December 11th, 2014
AGU — A Ramen Bistro celebrated its first anniversary over two days on Friday and Saturday with a glass of champagne to toast the restaurant and a trio of complimentary appetizers to start meals.
The event started Okinawan shisa (lion-dog) dance, plus music and dance by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko Hawaii in the AGU parking lot.
Then patrons moved indoors for complimentary appetizers that included Jidori chicken liver påté, a collaboration between AGU chef Hisashi Uehara and Thomas Jones, president of AGU’s parent company, Gyotaku Japanese Restaurants.
Next came Okinawan rafute, nine-hour stewed pork belly with brown sugar, and AGUcini, Uehara’s interpretation of the arancini, with rice and components of the restaurant’s signature “Innovative Hot Mess” rolled in panko and deep-fried.
The Innovative Hot Mess ramen was my pick for favorite food of the year in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's annual 'Ilima Awards because of the audacity of the decadent creation incorporating pork, se-abura (rendered pork back fat), fresh garlic, black garlic oil, garlic butter, Parmesan cheese, and more.
The AGUcini was made a bit healthier with a persimmon salsa.
Uehara is constantly introducing new dishes, and recent specials include Okinawan tebichi (braised pig's feet, $10.75), Hiyashi chilled ramen with jellyfish, egg crepe, menma, cucumbers and char siu served with sesame-ginger sauce ($11.75), and Tebichi tonkotsu ramen with awamori- and ginger-braised Okinawan pig's feet served over bonito-infused shoyu tonkotsu with black sesame paste. Sounds every bit as decadent and dangerous as the Hot Mess, at $19.75.
AGU proved popular from Day 1, and coming in early 2015 will be a second location, in Waipahu. Uehara explained they needed a central kitchen big enough to keep up with the demand of making his various, laborious 18-hour ramen broths. In the restaurant’s earliest days, we could not always count on getting the ramen we wanted because if he wasn’t satisfied with the broth, he wouldn’t serve it.
A third location is also in the works.
AGU — A Ramen Bistro is at 925 Isenberg St. (in front of the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse). Call (808) 492-1637.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.