Chances are many of you folks on Oahu will, at one time or another, be shopping at Ala Moana Center this “Black Friday” weekend. And if there, one of the places you must stop by to consider for a bite to eat is at the awesome Yataimura Food Court in Shirokiya on the 3rd floor of the mall. And in there now is the brand new Junpuu Ramen, who opened shop a week ago, and is at least for the foreseeable future, a permanent vendor there.
With Junpuu, that now makes three established Ramen-Ya in Yataimura, including MenYa Ifu Do-Do, just a few steps away in the beer garden area, and Tokachiya Hokkaido Ramen, on the mall side entrance of the joint, where all the bento guys stay.
Junpuu is specifically located in the back corner of Yataimura’s “Beer Garden” area, next to the Udon shop.
Eiji Kato, as shown above in the first photo, is the owner, chef and cook. Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Eiji-San has lived in Honolulu for the past five years, working as a manager at nearby Shokudo, then moving on to open Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, also nearby on Kaheka in front of Don Quijote. It must also be noted that because Eiji-San has lived and worked in Honolulu for a while now, his Eigo (English language skills) is excellent! Whew. Sure makes my Q&A’s that much easier.
Without further ado, let’s check out the menu (click to enlarge)…
And that’s it. No gyoza, curry rice or other side attraction “shenanigans”. Just ramen… which should be a good thing!
That said, notice there’s a VERY UNORTHODOX style offered here called their “Original Tomato Ramen with Egg”. Now, normally I wouldn’t DARE stray from my usual choice of Shoyu Ramen. However Tomato Ramen? OK, now THAT I must try!
And that is exactly what I ordered…
The shaker bottles on the tray are red chili pepper flakes and… and… and… Grated Parmesan Cheese? Whoah! More on that in a bit.
So what we have here with Junpuu’s absolutely CRAZY Tomato Ramen is a broth made with pork bones and bonito, finished with a generous dosage of sun-dried tomato puree. That crimson broth is topped with Chashu, Ground Beef, Menma, Ajitama and a variety of Spinach.
And? Wow, this sun-dried tomato based ramen broth is surprisingly much, MUCH better than I expected! I was kinda’ expecting Chef Boy Ardee, however it’s totally not the case.
Now the LAST thing I’d ever fathom added in or on my Ramen would be grated Parmesan Cheese, yet that’s exactly what I did here. Which I’ll admit, did make it taste like I was truly eating a Spaghetti-meets-Japanese Ramen hybrid. And surprisingly, just like the sun-dried tomato paste in the broth, the cheese, when combined with the ramen noodles actually worked! I mean, I won’t say the likes of Assagio’s has anything to sweat over, yet for what it’s worth, the cheese in this ramen is win!
On to the ramen noodles, it’s kinda’ interesting. First of all, they’re sourced from Sun Noodle Factory, like most ramen shops in Honolulu are. Interesting, being, they’re more Chinese in style than Japanese, where I couldn’t really get that kansui egg-like flavor profile. They’re also on the thinner side, where honestly I’d prefer them just a tad thicker. Other than that rather “non-Japanese Ramen oddity”, the noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, and absorbed the flavor of the broth more than adequately to feel satisfied on the palate.
Junpuu’s Chashu (braised pork) is sliced thin and square, with an ample amount of fat for flavor, while being “hashi-tender”, if you will, meaniing you can pretty much tear it apart with your chopsticks. Totally works.
Then there’s what is definitely the highlight of Junpuu, is their absolutely STELLAR Ajitama, which is a soft-boiled egg simmered in a shoyu base… and Junpuu totally hits this part of the ramen OUT THE PARK! It’s soft yolk is THE BOMB! While I didn’t ask Eiji-San how he makes it, I swear there’s a hint of Wasabi mixed in there. All I know is, I could pop a dozen of Junpuu’s Ajitama in one sitting, they’re THAT oishii!
To me, no other topping is more genuinely Japanese to Ramen as is Menma. It’s such a unique flavor, with it’s “woodsy” and “earthy” profile, while having a somewhat “tannic” element going on. And thankfully Junpuu delivers it.
Combined with the cheese and tomato element, this is pretty much Italian spaghetti-meets-Japanese ramen in what turned out a very pleasing way. Where summing it up, I give Junpuu’s Tomato Ramen a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi… and that’s a LOT, coming from a Shoyu Ramen kinda’ guy!
Before continuing on, here’s how Junpuu’s Tan Tan Men looks…
And another bowl of the Tan Tan Men…
I tried a spoonful of the Tan Tan Men broth, which came across as creamy, along with a pronounced hit of garlic, while not being as spicy-hot as I expected. Interestingly, the gal of the boyfriend who sat next to me and shared it with me (yeah, I know, Mr. Congeniality here lol), gave it a resoundingly solid 10 stars. Wow!
Moving along, on a second visit, I just had to sample the Shoyu Ramen….
And? Hmmm, I dunno’. It’s kinda’ weird. Good, but weird. To me, Junpuu’s Shoyu Ramen comes across as the Tan Tan Men, sans the Chili Pepper. It’s also fairly mild ‘n tame.
The Chashu is consistently as oishi, being again, very fatty and “hashi-tender”.
Again, though, the star of the show is Junpuu’s INCREDIBLE Ajitama!…
Ajitama SUGOI YO!
Original Honolulu Noodle Company
1450 Ala Moana Blvd. #2250
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
Tel. (808) 778-4818 (Eiji Kato, owner)
The Tasty Island rating:
(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)
• Junpuu Ramen at Yataimura – Yelp User Reviews