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Grindz of the Day: Tenkaippin's Kotteri Ramen, Goma Tei Ala Moana & Zsoli's Chimney Cakes

Tenkaippin Ramen – Kotteri Ramen: “Healthy chicken-based soup, so rich, it’s habit forming.” $8.75

There’s a Foodland Turkey-To-Go review waiting on the backburner, yet I’ve decided to keep that on hold for at least a few weeks (or maybe until next year right before Thanksgiving ’11), as at this point you A.) probably STILL have Thanksgiving Day leftovers you’re trying to get rid of in the refrigerator, therefore hence, B.) the LAST thing you want to read about or see right now is Thanksgiving Day Turkey and its related side dishes. ACK!

Anyhow, thankfully that winter “nip” is finally beginning to kick into the air here in the islands, which makes warm comfort foods such as Japanese Ramen that much more appealing (or Jook anyone?!), where I begin this “Grindz of the Day” with a bowl of Tenakaippin’s famous Kotteri Ramen.

The first time I visited Tenkaippin Ramen on Kapahulu Avenue, the server kindly offered me a small sample cup of the Kotteri broth to try, which turned out being quite tasty when sipped by itself without any ramen noodles soaking in it. Yet I still questioned whether that thick gravy-like viscosity of the broth, along with its rather concentrated poultry flavor would be “too much” once the starchy ramen noodles jumped into “the drink”.

Well, as it turns out at least for me personally, my skeptical instinct held true. Now, after trying an entire bowl of Tenkaippin’s Kotteri Ramen with all the standard fixinz’, it ultimately is how I thought it’d be.

In fact, after having turkey ‘n gravy still fresh on my palate and mind, this Kotteri Ramen wasn’t far from essentially being a “noodlefied” or “pastafied” version of that.

Tenkaippin claims the Kotteri broth achieves its thickness from the natural collagen that comes out after boiling chicken bones for over 14 hours. Their punchline for it goes like this, ““Our #1 best seller.  Healthy chicken base soup so rich and unique, it’s habit forming.”

However it’s made, doesn’t that LOOK like Turkey Gravy? I tell you, it practically tastes like it. Actually, more specifically a gravy made with roux and all the tasty drippings from a whole roasted bird.

If there’s anything I could say separates this ramen “broth” from American style turkey or poultry gravy, is that of course it’s not THAT thick (by most standards), and there’s an additional hint of oriental spices and elements rounding it out that I can’t quite pinpoint which moves it ever-so-slightly away from tasting 100% American.

Perhaps a dash of Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven-flavor chili pepper), along with a drizzle of shoyu, and an ever-ever-so-slight hint of sesame, yet those additional complexities are very subtle.

Speaking of spices, what many fans of Tenkaippin’s Kotteri Ramen swear by when eating this is adding the house garlic and chili paste to it for added kick, which we have here on the job and ready for action…

Tenkaippin’s complimentary house Garlic-Chili Pepper Paste table-side ramen condiment

Taking inventory of what’s buried under the surface of the thick broth, there’s two very thin slices of Charsu…

As well as a good handful of Menma and sliced green onions, plus of course a typical single serving portion of thin Japanese style Ramen Noodles. Like the majority of ramen shops in Hawaii, the noodles at Tenkaippin are sourced from Sun Noodle Factory, specified to Tenkaippin’s own recipe.

Someone on Yelp suggested the experience of eating Kotteri Ramen is reminiscent of Chicken a la King, where I suppose when you see how the thick broth heavily coats the noodles as you pick it up with your chopsticks you can understand where they’re coming from…

It almost appears as if the noodles had been overcooked to the point of becoming one gelatinous starchy glob, but that is absolutely NOT the case. The noodles are certainly cooked al dente and individually integrated, but just so heavily-coated with the broth, wherewith it’s actually the BROTH that makes it seem like this “one, gelatinous, starchy  glob”.

While eating the Kotteri-soaked ramen noodles, I had hoped it would taste more collagen-thickened than starch-thickened. Yet as it turned out, while the nature of the starchy ramen noodles play 50% of the role here, it pretty much dominates what your brain interprets being the “glue” so-to speak as it goes into and hits your mouth.

While I’m usually not a fan of garlic, chili pepper or any other “unusual” flavor enhancers/toppings in or on my ramen, , Tenkaippin’s complimentary house Garlic-Chili Paste certainly added plenty of “oomph” and extra dimension to the otherwise predominant and intense poultry-flavored Kotteri broth. If you’re not really sure, add some to just a spoonful of the broth first and try it before committing to it in your entire bowl. Surprisingly I really liked it, so I went and “choked” the Garlic-Chili Paste in my bowl, making sure to stir it in and incorporate it well.

The two included thin slices of Charsu, while appearing rather basic and certainly no comparison to Goma Tei in most regards, actually had quite a nice flavor, and was cooked wonderfully moist and tender, not being dry, lifeless or bland at all. Looking at the menu from the last time I visited this place, Tenkaippin used to offer Charsu versions of their Kotteri, Assari and Miso Ramen, although on this visit it appears they’ve since removed that off the menu, where now if you want more charsu, you must add it ala carte for $1.50 extra. Same goes for Menma, fresh garlic, bean sprouts and various other ramen toppings.

