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First Byte: Japanese Ramen Kai

Japanese Ramen Kai Hokkaido Shoyu Ramen

Opened recently in late 2013, this  past week I tried the new Hapa Hawaiian Ramen Pomai Kai. Oh, sorry, I mean Japanese Ramen Kai, which is located on Kona Street, adjacent to Ala Moana Center, comfortably distant from the mall level so that I don’t have any complexes eating there. Specifically, right across the main bus terminal, street level, on the mauka side of the mall.

Cool. Get a body piercing, tattoo and ramen all in one visit! lol

Here are Pomai Kai’s Ramen Kai’s featured ramen, emblazoned on posters on their front windows…

Note, “Tan Tan” means spicy, and Goma is a sesame-based broth.

“Sio” is usually spelled “Shio”, which is a simple salt-based broth.

Ooh, my favorite!…

Let’s check out the menu…

Better, yet check out these new Happy Hour Ramen deals!…

OK,  you know what time  it is. It’s Hokkaido Shoyu Ramen time!…

Japanese Ramen Kai – Hokkaido Shoyu Ramen

And you know what time it is next, right? Yes, it’s time to reflect upon the meaning of life…

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…

Somebody please slap my @ss, because I’m now in a trance. SUUUUUU-GOI!!!!

Next let’s sample the noodles, yet again provided by Sun Noodle Factory right here in Honolulu…

Nom nom nom…

Nom nom nnnn ,,, 534r5o@#%2…

Nom nom … err,  huh? What? I’m writing a review here? Oh, sorry about that! I got caught-up in the AWESOMENESS that is this Shoyu Ramen, right down to the thick of the richly-permeated noodles. Dude, this Shoyu Ramen KICKS SERIOUS OKOLE! Mean, brah, mean!!!! lol

Next, let’s sample the Chashu…

Looks tender and well-permeated.

And? Dude, get the eff out of town. This Chashu is AMAZING! Immediate words that come to mind are of course tender and flavorful, along with buttery, velvety and orgasmic. This my friends is Japanese Ramen Chashu at its finest. Bam!

Next let’s sample the Menma (bamboo shoots)…

Menma adds this unusual extra dimension of earthy “Umami” element to Ramen, and Japanese Ramen Kai’s Menma is stellar in all regards to that. Just, wow.

Finally, let’s try the Konbu…

Is there any stuck in my teeth? Please let me know. lol Seriously though, this really put the finishing touch to an INCREDIBLE bowl of Hokkaido style Shoyu Ramen.

Polishing the bowl being the ultimate statement of how much I enjoyed it…

Yo, onaka ga ippai. Ramen Kai no yoku dekimashita! I am very serious when I tell you that, this is no question a contender for BEST SHOYU RAMEN ON OAHU. Hands-down seriously SUGOI!

And the young man from Japan behind this bowl of Hokkaido Ramen magic is Chef Yusuke…

Japanese Ramen Kai Chef Yusuke

I was in that photo with him, however my eyes were closed, so you’ll have to rely on other “hairier” photos of me in past posts if you want to see me (scary stuff!). No, but seriously, Chef Yusuke, along with my server were both very, very, VERY nice folks who treated me more like a friend than a customer. And THAT is what you call GREAT service!

Summing it up, on this “First Byte” visit to Ramen Pomai Kai Japanese Ramen Kai, I give them a super sugoi 5 SPAM Musubi!

Japanese Ramen Kai
1430 Kona Street
(adjacent to Ala Moana Center, across the main bus terminal on the mauka street level side of the mall, next to Bank of Hawaii)
Suite 101
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814

Tel. (808) 949-8888

Related links:
Japanese Ramen Kai – Yelp user reviews

The Tasty Island rating:
(for their Hokkaido style Shoyu Ramen + ambiance, service and convenient location)

(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)

24 thoughts on “First Byte: Japanese Ramen Kai

  • February 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Excellent movie. And the ramen looks good. Most people do not remember that saimin actually predates ramen by a decade or so, as ramen in Japan really did not gain popularity until the 1950’s when American wheat flour became available. Noodles were popular in Hawaii 75 years before that with Chinese establishments, and starting in 1909, Filipino pancit.

  • February 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm


    Your facts on the origins of saimin and ramen are WAY OFF, if you ask me. There is no way in HELL Hawaii’s take of Saimin is older than Japanese Ramen.

