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Yataimura Eats: Shinsen Ramen


Shinsen Ramen Miso Special Ramen with Special Toppings

After once again hoppin’ n’ skippin’ away with glee along the mall level of Ala Moana Center, I was parched and in dire need of recharging my batteries. Where this time and this month, I found myself at Shinsen Ramen, a temporary booth set-up in Shirokiya’s always incredible Yataimura Food Court & Beer Garden.

As you know by now if you read this blog regularly, or visit Shirokiya regularly like I do, Yataimura brings in a new ramen-ya from Japan every month as a feature, which for me? HEAVEN! Takai plane ticket to Japan not needed, domo arigato gozaimasu. “Joyful is Ramen, pleasing Hawaii people in life”… perhaps some crazy Japanese T-shirt might read. lol

So here’s the deal with Shinsen Ramen…

As you see (read), all the ramen options on their menu are miso-based, so no shoyu, paitan or shio style here.

Here’s a couple Shinsen Ramen bowls hot off the press (or soup stock pot for that matter)…

Getting right to it, here’s my order of Shinsen Ramen’s #1 special, accompanied an ice cold pint of Sapporo Draft…


Shinsen Ramen Miso Special Ramen with Special Toppings, with an ice cold Sapporo Draft. $11 + $2.

You know right now all the fellahz out there are saying, “Oh hell yeah, I want that!”

What is that, like a POUND OF BACON on this thing? Fast forward the eating sequence a bit, check it out!…

Step aside Farmer John®, step aside! Bacon you say? In Japanese Ramen? Well that’s certainly the impression I had upon both looking at and tasting it. My nihongo skills are limited, and the staff working spoke NO Eigo (English) whatsoever, so I couldn’t get much details about how Shinsen’s Chashu is made. My only guess being it’s pork belly that’s simmered for a very long time in a special sauce, then pan-fried (or grilled) to order.

Well certainly if you’re a bacon or overall meat lover, Shinsen Ramen’s “special” should be the bowl of your dreams! More on that later.

Now before I dig in, you know what time it is, right? Yes, time to reflect…


“Ramen-ro-kyo Ramen ro-kyo Ramen-kyo”

Actually, once again it’s time to reflect on the true meaning of Japanese Ramen and how it intertwines with life, according to Chef Maezumi …

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

Hai, wakaru, yo.

Itakimasu. First let’s sample the broth…

And? OMG, SALTY! Seriously, this is probably the saltiest Japanese Ramen broth I’ve ever tasted. When they say Miso, they MEAN Miso, as in “Why throw in one tub of Miso, when you can throw in 100 tubs.”  Not that it tastes like Miso Soup, as it hardly tastes like that at all, but more like a complex combination of pork and miso, in a ramen broth way, yet again VERY salty. So much so, if I were to run 10 laps around Ala Moana Center after finishing this, I’d probably be dripping 10 gallons of liquid sweat from the sodium intake. Did I say it was salty?

Good thing I had that ice cold Sapporo to wash down the broth (as if you need to wash down broth, right?), as I needed all the saline dilution I could get!

OK, let’s try the chashu…

Seriously, these thinly sliced strips of pork belly-based Chashu tastes pretty much like a “Ramen-i-fied” Bacon, no more, no less. To which I think it needed to be crisped-up more, as it was kind of like undercooked bacon, where it lacked character. I mean, it was super flavorful and full of depth from the shoyu-based liquid it was previously simmered in, however I think it needed to look more like how they depict it on their banner…

Obviously in that case, they grilled the Chashu over an open flame, which looks absolutely OISHII!

So Shinsen’s Chashu is pretty good, and probably GREAT if you like the idea of bacon-meets-Japanese Ramen, however it is Shinsen’s Menma that had me going “Goo-goo Ga-ga”!…

Oh yeah, this is as good as Japanese Menma for Ramen gets. Sugoi yo! Major depth, giving the entire bowl the complexity it needs to be qualified as truly authentic Japanese Ramen. In fact, I’d just as well tell them to substitute the “bacon-like” Chashu and make my next bowl ALL MENMA! Menma-men, onegaishimasu!

Here’s how my bathtub would look…

Dude, you could seriously just serve a plate of this menma, and I’d be a happy camper.

Moving along, let’s try the noodles, after all this IS ramen…

And? Silky, perfectly cooked, having a notable “eggy” flavor profile from the Kansui, and fully absorbent of the broth. EXCELLENT Ramen Noodles Shinsen has, which are imported from Japan, where each serving is individually packaged for guaranteed “nama” freshness and portion size. Pretty thick too, which was a plus for me, while the only downside of that was the fact that broth was so darned salty, the noodles absorbed that characteristic as well.

Let’s try the Ajitsuke Tamago…

Nope. Sorry Shinsen, this is NOT how Ramen Ajistsuke Tamago should be; this being overcooked and lacking any enhanced flavoring. This essentially was a plain ‘ole fully-cooked boiled egg sliced in half, no more, no less. Not that that’s a bad thing, yet still, detracts a bit from the overall “experience” if you will. Because, you know, eating Japanese Ramen should be an “experience”, not just a function.

Then there was bean sprouts…

Oh, and by-the-way, there’s also fried garlic in there…

Summing it up, I give Shinsen Ramen 1SPAM Musubi. Good. Overall good delivery, however it was too salty and at least for me, there was too much of that undercooked “bacon-like” chashu. If you were stoned or drunk at 3am in the morning, this would probably be your ultimate heaven-in-a-bowl, however sober as I was when eating it, it was more like hell meets high water.

Still, good enough for me to “polish” the bowl, which is always a compliment to the chef…

Ah, onaka ga ippai. Now to go back downstairs and run/walk some laps around the mall to work off all that salt.

