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Ramen Quest: Ramen Ya and Menya-Ifu-Do-Do

These past few weeks in the midst of summer have been noticeably hotter here in Honolulu, where I’ve had to run my air conditioner in order to get a comfortable sleep. However, that never dampens my craving for a great bowl of Japanese Ramen.

First up, we stop by the relatively new Ramen Ya in Hawaii Kai Towne Center, home of anchor tenants Costco, Ross and City Mill.

Everyone has their “gauge plate” by which they make judgement of a given restaurant, where for me with Japanese Ramen (not that instant stuff), it’s none other than Shoyu Ramen. No Paitan this, Miso that or Kim Chee what-cha-ma-call-its, but in its truest form, SHOYU RAMEN.

Reason being as I’ll explain once again, it was Shoyu Ramen from this small Ramen-ya (shop) in Tokyo’s Ginza district that forever got me hooked on what true love is in the form of authentic Japanese Ramen. And being I’m a hopeless romantic, it’s no wonder that I fall in love with what I love to eat. Ha-ha! In fact, if you look me up on Yelp, you’ll see I’ve stated that my ideal last meal on Earth would be Tokyo Ginza Shoyu Ramen. And I still stand by that!

That said, here we are at Ramen Ya, one of several locations (same owner, not franchised) now open in Hawaii Kai Towne Center. Which sounds entirely generic, like oh say, “The Burger Shop”, but we’ll roll with it.

Let’s take a look around the joint…

Since I sat at the counter in front of the kitchen where they were sending food out, I got some “collateral” shots, such as this Fried Rice…

And this Seafood Crispy Noodles…

And this Kim Chee Ramen…

And this Miso Ramen…

Here’s a look at Ramen Ya’s menu…

Notice on the storefront sign they offer free Gyoza between 2 to 5 pm, however, while I was within that time frame, declined on the offer, as that’s just too much food for me. I have a hard time finishing the entire bowl of Ramen, let alone having Gyoza on the side.

Getting right to it, within 5 minutes of placing the order, my Shoyu Ramen arrives…

This is the time when you must reflect, “A bowl of Ramen is a self-contained universe. With life from the sea, the mountains and the earth. All existing in perfect harmony. Harmony is essential. What holds it all together is the broth. The broth gives life to the ramen. Understand? So with that in mind, observe the ramen. Observe the ramen.” – Chef Maezumi, from the film ‘Ramen Girl starring Britanny Murphy and Toshiyuki Nishida

So I take a moment and observe. Breath in the steaming hot broth’s aroma. Appreciate its presentation. Think about where I am at this time of my life. Why is the earth round? Why am I wearing blue underwear?

As always, first we must sample the all-encompassing broth…

And? Definitely a combination of pork and chicken bones went into making this. It’s very good, yet not even NEAR my standard for GREAT Shoyu Ramen broth. Deep? Yes! Meaty? Yes! Complex? Yes! “Japanese”? Eh, not so sure. I’d say more Ramen-meets-Panda Express, however not THAT bad, however you know where I’m goin’ with that assertion.

As it stands, the defunct Daruma and currently Goma Tei Ward are the closest, yet none have yet to touch that AMAZING Shoyu Ramen broth from that shop in the Tokyo Ginza. With that, being the stickler that I am on the subject, I give 2.9785460173 Musubi on Ramen Ya’s Shoyu Ramen broth. Give or take .00000487%, of course.

Let’s try the ramen noodles…

And? Oishii! Really, really good! It has that “eggy” depth and super glutenous texture that are the key to authentic Japanese ramen noodles. Which is no surprise upon asking my server, these are contracted by Hawaii’s own Sun Noodle Factory. In case you’re not aware of it, most ramen shops here on Oahu have their noodles made fresh by Sun Noodle Factory, to each restaurants specifications. And this is where this ramen shines most, is its noodles, thanks to the great work of Sun. 5 Musubi on the noodles!

Now let’s try the Chashu…

Tasty, albeit a bit on the salty side, while being perfectly moist and tender. Note, the broth is usually the determining factor in how the Chashu tastes, with that said, this Chashu was good, yet not remarkable.

The Chashu was cut a little thicker than I prefer, as I don’t like my Ramen to be too “meaty”, but have just enough to give it some “oomph” if you  know what I mean.

And if you’re going to ask why I’m eating meat in the form of pork, don’t worry, I’m still living my pescetarian lifestyle (only fish for “meat”). However I do make exceptions on weekends or whenever it’s a special occasion. And eating Japanese Ramen is considered a VERY special occasion for me, reserved for the weekend. Yay!

