring more guest blog entries from Tony in the future as he sends them to me. He and his wife are apparently foodies too. Aren’t we all?!!!

    I’ve left an open invitation at the end of that post for anyone who wants to submit a guest blog entry here. The main thing is that A: You’re Kama’aina or Hawaii Expat, and B: the subject matter has at least some relation to Hawaii (Japanese food is VERY related to Hawaii!).

    That guy from Okinawa (Nate) has his own blog, which you can check out here:

    http://hwnpakeokinawa.blogspot.com/

    :-)

    Reply
  • October 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm
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    Oh, wow, that idea of mapo tofu ramen has me thinking.

    Reply
  • October 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm
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    Pomai, planning now to get a real good camera . I do have many ideals for an entry to submit to you. But I have to not let my mother know or she want to be in entry. Shh shh

    Reply
  • October 4, 2009 at 7:59 am
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    Pomai, this great for all to share some entries to other bloggers. I like to try also. Some local food in Hawaii where it orginated from with story and history of it. Since I do travel to Asia and around the states also.

    Reply
  • October 4, 2009 at 9:13 am
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    Kelike, the Mapo Tofu Ramen does sound interesting. I’m also curious how that Butter Ramen tastes. Curry ramen though. I dunno’ about that. Sounds too overpowering. I’ve tried curry-flavored Cup Noodle once and didn’t care for it.

    Patty, it sounds like your comment here was intended for the previous Visit to Japan entry by Tony. But yeah, I’m looking forward to his next entry. It makes my “job” here that much easier!

    Kelike, awe, you don’t want your mom in the fun? Common! lol

    When selecting a camera for food blogging, make sure it takes good macro shots (close-ups). That’s the function with the icon shaped like a flower with two leaves at the stem. Although I use a Sony now, I’m partial to Canon, yet Nikons are great too. All these brands have excellent lenses (the most important part) throughout the line-up. Any of the Canon Powershot A-series models are great starter cameras, with the cheapest one (and still good quality) starting at just $130. You can find last year’s models even cheaper (and also still great quality). Plus, the A-series uses off-she-shelf AA batteries, so keeping it powered is cheaper and easier too. Make sure you use rechargeable NiMH or ‘Eneloop’ batteries. They last much longer than Alkalines.

    http://www.powershot.com

    Reply
  • October 4, 2009 at 9:28 am
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    The mapo tofu ramen or even udon is not new. There’s even mapo tofu soba in Okinawa. Never tried it though, tebichi or soki reigns there.

    Reply
  • October 4, 2009 at 12:38 pm
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    I agree with you. There is a restaurant in New York City called Rai Rai Ken and owner claim he invented Mapo Tofu Ramen that his secret recipe. I heard someone in Hawaii serve it in his Ramen Shop also. It still special no matter who came out with it first.

    Reply
  • October 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm
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    Really nothing special – just watery mapo tofu over cooked noodles. You can even get it in Chinese restaurants. Is good over soft cooked (wat mein) noodles.

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  • October 5, 2009 at 5:38 pm
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    Hi Pomai, Tony here. I’ve eaten at Tokoyo Noodle a dozen times or so, and Mapo tofu ramen is one of my favorites. Also the Kim Chi ramen is awesome.

    I like that hole in the wall type of place now and then. The family that runs it is Chinese but they make great Japanese food. Just as good as my mom’s!

    Really glad to see all the positive feedback from people regarding the food in Japan.

    Reply
  • October 5, 2009 at 8:50 pm
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    Tony, you know what would be cool, is if these Ramen Shops offered “Sampler” menus. Instead of picking just one big bowl of Ramen in any given style, bring a tray with four to six smaller miso soup sized bowls where you can pick and choose any style you want, all in one sitting. That’d be great!

    Especially for a place like TNH, where they have so many choices.

    Nate, all your posts back in Okinawa about the soups had my mouth watering. I’m certainly gonna’ try making this recipe you posted on Soki…

    http://hwnpakeokinawa.blogspot.com/2007/07/soki-nitsuke-again.html

    I’d probably jazz it up a little by adding daikon and Konbu Maki in it.

    Reply
  • October 13, 2009 at 11:46 am
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    Good information sharing

    I have an article entitled “Lowering Your Cholesterol With Medications” at my blog which will be useful reading.

    Hope this will help someone in fighting the high triglycerides level

    Reply
  • March 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm
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    We live Hawaii Kai. Me – white boy, wife – from Japan. I lived in Chinese speaking countries for 5 years (background).

    We were very disappointed by the ramen here – way too salty! We’ll never go back and that’s said because we love ramen.

    That said, Pomai, your site is incredible and I have many new places to try as a result. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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