Summing it up, I give Tenkaippin’s famous Kotteri Ramen 2 SPAM Musubi, falling somewhere in the lines of me lamenting afterwards that it was “weird and kinda’ gross” just based on texture. Yet at the same time thinking, “Hey this is really, really tasty and something I could get used to!”  Had my appetite at the time been 20% higher, I probably would have LOVED it. Yet had my appetite been just 10% less than where it was, I probably would have DESPISED IT, if you know what I mean. Which is what lots of Yelp reviewers say about it as well. My girflfriend tried a sip of the Kotteri broth and didn’t care for it at all. Of course, as always, you gotta’ try it and judge for yourself on it.

Moving along, going with my recommendation, my girlfriend ordered Tenkaippin’s Assari Ramen on this visit…

Tenkaippin Ramen – Assari Ramen: “Healthy chicken base soup with soy sauce flavor”. $8.75

The verdict? She gives it a very satisfying 2 SPAM Musubi (Good, glad I tried it), noting her favorite is still Goma Tei.

Speaking of which, before we move on to Goma Tei Ala Moana, one last note on Tenkaippin is that they recently introduced a new Tan Tan “spicy” ramen flavor at their shop that they seem to be encouraging their patrons to try.

I’m actually more interested in trying their unlisted Kossari Ramen, which is a half-half blend of their Kotteri and Assari broth. Which brings to mind, while I’ve never asked, I wonder if any ramen shops around town let their patrons order “suicide” broths? You know, da’ kine where you can mix anykine different types of broths all concocted into one bowl, like you used to with with different flavors of soda at the soda fountain. Remember doing that? “Um yeah, I’d like one Misoshiopaitantantonkotsukossari-men (basically all of the above) kudasai, triple the Menma, onegaishimasu”. lol

Next, heading back west from Kapahulu, right past Waikiki, we find ourselves on another Winter evening indulging in yet another comforting hot bowl of Japanese Ramen, this time from Goma Tei in Ala Moana Center…

Goma Tei – Char Siu Shoyu Ramen. $8.75

We both order the same thing, which is our ichiban Goma Tei favorite, their Char Siu Shoyu Ramen, while this time we decided to try their Ban Ban Ji Chicken as a side dish…

Goma Tei – Ban Ban Ji Chicken: Slices of chicken breast cooked in a sake, scallion and ginger broth, then chilled in ice and served on a bed of thinly-sliced cucumber. Served chilled with a slightly spicy and tangy sesame sauce. $6.75

First let’s try the Ban Ban Ji Chicken…

The verdict? Very refreshing, being that it’s served cold. This kinda’ reminds me of the Japanese version of Chinese Cold Ginger Chicken, except not quite as zesty as that. I LOVED the texture and complimentary flavor the long, evenly-sliced cucumbers offered along when eaten with the tender, thin slices of chicken breast. You could kinda’ taste ginger in the chicken, but it was very subtle. Being served cold where whatever fat in the chicken meat would congeal, didn’t have it come across as being MOIST, yet it certainly wasn’t dry either. Finally, the sesame sauce was indeed a little spicy and tangy, while also being quite savory, which I think is because it’s miso-based. Overall, again a very, very refreshing app’ that goes quite well with the hot bowl of Ramen. I’d like to see a fish version of this dish.Portion-wise, you could easily order this as a healthy main course for yourself along with a side bowl of rice and call it a day.

Summing it up, 3 SPAM Musubi for Goma Tei’s Ban Ban Ji Chicken.If you LOVE chicken, I think you’ll probably give it 4 or 5.

Now for the Ala Moana location’s take on Goma Tei’s highly-regarded Shoyu Ramen…

Broth piping hot? Check. Noodles cooked perfectly al dente? Check.

Pork belly-rolled, thick-sliced Char Siu stellar as always? For the most part, check. Except the outside could have been browned and crisped more. In retrospect, if you look at the slices of rolled-up Char Siu from the bowl of Shoyu Ramen at Goma Tei’s Ward location, theirs was much more crisped and browned on the outer edge.

Now for the Shoyu broth here at the Ala Moana location, that’s where personally I think they fell short of the EXCELLENT offering at Goma Tei’s Ward location. This Shoyu Ramen broth just didn’t have that “Japanese-ness” and “it factor” about it like the one at Ward pretty much grasped. Here it was as if they skimped on either an important step, broth-making time, ingredient or all of the above.

Not that it was a bad shoyu ramen, because I finished pretty much all of it, but I was really hoping both Goma Tei locations had absolute consistency.

That said, summing it up, I give Ala Moana Goma Tei’s Char Siu Shoyu Ramen 2 SPAM Musubi, where it made up a point for the perfectly cooked noodles, piping hot (albeit less accurate) broth and pretty-much on-point Char Siu slices. Not to mention the quick and friendly service.