Now this here raises red flags for me…

Yet another take on “Sprout Men”. For me, Bean Sprouts sucks the “Japanese” right out of the ramen, making it taste either Korean or Chinese. Not that I don’t like Korean or Chinese food — I LOVE THE STUFF! — however I’m here to eat JAPANESE Ramen, gosh darned it! Dag nabbit! Gun funnit! lol!

Nah, but it wasn’t that bad. Not nearly as much as Taiyo Ramen, where THAT’S what you call “Sprout Men”!

In fact, overall, this bowl of Shoyu Ramen was very, very good in the sum of its parts, where I ended up “polishing” the bowl!…

Nei! Oishii kata yo! Demo mou onaka ga ippai. Oi.

Summing it up, while the broth was complex and “meaty” enough, it wasn’t entirely “Japanese” enough for my palate. However the Sun Noodle Factory noodles were its main redemption, while the chashu was tender and tasty, giving Ramen Ya Hawaii Kai’s Shoyu Ramen a confident 3 Musubi rating.

Hai, sugi wa Menya-Ifu-Do-Do, located in Shirokiya’s totally EPIC Yataimura Food Court & Beer Garden, in my now favorite mall in the world, Ala Moana Center! Why is Ala Moana now my favorite mall in the world? Well I can’t tell you that. However what I can share is yet another Ramen joint in said food court over at Menya-Ifu-Do-Do…

Like most Japanese restaurants, they have what are called “Sampuru”, which are their featured dishes replicated in plastic form for perpetual display…

“Mommy, how do they keep the liquid from spilling out of the bowl like that?”.

A quick note about “Sampuru”: my father was basically the boss of the entire state of Hawaii’s papaya growers, in charge of farmers health and personal finance benefits, industry financial management, and of course marketing. Which at the time (and probably still is), Japan was Hawaii’s largest customer for Papaya. And he had to order “Sampuru” of various papaya dishes to take to trade shows at Harumi Pier in Tokyo every year (which I was lucky to tag along for!). And each one costed back then (in the 80’s) around $500. We’re talking $500 for a fake plastic papaya with a scoop of ice cream in it. Gotta’ say though, it looked frickin’ REAL, like the ice cream was going to melt if you left it out!

Getting to it, here’s my Shoyu Ramen…

And here’s my Shoyu Ramen…

And here’s my Shoyu Ra… huh? This sure doesn’t look like Shoyu Ramen. Ah, F’ it. The place was so dang busy, I just settled for what they gave me, whatever the heck this is. All I know is it has garlic in it, and I’ve always been skeptical of garlic in my Ramen.

Time again to reflect upon Chef Maezumi’s words of Ramen wisdom, “A bowl of Ramen is a self-contained universe. With life from the sea, the mountains and the earth. All existing in perfect harmony. Harmony is essential. What holds it all together is the broth. The broth gives life to the ramen. Understand? So with that in mind, observe the ramen. Observe the ramen.”

I stop. Breath. Observe my Ramen. Listen to the 2 drunk Japanese girls sitting next to me talking in Nihongo (thinking I can’t understand) about the new makeup they just bought, and why their life in Shinjuku sucks, and how badly they want to move to Hawaii.

Hai, itadakimasu…

Sipping the broth, it’s definitely taken on that garlic flavor, while overall not nearly as good as theirs, it tastes similar to Yotteko-Ya’s Paitan Ramen…


Yotteko-Ya – Kakuni Paitan Ramen

Still, that garlic flavor just.. just, it doesn’t quite work for me in ramen.

Let’s try the noodles…

Nice glutenous texture, however not “eggy” enough for my taste. Ramen-Ya’s noodles were way better.

Let’s try the Chashu…

Excellent Chashu. Sliced thinly so it’s really tender, simmered with broth that has the right flavor profile, yet not being too overpowering where you can still taste the pork. And of course that nice thick band of belly fat on it. Nice!

Summing it up, I give Menya-Ifu-Do-Do’s “Whatever this is, something Garlic” Ramen 1 Musubi (it’s OK, not good nor great).

There’s a new Ramen vendor that set-up shop in Yataimura who will be there for a limited time during the month of August. Their Ramen is in the Tokyo style, so I’ll most definitely try them and give you an update!

12 thoughts on “Ramen Quest: Ramen Ya and Menya-Ifu-Do-Do

  • August 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm
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    Pomai, Menya is better and like their charsiu. It popular with my family too.

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  • August 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm
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    I think Goma Tei Ward has closed. But there’s still one at Ala Moana.