    What’s interesting about that subject though, is that the popularity now of Japanese Ramen here in Honolulu is affecting the palates of the younger hip crowd. This, so that when they go to any typical saimin joint such as Palace, Dillingham (formerly Boulevard) or Shige’s (and of course Hamura’s on Kaua’i), their taste buds are skewed in favor of Japanese Ramen, where local style saimin tastes totally mediocre in comparison. I know those are fighting words, but it’s true!… at least if you believe what they say about saimin joints on Yelp (Tanaka Saimin taking a big hit on that one for sure).

    God, this Super Bowl game SUCKS! Bruno’s half time show was the best part, and even that wasn’t as stellar as I expected of him. Still, much respect. Bruno’s the man!

    • February 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      No. I think I am right. But they are not the same. Saimin is much lighter of course. A shrimp, dashi, chicken, MSG, broth when I was young, with Chinese noodles, with lots of local contribution in the toppings. Local fish cake and green onions being almost mandatory.. Ramen is basically an after WWII thing. I don’t even remember it when i was young. It was also a Chinese influenced dish. From Cantonese light noodle soup, like Saimin. I have watched Ramen evolve and become huge. BTW, Saimin broth was often much richer when I was young, Much richer. But not as rich as a miso or shoyu broths.

    • February 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      Hey hey now, your fans in the 206 loved the Super Bowl – big parade downtown tomorrow!

  • February 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    And yes. Bruno made Hawaii proud. Peter Hernandez. LOL

  • February 2, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Pomai Kai! It didn’t click till the second mention. I love word play. (no comments on ramen, for the obvious reasons)

    • February 2, 2014 at 6:54 pm


      Well thank you for noticing that. Pomaka’i is my full Hawaiian name, which means “blessings” and “fortunate”, used frequently in the Hawaiian translation’s Biblical book of Psalms. However I barely live up to that definition, if not the antithesis of it. lol

      Where did you watch the game today? Any great Jewish/veggie/east coast/whatever you thin you pupus goin’ on?

      • February 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm


        I wouldn’t forget a lovely name like that.

        I watched the game in the best possible way: not at all!!! I invited a bunch of friends over and we marathoned last season of an Australian renovation show called The Block. Good stuff. I stopped at Wegman’s yesterday and picked up all sorts of tapas (stuffed grape leaves, vinegared fava beans, all kinds of olives, cornichons, marinated mushrooms, etc.) a lovely cheese board, amazing fresh cut fruit, which I turned into fruit salad (kiwi, blackberries the size of a baby’s fist, mango) Various kinds of Hummus (including guacahummus, which is the most amazing invention ever), roasted veggies, sliced veggies, and my favorite, avocado sprinkled with ponzu. I put out a variety of crackers and breads, and also made stuffed mushrooms, artichoke flan, spinach balls and spinach artichoke dip. Also had various sliced meats for the carnivores. Oh, and mixed up fresh squeezed blood orange juice margaritas. My friends were tasked with dessert, those aren’t really my thing. So nothing really east coast-y, and now that I think of it, not a jew in sight other than yours truly, and my mom, who stopped by for a bit. So I guess you could say that for this non-pro-football lover, it was the best possible Super Bowl.

        How about you? any interesting pupus and/or company?

        • February 2, 2014 at 7:59 pm


          Well, you obviously didn’t miss a thing! Even the $4 million dollar/30 second commercials didn’t wow me, FWIW.

          Your tapas spread sounds INCREDIBLE. I so wish I was there! Wegman’s for the WIN!

          How about wine for all that wonderfulness? Oh, that’s right, you served Blood Orange Juice Margaritas. Nice!!!

          Didn’t you take photos of all that great stuff? Send ’em over and I’d love to share them here!

          As for me, I was gonna’ hit Mai Tai Bar in Ala Moana Center, however the game quickly took an unbalanced turn in favor for the Seahawks in the first quarter, so I decided the game was already lame, and decided to watch it on my big screen TV in the comfort of home on my sofa, half/fully naked. TMI. lol

          • February 2, 2014 at 8:09 pm

            I did have wine on hand, but it wasn’t worth writing about. I shop for wine like a girl: I go by the labels. Well, that’s not entirely true, I’ve really been into varietal mixes lately. So I first go for blends, THEN the label.

