Archive for the ‘Ramen’ Category

A peek at Japan Village Walk

June 2nd, 2016



Pork ramen is one of the specialties of Kobe-based Gashoken Ramen, among the 30 to 40 eateries that will be a part of Shirokiya's Japan Village Walk, slated to open June 25 on the ground level of Ala Moana Center's Ewa Wing.

A handful of restaurants in the soon-to-open Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana Center, were testing the facilities and recipes June 1 and needed a few guinea pigs to dispatch the food. I was happy to do so while getting a sneak peek into Shirokiya's newest food concept.

Shirokiya's former Yataimura was just a warmup act for this colossal food court, set to house about 30 to 40 different food vendors.

The layout is clean and orderly, but will also be a grid-like maze of boxy take-out counters. It will be easy enough for adults to navigate, but parents will have to hold on to their children, who may get confused by the sameness of the setting—sort of like townies driving around Mililani or Kapolei.

God-san will offer a variety of yakisoba dishes, such as these bentos featuring omelet and shrimp, and omelet, bacon and fried egg.


So far so good as far as the equipment testing. Deep-fried croquettes and tonkatsu were turning out crisp and light. Ramen from Gashoken was perfection. But with many more vendors set to move in, JVW won't be open until June 25, when everyone is confident they'll be ready.

Vintage Cave Honolulu will be introducing Wagyu Plaza featuring six boutique restaurants; Seafood Plaza featuring eight bistros; and Vintage Cave Bakery. The original Vintage Cave remains at its current location in Ala Moana Center’s Diamond Head Wing.


Adding to the foodcentric venue, Vintage Cave Café, is set to open next to JVW in October. The Italian-inspired café will feature an array of seafood dishes, Milan style pasta, Napoli style pizza, Wagyu steak and more, in a room mimicking the look and feel of an Italian Cathedral, complete with dome ceiling, murals, and sculptures from Italy. The 9,000-square-foot venue will seat 150 and include four private rooms.

A sukiyaki bowl from Yakiniku Tamura.


A spicy poke and avocado bowl from Hale Mai.


Shinogu Sato and Yotaro Takenaka made the most of the tasting.


$1 beers will be among the draws.


Also from Gashoken, shrimp ramen with intense shrimp broth. Love it!


Gashoken's introductory menu.


Promising sweet treats to come, these faux fruit-filled and creme brulée crepes were on display at one of the vendor booths.


jvw rest

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Noodle soup your way at Aunty's

June 1st, 2016


Aunty's Red Soup appears to be the most fiery of the soup options, but it isn't as spicy as you'd imagine. It starts with a beef base with peppers, ginger, garlic, basil, parsley, celery and onions. Ingredients chosen for this soup were beef, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, beef balls, shrimp balls whole shrimp, and green beans.

Personalization is everywhere and the the build-your-own concept that has been applied to burgers and tacos, has made it's way to soup and noodles.

Over at Hawaii Pot Shabushabu House in the 808 Center, you can now get a personal hot pot. Even so, you're typically sharing ingredients with your dinner date(s), and not everyone always wants the same thing. Maybe you're tired of paying for other people's tripe or shellfish that you're allergic to.

Now, with Aunty's Ramen, Susend Tran (formerly of Sweet Home Cafe) is back with a concept that puts an end to those share days.

Upon entering, get your table assignment, then grab a plastic bowl and start filling it with your favorite ingredients. Next, head to the cashier and take your pick of noodles, soup base and meat. The line for the cashier can be long, but your finished bowl arrives remarkably fast given the crowds this restaurant is seeing.

Only thing is, you'll pay for your chosen ingredients by weight, at $7.50 per half pound, which adds up fairly quickly if you're grabbing such weighty items as any seafood or meatballs, sausages, taro, and pieces of corn on the cob.

Some of my first bowls weighed in at a pound-and-a-half, adding up to $20 and $24. But the last time I got it down to a more manageable $10. You'll learn.
Aunty's Ramen is at 1110 Mccully St., at Young. Closed Tuesdays. Call 946-8686. The small parking lot can get crowded, but $5 parking is available at the American Savings Bank building across the street.

Aunty's Yellow Soup starts with a seafood base with coconut milk and red curry, but it's dominated by yellow curry flavor. Ingredients chose for this soup were lamb, corn, shrimp balls, fish balls and mini spicy sausages. Topped with a sprinkling of cilantro from the sauce bar.

This bowl features shrimp, pork, kabocha, won bok and enoki mushrooms in Aunty's Golden Soup that starts with a creamy seafood base with kabocha, celery, garlic, fresh onions and dried fried onions. The red is the spiced version that aunty recommends.

To get started, grab a basket and tongs and start making your selections from plastic bins in refrigerator cases. Pictured are two sizes of imitation crab, kamaboko, baby corn, squash and Shanghai cabbage, orbok choy.

After making your soup, noodle and meat choices and paying at the cashier, it's time to visit the sauce bar for various chili, sesame and black bean sauces, and other condiments and garnishes.

I usually opt for a blend of cilantro, sesame sauce and a chili sauce or two.

For those ordering udon noodles only, you have the option of turning them into jjajangmyeon (with black bean sauce) for $1 extra.

There is a handful of $5.95 each side order dishes, such as dried fried chicken wings with a shoyu-based sweet, slightly sour Taiwan-style glaze.

Butterflied garlic shrimp is another of the side dishes.

The build-your-own concept also applies to shave ice dessert. Choose from various fruit jellies and fresh fruit. Then hand your bowl over for the ice and condensed milk with brown sugar syrup.

Here's another shave ice with the focus on custards. Clockwise from top are mocha, taro, mango, green tea and almond flavors. The taro tastes more like lychee, and the green tea has a minty finish.

The custards await selection, and it looks like taro and mango are the most popular. I like the mocha and almond for their creamy flavors.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

Agu expands menu and horizons

February 25th, 2014

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.
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.


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.


The earlybirds got the ramen burger

January 15th, 2014

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

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

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.

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