Several weeks ago I was in Kaneohe on a business errand, where I spotted Sumo Ramen in Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center (my childhood stomping grounds!), so I decided to give them a try.
As usual, I chose the Shoyu Ramen, opting for the Char Siu version (notice ‘Char’ and ‘Siu’ are phonetically separated), which puts more slices of pork in the Shoyu Ramen bowl.
Before we get to the grindz, first let’s check the joint out…
Now the menu…
Notice they have a number of locations, which actually made me more skeptical than confident walking in, as authenticity and consistency often suffer. Yet I discovered the Kaneohe location is the original, so that was encouraging.
So as mentioned earlier, I chose the Char Siu Ramen, which uses the same broth as their Shoyu Ramen, getting it as a combo set that includes Gyoza and Fried Rice…
I must say, at $8.50 for this combo set, that’s a great value for all this food.
Let’s go in for a closer look…
OK, let’s do this. First I observe it. Observe. Breath in its essence. Its life. Its spirit. Its “tamashii”. Now to taste the broth….
Eh, like the Shoyu-based broth from Taiyo Ramen, Sumo Ramen’s take on it is just OK, but nothing really to write home or here about. Actually, Taiyo’s was better, with a bit more depth and character. This one tasted bland in comparison. Tamashii ga nai.
Now let’s try the noodles…
A little overcooked and softer than the more firm Japanese style I prefer. Like Taiyo, Sumo also sources their noodles from Sun Noodle Factory.
Now let’s try the Char Siu…
Eh. Just “eh”. Like the broth, the Char Siu’s kinda’ bland as well. It’s also a little too lean-tasting, lacking some of the fattiness that makes Japanese ramen taste oh-so-good. Most notably it tasted like it barely had any seasoning on the outside of the slice, as if they had simmered it in plain ‘ole water, and not shoyu, mirin, sake and ginger.
Summing it up, I give Sumo Ramen’s Char Siu Ramen 1 SPAM Musubi (average).
Now let’s try the Gyoza…
Houston, we have a problem. Please return the shuttle to base, as our Gyoza is falling apart…
What the hell? Is there an egg shortage or something? Look at it! I tried picking each up one up with my chopsticks, and the Gyoza’s wonton wrapper separated at the seems, having me make a considerable effort with my chopsticks to hold it together while trying to eat it, lest all the filling fall back on the plate. Taste-wise it was pretty good. But they need to run over to Safeway nextdoor and buy more eggs!
For the disintegrating Gyoza, it’s “DQ’d” of a SPAM Musubi rating. A simple fix of binding the wrapper seam properly and I’d give at least a 2.
Finally, let’s sample the Fried Rice…
Well this is a first. I actually enjoyed the Fried Rice more than the Ramen and Gyoza! Mostly thanks to the inclusion of the Fukujinzuke it was served with, which added a fantastic flavor contrast to the excellent fried rice. For this dish I give them 4 SPAM Musubi. Yay!
Speaking of Fukujinzuke, a popular condiment served with curry in Japan, the curry here seemed more popular by neighboring patrons during my visit than their ramen, as more orders of that were arriving on the tables than bowls of ramen. I was almost envious, thinking I ordered the wrong thing here. The curry smelled and looked really oishiii! I hear it’s a little on the sweet side in typical Japanese fashion, and is similar in flavor to the curry from Coco Ichiban Curry House.
As for the name ‘Sumo Ramen’, I was surprised they didn’t have a “Sumo-sized” option for those with a “sumo-sized” appetite. Or, what would be funny is if they serve the same portion of ramen like I got in a MASSIVE ramen bowl that wows the customers. Da’ kine where you gotta’ grip the bowl tightly with both hands when picking it up. That’d be hilarious!
Anyhow, if or when I return to Sumo Ramen, I’m trying the curry. That looked like the way to go here.
Kaneohe Bay Shopping Center
46-047 Kamehameha Hwy.
Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744
Tel. (808) 234-6868
The Tasty Island rating: