Archive for the ‘Ramen’ Category

Agu expands menu and horizons

February 25th, 2014
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aguOne of Agu Ramen's "originals," a bowl of kotteri tonkotsu.Nadine Kam photos

Expanding the way we think about wine and food, Agu A Ramen Bistro was the setting for a unique pairing of affordable wines with Jidori ramen and yet-to-be-introduced small plates on Feb. 11. Some of the new side dishes only recently hit the menu on Feb. 21, coinciding with my review appearing in print on Feb. 26.

The wine event anticipates securing of a liquor license in the coming months, and the restaurant enlisted master sommelier Patrick Okubo to help with the pairings. Without knowing what the new dishes would be like, Okubo had his work cut out for him, but the selections he brought in meshed well with the restaurant's mix of deep-fried, spiced and savory flavors.

Agu quickly became my favorite ramen spot when it opened last fall, and here was no reason to believe it would ever offer more than top-notch ramen and gyoza. That was all anyone could expect and that was enough.

But co-owner and chef Hisashi Uehara, a stickler for such time-consuming details as boiling down pork bones for 18 hours to break down fat, marrow, calcium, minerals and proteins to arrive at a thick, opaque broth, wasn't done yet. He had busily been working on new dishes to add to Agu's basic menu, and I have a feeling he's not done yet.
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Agu is at 925 Isenberg St., in the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse. Call 808.492.1637.

aguramenI thought it couldn't get better than this shio tonkotsu, but updated versions of the ramen now come with butter, silky se-abura (pork fat), or a mound of  freshly grated Parmesan cheese, below.

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agpatrickMaster sommerlier Patrick Okubo served Secateurs, Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, S. Africa 2012 ($15.27) with the gyoza and  Jidori kawa (crispy chicken skin). He said, "The high acid played off of the gyoza because of the vinegar sauce and the Jidori kawa because of the tart ponzu sauce.  The high acid sensations cancelled out each other so you could taste the sweet flavors in the food and the fruit in the wine." Chenin blanc happens to be a grape with a natural acidity that compliments other high acid foods.

agyozaDelicious pork and vegetable gyoza with light, thin skins delivering a satisfying brittle crackle.

agchefAgu chef Hisashi Uehara delivers a plate of Jidori kawa, crispy chicken skin.

agwineLincourt, "Lindsey's" Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills 2011 ($22.50) and Buglioni, Il Viggliaco, Brut Rose, Veneto 2011  ($27). 

agsoybeansThe Il Viggliaco, comprising 100 percent Molinara grapes paired best with the piri kara menma  (spiced bamboo shoots, background) because of spice was offset by the wine's 1.2 percent sugar content. Its refreshing acid tones also paired well with the kotteri garlic edamame, and the spice of the Volcano sauce accompanying the mimiga, or deep-fried pork ears.

agporkThe lush sweetness of the Lincourt pinot was a good match for the char siu pork because of the richness without the tannin. Pork doesn't require the tannin that you'd find in darker skinned grapes such as cabernet so the pinot will not overpower the pork.

agpateThe Lincourt also was a good companion for the chicken liver paté that looks like a scoop of chocolate ice cream. The paté made by Thomas Jones, president of REI Food Service, parent to Agu and Gyotaku Japanese restaurants.

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The earlybirds got the ramen burger

January 15th, 2014
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keizoKeizo Shimamoto behind the grill at Taste Table, where he's cooking up his famous ramen burger.Nadine Kam photos

People started lining up at 8:30 a.m. this morning for a taste of Keizo Shimamoto's famous ramen burger, which caught national attention when it debuted at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg last fall.

All of a sudden, my New York friends were emailing me stories about this new food phenom created by Shimamoto, a ramen aficionado who started his Go Ramen blog to document his tasting and cooking adventures. In fact, one of these friends just found out about the Honolulu event and reports that the ramen burger still has the longest lines at Smorgasburg, which is why she hasn't been able to try it, even though she's in a condo that overlooks the event!


Non-flash video

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Five months later, Keizo is here in Honolulu, where he has family, to cook up 700 burgers for those who might never be able to travel to NYC.

Of course, Hawaii diners (and shoppers) seem to have no problem with lines, and this one stretched around the corner from Taste Table, past Cocina, down to Ala Moana Boulevard.

Sadly, with about 400 people in line, and a three-burger per person limit, at $10 per burger—with many expressing the desire to pick up the maximum—not everyone will be able to get a bite, which is pretty much as you'd expect.

What's funny is that the first two women in line—Jean and Jane—both said they dreamed about the burger after learning about the special event, and when I asked Jane to describe her dream, she said she imagined soft cake noodles around a juicy burger, which is exactly what it is.

As an added treat, TT's Mark "Gooch" Noguchi added his own mashup of pork with gravy slaw on a ramen bun. Unfortunately, I didn't get to try this one. I was hoping to try it this morning, but after one look at the line, decided to go around the corner to Hank's Haute Dogs.

ralineThe line for the ramen burger stretches to Ala Moana Boulevard, about 400 people for 700 available burgers, and three burger limit per person. You do the math.

kraKeizo with his OG ramen burger, with noodle bun, grass-fed Kulana beef patty, shoyu glaze, green onions and arugula.

ra1Got a chance to try the burger last night, which tastes exactly what it sounds like, hamburger between soft, toothy cake noodles.

rabunsUnpacking the Sun Noodle ramen "buns."

Ramen Lab popped into Lucky Belly

November 28th, 2012
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ramentNadine Kam photos
Old School Tokyo ramen was one of three ramen options offered at the Sun Noodle Ramen Lab pop-up at Lucky Belly Nov. 25. The chicken and shoyu broth was topped with ajitama egg, charcoal-grilled char siu, wafu spinach and bamboo shoots. The flat, medium thick noodles are most popular with ramen lovers in Japan today.

Most people still think of Sun Noodle as the little company in Kalihi that supplies our ramen houses and makes pi for our won ton soups.

But the company, founded in 1981 by Hidehito Uki, is a major player on the national food scene due to the growing popularity of ramen. After shipping noodles to California and Washington for years, the company opened a Los Angeles factory in 2004, started shipping noodles to New York a year later, and now has established Ramen Lab in New Jersey, where executive chef Shigetoshi Nakamura helps would-be ramenya owners develop original menus and concepts for their restaurants.

They've also helped established restaurateurs like Marcus Samuelsson, who wanted a recipe incorporating Ethiopian teff flour.

With much of the country yet to discover the joys of ramen, it's definitely a business with an upward trajectory.

Nakamura was in the house at Chinatown's Lucky Belly on Nov. 25 for a one-night Ramen Lab popup. The particulars: No reservations, first come, first served from 5 p.m. while supplies lasted, and there were at least 60 people lined up from the corner of Hotel and Smith streets to Little Village, after the first in line, from about 4 p.m., were admitted.

I arrived at about 5, but was lucky enough to be part of a group that had been second in line at about 4:15 p.m.

The chef presented three types of ramen, representing local, Japan and New York styles. With the enthusiasm generated by this popup, more events may be coming our way. It's only fair, given that Hawaii has offered a warm, supportive environment for Sun Noodle to grow up.

rameniNew York Heritage ramen is Italian inspired, in a tomato broth topped with basil, crimini mushrooms, Italian sausage and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The chewy, curly temomi noodles are best sellers in Hawaii and New York. You need to be in the mood for Italian to enjoy it. I ordered this because I like different, but what I really craved was the Tokyo combination of pork and egg.

ramenTonkotsu black ramen with thin, straight hakata noodles, pork broth topped with sumibiyaki charcoal-grilled char siu, kikurage (cloud ear mushroom), scallions and drizzled with black garlic essence. These noodles should be eaten quickly. Alas for the food blogger, time required for photography takes time from enjoying the ramen at its optimal.

ramenchefSun Noodle Ramen Lab executive chef Shige Nakamura and his wife Maiko.

ramenshirtHisae Uki, daughter of Sun Noodle founder Hidehito Uki, wears a Sun T-shirt touting outposts in Honolulu, Los Angeles and New York.