While we were at Ala Moana Shopping Center, just steps away from Goma Tei on the street level makai side of the mall, right near the entrance of the Food Court we came upon Zsoli’s Chimney Cakes Kiosk, which you CAN’T miss…

The fellah that runs this place is super friendly and very informative, happily offering free samples and taking the time to explain the entire history and process of making Chimney Cakes.

You mall folks know all too well the alluring smell of hot, fresh baked pastries wafting in the bustling mall air as you walk on by, and this kiosk is no exception to the rule. Even more intriguing though, is the odd and peculiar cylindrical shape of the Chimney Cakes once you set eyes upon them on display in their window, where it immediately draws you in for a closer inspection…

I don’t know whether to eat it, stuff and decorate it with a bouquet of flowers or launch aerial fireworks from it. All of the above!  lol

Seriously though, this is how Chimney Cakes are explained by their company:

“Kürtőskalács or Kürtős Kalács is a Hungarian pastry also known as chimney cake, stove cake or Hungarian wedding cake, is a pastry cooked on a tapered spit over an open fire. Originally from Transylvania, it’s famous for being Hungary’s oldest pastry. Kürtőskalács is sold in bakeries, pastry shops and even street vendors who sell them on street corners, carnivals and fairs.”

Zsoli’s Chimney Cakes are made fresh from scratch, hand rolled onto wooden cylinders and coated with sugar then baked in a special rotisserie oven and sprinkled with cinnamon, chocolate, pecans or caramelized just for you.”

Very interesting and certainly something new to us.

The Chimney Cakes are offered in Original (melted sugar coating), Cinnamon, Pecan, Chocolate Sprinkles and Rainbow Sprinkles, which all sell for $6 each.

Here in this photo you can see the wood cylinders the dough is wrapped around to give it its shape…

And here’s one all wrapped in dough and ready to hit the oven…

As you might expect, a Chimney Cakes Oven is going to be quite a unique “uni-tasker” contraption…

For the life of me, I can’t remember whether they rotated automatically in the oven, or whether they were hand-turned. You can see the heat elements though, going down the center, like a big, open rotisserie toaster.

And out comes these delicious-looking (and smelling!), very unique Hungarian Chimney Cake pastry treats…

Zsoli’s Chimney Cakes – Original (in back) and Cinnamon (foreground), $6 each

Zsoli’s Chimney Cakes – (left to right) Pecan, Chocolate Sprinkles and Original, $6 each

Here’s where you can see the hollow center…

Zsoli’s Chimney Cakes – (left to right) Strawberry Sprinkles, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Original and Pecan, $6 each

All I can say is, I see SO MANY POSSIBILITIES to expand the use and flavors of this unique old-world European pastry. Perhaps cut it in shorter rings and fill it in the center on a plate with custard, ice cream or a fruit salad. Or how about making an “Edible Arrangements” bouquet, using a Chimney Cake as a vase. Also, you could expand the toppings and “Hawaiianize” it by using crushed Macadamia Nuts instead of Pecans, or go tropical sweet ‘n sour with a Guava-Pineapple glaze. And those are just the obvious ones.

So how does it taste? AWESOME! Personally I think it tastes like a cylindrically-shaped Cinnabon roll, sans the decadent butter-sugar glaze, while also being a little more glutenous and “tight” if you will on the inside of the baked dough. Yet it has that wonderfully-delicate, golden-brown-n-sweet crust that the Cinnabon inherently possesses.

You take that, plus the simple coating of granulated sugar and cinnamon that we opted for and BAM! It’s like Cinnamon Toast “on crack” if you will, with a cool shape that’s a fun novelty to pick and eat at as you walk through the mall. In fact, people who notice kinda’ stare at it, which is amusing in itself. lol

$6 may seem like a handful of cash for a pastry, but each Chimney Cake is actually quite large, measuring I’ll guess about 8.5″ in length by 3.5″ in diameter by 3/4″ thick along the walls of it. Enough where the one we bought shared between us was way more than enough “dessert” to satisfy us both after a bowl of some Goma Tei Shoyu Ramen next door.

Summing it up, we give Zsoli’s Cinnamon Chimney Cake a super ono-Hungarian-licious 4 SPAM Musubi!

For more information, visit their website at:


7 thoughts on “Grindz of the Day: Tenkaippin's Kotteri Ramen, Goma Tei Ala Moana & Zsoli's Chimney Cakes

  • December 3, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Pomai, well not sure to say but I am at the mall (MallChick) see a cute guy in front of me so got to go now!

  • December 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the review of the Chimney Cake place. When I passed by it before, I wrongly assumed it was a funnel cake place. Now that I know what it is, I’m definitely going to try it.

  • December 5, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Molly, if you like Cinnabons (who doesn’t?), you’ll like Chimney Cakes.

    Amy, was that you standing behind me? lol

  • January 4, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Ever since I saw your review on Chimney Cakes I’ve been wanting to try one! I knew the location because I saw them while Xmas shopping, but when I went back on Sunday the space was empty. According to their website, they’re negotiating for a new space, so I hope they find a new home. Now I want one even more!

  • January 9, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Laura, I’m curious as to why they left that spot at AMC. That was a super-prime location. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


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