            I didn’t take any pics, I am a terrible photographer. I obsess over composition and whatnot and always miss the moment. I think I might have mentioned, but it was a trip abroad after many previous ones spent experiencing things behind a camera that motivated me to basically ban cameras and rely on my memory, and thus live in the moment. It makes me weird in this digital age, but I really love not living behind a lens or curating my life. Not that most people do, it’s just how I would feel.

            I think the definition of watching in comfort requires some degree of nakedness. It is your home after all!!

            It’s funny, the only team I knew was in the superbowl was the Seahawks, and not even because I follow sports. I saw some short documentary about Phish and the whole Wiiiiillllllssssooooon, wiiiilllllssssooooon chant. I don’t even like Phish.But watching that was about as interactive as I got with the super bowl this year!

      • February 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm

        I believe Pomaikai is also an ancient expression for calm seas. Such as the kind often seen at sunset after the wind dies down. So the men can come in safety after being on the water. At least that is what I learned in surfing and paddling.
        Surely ‘blessing’ would be an adequate synonym. And Hawaiian is famous for its linguistic poetry. All Hawaiian names are unisex, something not appreciated by the current generation.

  • February 3, 2014 at 5:27 am

    That ramen looks so ono! IMO, it looked nothing like the picture, but still awesome. I glad you finally did a food post again, I was getting a little worried that you gave up eating.

  • February 3, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Dean-San – I was actually contemplating changing this blog’s name to “Tasty Gadgets”, reviewing electronic stuff instead of food. See how long the regular readers here stick around for that! Ha!

    @ pat – Looking it up in my handy-dandy Hawaiian pocket dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui, Pomaika’i means “Good fortune, blessedness, blessing, prosperity; prosperous, fortunate, lucky; benefits and improvements to property.” Ho’opomaika’i means “To cause good fortune; to bless, say grace.” …in my dreams! ;-) No mention in there about Pomaika’i meaning “Calm Seas”, however I do know the Hawaiian word for “Crowded Stream”. ;-P

    h-Chan – Funny you mention that about photography. I was just watching a Chinese Lion Dance at Ala Moana Center the other evening, and began filming it with my Digital Camera (not my phone). When I thought to myself that I’d much rather watch the performance LIVE right there before me, then be stuck behind the viewfinder composing it, only to watch it later on YouTube. While cool to share, how lame is that? I’m there for the moment to savor it!

    I didn’t know what you were talking about regarding Phish and the Seahawks, so found this article on it:

    Hey, I really dig your new honorific Japanese nickname “h-Chan” (thank you Pomai ;-P). Sounds very cute! I looked up your name in my Hawaiian dictionary, however it’s not listed. The closest is Hemolele.

    • February 3, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Yes, Pomai-San, living in the moment is worth one billion videos or pictures. Pictures and videos are how you experience OTHER people’s moments.

      The mini-documentary I saw about Phish and the Seahawks was here http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/84564478.html but apparently NFL has now blocked it for copyright violation. How lame. It was super interesting.

      Hemolele is a pretty name. I’m not surprised there’s no Hawaiian name for the bush that shares my name, which is my name’s only meaning, as far as I am aware. I’ll tell you my middle name in private sometime. Maybe there’s a Hawaiian name with a similar meaning. My parents weren’t really into name meanings. They were into trendy names (at the time), though neither my name, nor their second choice (Dawn, and they left it up to my then 4 year old sister to pick), took off in a real big way. My sister’s name, on the other hand, is realtively popular.

  • February 3, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Pomai, I’m a reporter at KITV4 trying to get in touch with you about a couple photos of the old “Honeys” in Kaneohe that were posted on this site… I’d like to use them for a story we’re about to run on Thursday about Kaneohe.

    I look forward to hearing back from you,

    Brenton Awa

  • February 3, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Curious what you meant about feeling sentimental about a ghost who didn’t like your name ?

  • February 3, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the ramen. I thought it was a tasty bowl myself. So nice to have choices when it comes to types of ramen. Just recently went to Kiwami for a bowl of tsukemen. Great to have a place that serves tsukemen, although not as good as my much missed Taishoken. Enjoyed the ramen at Santouka as well. Their shio ramen is great, especially with the toroniku pork. My cousin really enjoyed the tonkotsu ramen at Agu as well, although my preference is not for the thin noodles which Agu seems to use. Love the options though!

