Like a woman’s “biological clock” ticking away with the instinctive need to bear children, I’m the same when it comes to authentic Japanese Ramen: eventually (typically sooner than later) I want to have it. My testosterone craves it. My soul and being needs it. Gosh, where did that metaphorical example come from? lol
Which brings us back again to the much heralded Yataimura Food Court at Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center, for some ramen at Hokkaido Ramen Tokachiya, who opened just a few weeks ago near Yataimura’s 2nd floor entrance on the makai side (inside of the mall corridor).
As you see, they’re another permanent tenant, not one of those limited engagement vendors as Yataimura also hosts. They’ll be competing against Menya Ifu-Do-Do, who are located across on the mauka side of Yataimura, straight ahead of the escalator.
Like any other ethnic cuisine specialty, Japanese Ramen styles are specific to regions of their four major islands. With Hokkaido being the northern most island, it’s also the coldest. With that cold weather, Hokkaido folks demand a heartier ramen, hence the birth of chicken and Miso-based ramen, and also the introduction of sweet corn, and bean sprouts that are all typical of the Hokkaido, a.k.a. Sapporo style of ramen.
That said, as you see by their menu, all of the above are highlights served at Hokkaido Ramen Tokachiya…
Those are some VERY COOL wooden ramen bowls!
Without further ado, and very quickly upon ordering it, my bowl of Tokachiya Shoyu Ramen has landed…
This would be HokkaidoRamen Tokachiya’s medium-sized Shoyu Ramen for $8.50.
You know what time it is again, right? Yes, time to reflect the meaning of life, and how the elements that make up the universe are contained within the hallowed walls of this ramen bowl. Or is it?
I think deeply, questioning whether I missed seeing “her” at the last SPAM JAM. Oi.
OK, let’s do this. Hai, itadakimasu…
And? You know, I had REALLY high hopes for this broth, as the aromas wafting out the kitchen were very promising. However, upon tasting it, it falls far short. They said the broth is based on chicken bones that are simmered for hours, and with that, I’d say more like BURNT chicken bones, as it has this sort of odd “scorched” undertone to it. It also lacked richness, complexity and depth, irregardless of the globules of fat you see floating on the surface.
Hopefully there’ll be redemption in their house-made noodles…
You know the show Restaurant Impossible with Robert Irvine and Hotel Impossible with Anthony Melchiorri? Well, at this point I’m contemplating starting a show called Ramen Impossible. I tell you, these “noodles” make me wanna’ SMACK them!
Words to describe these noodles? Soggy. Pasty. Dough-ee. Soggy. Pasty. Dough-ee. Repeat many times more until you’re finished eating them, that is, if you finish it.
On top of that, or more like mixed within are about a 3:1 ratio of noodles to bean sprouts, which while being common in Sapporo/Hokkaido style ramen, is so NOT my favorite ramen ingredient. While I love my veggies, just like green peas in potato and macaroni salad, bean sprouts DO NOT belong in Japanese Ramen!
Ugh. OK, let’s try the single slice of Char Siu (as they spell it) in my “starter” Shoyu Ramen…
And? Nicely permeated with a shoyu-based braising liquid, and very moist ‘n tender, with a decent amount of a fat line to enhance the richness factor. While not nearly as great as the rolled-up pork belly Chashu at Goma Tei, FWIW, Tokachiya’s Char Siu is the best part of their Shoyu Ramen. That said, if you decide to try Hokkaido Ramen Tokachiya on your next visit to Yataimura in Shirokiya, definitely opt for the Char Siu version of whatever broth style you choose.
Another thorn in my side besides just about EVERYTHING in this Shoyu Ramen is the absence of Menma. How can you serve authentic Japanese Ramen without Menma? Heresy! In exchange of that, they included Wakame (seaweed), which is fine, however it doesn’t have the wonderful fibrous texture, savory earthiness and umami factor that I love about Menma (marinaded bamboo shoots). In my opinion, Menma is about half the flavor and texture factor of GREAT Japanese Ramen, even if it’s just a few slices. The wakame? Eh, it’s OK.
Then there’s sweet corn in here, the signature Hokkaido/Sapporo style ramen ingredient, which like the bean sprouts, as far as I’m concerned DO NOT BELONG in Japanese Ramen. No, no, NO! At this point I’m already punching in Expedia for a plane ticket back down to Tokyo, STAT!
The ultimate testament to any bowl of ramen, or food in general for that matter is what’s left after you’re done. A great bowl of ramen will not have a drop of broth left, where as you see in this case I didn’t even come close to finishing it. Which says it all.
Wrapping this up, I’d just as well liken Hokkaido Ramen Tokachiya’s Shoyu Ramen to a jacked-up bowl of Nissin Top Ramen instant noodles. No, actually Top Ramen is better. Well OK, I’m exaggerating, but then again, maybe not?
Still, I’ll give Hokkaido Ramen Tokachiya another chance at redemption and return to try one of their signature miso-based ramen. Hopefully I’ll be wonderfully surprised. ;-)
Hokkaido Ramen Tokachiya
Yataimura Food Court
Ala Moana Center (Kaka’ako, Honolulu, Oahu)
The Tasty Island rating: (Shoyu Ramen)
P.S. While we’re at Ala Moana, in a previous post, a reader asked who my lucky date was going to the movies. To which it was American Idol alumnus, Camile Velasco…
She loves me. You can tell.
Nah, just kidding. She’s married. I just so happened to watch her perform during a cameo appearance at the Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana yesterday evening after trying the ramen downstairs at Tokachiya. She’s a super cool, very friendly, humble gal and her voice actually has gotten better since her American Idol days. She sounded GREAT last night! Not to mention she looks hot as ever! I, on the other hand need to loose some weight again. Back up to 180 lbs. Oi. 20 lbs. in 60 days? ;-)