What? Shinsen Ramen
Where & when? Yataimura Food Court & Beer Garden @ Ala Moana Center, October 1st through 20th, 2013
Big Shaka (pros): Bacon and meat lovers rejoice. Broth has depth and complexity. EXCELLENT Menma (by far the best asset of this ramen). Japanese imported Ramen Noodles are superb. Yataimura Food Court. Authentic Japanese Ramen. Japanese stuff. Ice cold $2 Sapporo draft pints.
No shaka (cons): Way, WAY too salty. Lackluster Ajitsuke Tamago (more like plain ole boiled egg). Bean sprouts in ramen. Fried garlic in ramen. Not being stoned or drunk at 3am (being sober) while eating this. The thought that “Back to work blues Monday” is just about 2 days away from now (we don’t get Columbus Day off… boo!).

12 thoughts on “Yataimura Eats: Shinsen Ramen

  • October 11, 2013 at 11:32 am
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    Is that miso soup really that saltly? I unable to eat food too salty and ended up drinking lot of water to wash it down.

    Reply
    • October 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm
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      Actually yeah, water would have been better than the Sapporo beer, as I can’t “tank” beer like I really needed to do with water while eating this ramen.

      Reply
  • October 12, 2013 at 7:22 am
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    I finally saw The Ramen Girl. I liked it a lot.

    Reply
    • October 12, 2013 at 7:31 am
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      pat,

      I was really surprised how much I enjoyed Ramen Girl. I initially assumed it was going to be really cheesy and poorly directed, but it turned out being a sleeper HIT! Parts of it almost brought me to tears, quite honestly. It’s a quite touching film, especially the rough “love-hate-love” paternal-like relationship Abby has with the Chef.

      I still have to see Tampopo… haven’t seen it yet!

      Reply
      • October 12, 2013 at 10:39 am
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        There were some very subtle touches. Like you see in a Kurosawa movie. Such as photograph on the wall of her restaurant with the father, mother and son in Paris all smiling.

        Reply
  • October 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm
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    I totally agree with you on all points regarding this ramen. Was really looking forward to it since they claimed it won best miso ramen at the Tokyo Ramen Show, but man was it too salty. Not to mention the ajitama was utter fail. Luckily it was just a plain hardboiled egg otherwise it would have added to the saltiness of the dish if it really was a marinated soft-boiled egg like it should have been.

    Reply
  • October 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm
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    K I,

    I’m so relieved to hear I’m not the only one to think their miso-based broth was too salty. Reason being, lately my palate has been getting more and sensitive to salt, where what I think is salty, others in my office don’t. Now that you validate it’s NOT just me, I feel better about my review, being that I gave them only 1-SPAM Musubi, which is still good. Which it was, there were just a few biting issues that brought down the score considerably.

    Now to try the new Santouka Hokkaido Ramen in front of the Kaheka Don Quijiote. Have you tried them yet? Folks on Yelp seem to speak more highly of the Shoyu Ramen than their “signature” Shio Ramen, so I think I’ll stick by my guns and try the Shoyu Ramen on my first visit to Santouka. Eventually I’ll work my way through every style there, as I shop at DQ on almost a daily basis. ;-)

    Reply
    • October 15, 2013 at 9:40 am
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      I have not tried them yet. The reviews I have seen claim that they don’t have their complete menu yet, so I am planning on waiting for a little while before giving them a try. In other ramen news, did you read about the ramen yokocho (ramen alley) event that they had in LA?
      http://ramenyokochous.com/index.html
      Supposedly they are hitting Las Vegas next and are planning to do an event here in Honolulu some time next year.

      Reply
      • October 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm
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        K I,

        Looking at that Ramen Yokocho LV event link you provided, I see IROHA will be one of the demonstrators. They were just here recently at Yataimura, whom I missed trying, dang it! Did you try IROHA when they were here?

        Supposedly IROHA is working on opening a restaurant here in Honolulu, which I’m looking forward to.

        As for that Ramen event, I take it the $7 flat price means no matter which bowl you try at whichever booth, that’s the price you pay. My only frustration is wanting to try more than one place, just like how they have these big food truck events here. Instead of eating an entire bowl, it would be nice to get mini “sampler” bowls so that I can try more than just one ramen vendor at the event.

        Reply
        • October 15, 2013 at 9:49 pm
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          Pomai,

          I did try Iroha when they were here. It was pretty good, but not my favorite.
          I noticed that the restaurant list from the Las Vegas show differs slightly from the one in LA. I’m guessing that when they have the event here the restaurants will be different as well.

          I agree with the mini sampler bowl suggestion. Like how they do it at the Ramen Museum in Yokohama so you can try more than one bowl.

          Reply
  • October 22, 2013 at 8:33 am
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    Pomai,

    Looks like there is a ramen explosion around Ala Moana that I didn’t know about. Kiwami Ramen reopened, moving from Waikiki to Keeaumoku next to Panda Cuisine. I always enjoyed the ramen there when they were in Waikiki. Ramen Kai opened on Kona Street next to Ailana Shave Ice. Also, as you know Santouka also opened at Don Quijote on Kaheka. Seems like they are all Hokkaido-style ramen shops. Maybe a ramen roundup is in order sometime soon?

    Reply
    • October 23, 2013 at 3:51 am
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      K I,

      Arigato’s for the 411 on all the new Ramen-Ya joints in the area. I already blogged Kiwami when they were in Waikiki. That you mention most of them seemingly Hokkaido-style, I’m always hesitant, as I’m stubbornly devoted to Tokyo style. But I will try every one!

      In fact, I want to do a big write-up at AroundHawaii.com on the Japanese “Ramen Invasion” that’s taking place in Honolulu, however have lots more to do in getting that together, so that one’s going to take a few months. Yet it’s certainly on my back burner!

      Reply

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