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  • August 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm
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    The food looks really good and you have described it so well. Lovely photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  • August 4, 2013 at 10:47 pm
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    @ Kelike – the name of the new, albeit temporary Ramen-ya in Yataimura is Yama-Arashi, who will be there from August 1 to 18 only. Their ramen is Tokyo style!

    @ Paul – you’re right, Goma Tei in Ward is indeed closed. For some reason, the Ward location’s Shoyu Ramen broth was way better than the Ala Moana location. You know who really improved, is Ramen Nakamura in Waikiki. Oishii-yo!

    @ Linda – dou itashi mashite (don’t touch my mustache). ;-)

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  • August 5, 2013 at 9:34 am
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    9 days and counting! I always try to go to Shirokiya when I visit, and love the variety of choices in the food court! I love miso, and kim chee, I wonder if they would do a combo version? lol!

    So, I’m going to the Made In Hawaii festival Friday morning…let me know (via facebook) if you’re still interested in a meet-n-greet. :)

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  • August 5, 2013 at 2:33 pm
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    Pomai,I like butter ramen with corn and seen happy with just that. Today my cousins in San Francisco told me a truck spill over in the bay bridge. It was a sushi truck and lot sushis and rice all over the place. That a lot of sashimis lost. :shock:

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  • August 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm
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    @ Ann – I’m game! Wait ’til you get here and have an open day up for grabs. It doesn’t have to be anything too formally planned. Even a simple meet-up at Yataimura (might be just in time to try that new Yama-Arashi Tokyo Ramen-Ya!) would be nice. You know where to contact me. :-)

    @ Amy – I have yet to try Butter Ramen, which ironically doesn’t SOUND good to me, however I won’t knock til I try it.

    Here’s the news story about that “sushi truck” on the Bay Bridge:
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Sushi-truck-fire-backs-up-Bay-Bridge-4707080.php

    So it was a big rig delivery truck carrying “rice, sushi, dressing, and other groceries” that caught fire. No one was injured, however it caused a big traffic jam. Shucks, and here I was hoping it was actually a promotional “get punked” set-up by the Discovery Channel for Shark Week!

    BREAKING NEWS! A driverless runaway sushi truck went over the Bay Bridge this morning, sending a massive flotilla of sushi into the San Francisco Bay. Moments later 25 ft. Great White Sharks were seen in a mass free-for-all feeding frenzy chomping up the expensive Japanese delicacies they normally must pay for. No one was injured, and the Great Whites had no comments.”

    LOL!

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  • August 6, 2013 at 2:29 am
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    Pomai, there lot stories of big rig spilled over on San Francisco bay bridge. The one I remember was rig with lot of live pigs around the east bay heading to bay bridge spilled over and all pigs made a run for it. People wanted to catch some of them to take home to have later a bar bq party after. .Lot rigs and trucks spilled over on bay bridge like trucks with flours, sugars, candies, Hostess pastries, potato chips my fav. yummy.

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    • August 6, 2013 at 5:13 am
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      Aaron,

      Wow on the runaway pigs on the Bay Bridge. Imagine the truck driver, trying his best to keep the pigs from running towards the San Fran’ side of the bridge, lest they all make a run for Chinatown. Ack! lol

      Well, at least I can say I got to experience being in the driver seat crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Pretty neat experience for a San Fran “tourist” as I was. :-D

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  • August 6, 2013 at 11:58 am
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    Sorry to hear about Goma Tei @ Ward closing, their charsiu was the best I ever had in a bowl of noodles.

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  • August 7, 2013 at 11:17 pm
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    Pomai, my sisters travel to Asia was interesting when in Tokoyo they saw L&L Hawaiian Food there . It same like in the island menu same too. Food from Hawaii is so popular there.

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  • August 8, 2013 at 5:53 am
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    @ LR Gardner – Goes to show how long its been since I’ve been to Ward Center. Yataimura is my regular “haunt” nowadays.

    Anyhow, while the Ward location closed, the “coconut wireless” tells me that Goma Tei will be opening a location in Pearlridge, in the wing where Farrell’s is. While out that side, you also should check out Ichiben, located next to the Waimalu Times Supermarket (turn right at Blaisdell Park, then left). Surprisingly legit Japanese Ramen!

    @ Kelike – I wonder how much L&L tweaks their menu for the Japanese market. They’d HAVE to. Travel Channel recently had a show about fast food restaurants specialized menus around the world. Apparently the most popular “burger” in Japan is the Ebi Filet-O, which is similar to the Fillet-O-Fish, except obviously the patty is made with Shrimp (whole!), and the “spicy” sauce is wasabi-based. Dang, I could so get into that!

    Reply

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