  • February 4, 2014 at 3:08 am

    Pomai, I really love your entries on ramen and I do love ramen but also love pho too. When you going to a pho entry? Who make the best pho in Honolulu? My cousins in San Francisco said it 39 degree rather and family been on a pho thing due to cold weather with lemongrass chicken and rice.

  • February 4, 2014 at 6:08 am

    @ Ann – Wow, I’m surprised you caught that little detail. Actually, it has nothing to do with my name (I threw that in for discussion purpose), nor the afterlife. You must be into ghost stories. I really enjoy them myself! We tell them all the time at work (supposedly true stories). Some freaky stuff goes on out there in these islands!

    @ K I – And the choices for authentic Japanese Ramen are indeed becoming ever expansive here in Honolulu! I STILL haven’t tried Hokkaido Santouka, as every time I’m at Don Quijote shopping, I’m between meal time and not hungry. I know you rave about their Shio, however have you tried Santouka’s Shoyu Ramen? You know how insistent I am on that! I’m not so sure I’ll like Agu, based on your description, but won’t knock it ’til tryin’ it! I’m curious who the new vendor is at Yataimura food court. Yama Arashi Ramen made an encore appearance for the second half of January.

    @ Amy – I’ll be honest and say I’m partial to Japanese Ramen for amongst other reasons, the noodles are unique compared to all other asian noodles. Mainly because of the Kansui (mineral water) used to make it that gives it its firm, bouncy texture and earthy flavor profile. I LOVE pretty much any asian food from all regions, noodles or whatever, but if given the choice, Japanese Ramen is what I’m going for first. I’ll try harder to think outside the box though!

    @ h-Chan – What do you think of video blogs compared to photo-based blogs such as this one? A major reason I don’t post or film much video is because of the time to it takes to post-process it in an editor and space to store it on the HD. Gotta’ say though, there’s some hilarious ‘Vlogs’ on YouTube. Especially the folks who review products.

    That Seahawks/Phish webpage you linked looks like it’s back up.

    There’s a lot of very pretty Hawaiian names. I think the Hawaiian language is very romantic sounding. Some Hawaiian folks have entire paraphrases and Biblical passages told in their name (we’re talking like over 20 characters). I’m glad mines was kept short to one primary definition.

    The Hawaiian translation of ‘Dawn’ is Ao, wana’ao, kaioao, moku ka pawa. Like most Hawaiian words, having variations, depending what context it’s being used.

    Many Hawaiian female names start or end with “Lei, “Nani” and “Lani”; Lei meaning necklace of flowers, Nani meaning beautiful and lani meaning heavenly or spiritual. Also, other than those just mentioned, some Hawaiian names can be used for both sexes, such as mine.

    That said, I’m no Olelo (Hawaiian language) expert, however I take it you can combine the aforementioned as ‘Aolani’ to mean “Spirtitual Dawn” or “Heavenly Dawn”. I’ve got a friend from the island of Niihau who speaks fluent Hawaiian. I’ll ask him for an exact Hawaiian translation of your name(s).

    • February 4, 2014 at 9:52 am

      I have not tried Santouka’s shoyu ramen yet, but will when I have the chance. I tried the shio ramen based on my mom’s recommendation that it was better than the shoyu ramen. However I later asked my dad and he said that he preferred the shoyu ramen. Also, someone else I talked to mentioned that they enjoyed the shoyu ramen at Santouka as well.

    • February 5, 2014 at 5:03 pm


      Well, now. You’ve forced me to add another restaurant to my list of places to try the next time I’m in town. The shoyu ramen will get my full attention. Thanks for the heads-up. And I too am glad you resumed your restaurant reviews.

      I’m still mortified by the fact that Seattle has a very weak ramen scene, but the situation is improving. The Japanese-owned ramenya are starting up on the Eastside (across the Lake Washington bridges) where the Japanese nationals mainly live. Kukai Ramen is arguably the best one in the area, but Santouka will be opening a branch in Bellevue in the spring. Jinya, which has had much success in So Cal, will also be opening in Bellevue. So, things are looking up.

      Seattle folks are pretty rabid about their Seahawks. 700,000 at the welcoming parade today in freezing temperatures.

  • February 4, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Feeling reminiscent about ghosts who didn’t like,something… It just went from curious to confused. From ramen to whatever’s……;)


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