Archive for the ‘[Food!]’ Category

The Top 7 Ramen-ya’s in Hawaii.


Unfortunately, over the course of several years, Ramen-ya’s in Hawaii have dwindled in number.  There aren’t very many options to choose from anymore and good ones for that matter.  Among the best that I was sadden to see close down over the years were places like Taishoken, Kiwami, Raraya and even Ajitama.  That doesn’t leave us with much!  Here’s what’s left in my opinion….feel free to chime in since everyone’s tastes are different.  I should also add that I can’t wait for Santouka, a Japanese Ramen-ya chain, to open in Don Quijote Kaheka!  Shout out to @Nanigurl for help with photos.

1.  Yotteko-ya.


One of the last remaining Ramen-ya’s in Hawaii that really try to perfect their dishes.  It’s Kyoto style Ramen….make sure you try the Paitan. It’s amazing.

2.  Ramen Nakamura.

NakamuraThere’s always a line of Japanese visitors here which reflects its authenticity.  I felt over the years the Ramen has gone downhill a little especially after they changed up their noodles, but overall still good.  Parking is difficult because of its Waikiki location.  Get around that by parking at the Royal Hawaiian Center and go get validated at Starbucks or one of the other tenants there.

3.   Sapporo King of Ramen (formerly known

as Rai Rai

skWhen I heard that Rai Rai closed its doors I was so disappointed.  I mean the Ramen here was pretty Amazeballs….any place that puts garlic chips in their ramen gets a pat on the back from me.  That’s why I was happy to hear that the restaurant, though a different name, still served up the same foods.  (Photo VIA Nat N).

4.  Gomaichi

gomaGoma-Tei still has nothing on Gomaichi.  The Tan Tan, Shoyu and Hot Sour broth here is still boss.  (Photo VIA Nat N).

5.  Tsukuneya Robata Grill.

CaptureNot known for ramen, Tsukuneya’s niche is Nagoya style cuisine including their popular Tsukune dishes.  But make sure to top your meal of with their Paitan Ramen.  It’s a little different from Yotteko-ya in that it’s richer but the flavor is packed with a punch.  Tenkaippin’s Koteri has nothing on this either.

6.  Daiichi Noodles Cafe.

daiiIf you’re a townie like myself you probably haven’t heard of this place or may have heard of it but never tried it.  Next time you’re out in Aiea, take a trip to Daiichi and try their version of the Tan Tan ramen.  It’s really good…dare I say better than Gomaichi and easily better than Goma-tei.

7.  Kohnotori.

CaptureSay what you want and remind me that Kohnotori is a robata bar, but they also have pretty good ramen.  It’s very light in flavor but don’t let that fool you as there is depth in the broth.

Additional short-list:
Lucky Belly
Ramen @ Gyukaku
Menaya Ifu Dodo
The ramen you eat after your nabe at Ichiriki
Every single Ramen vendor that passed through Shirokiya


Ramen Night by Sun Noodle & Ramen Lab NY.


It’s been a long time coming but I’ve finally managed to make some time to post what I call a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Okay so maybe I won’t go that far, but I have to admit it was a great and rare opportunity. What am I rambling about? Ramen Night by Sun Noodle & Ramen Lab NY. Yes you heard me, Ramen Night.

Ramen is what many Japanese dub as their “soul food.”  Ramen to a Japanese person is what you could probably consider fast food to an American.  It’s everywhere in Japan….probably more abundant and available than a Starbucks in your neighborhood.  Here in Hawaii, there may not be as many Ramen-ya’s as there are in Japan but locals still get to pick and choose where they want to go and what type of style they want.

Style, just like any fashionista, Ramen is dressed up to bring out its own identity. Throughout the different regions in Japan, Ramen is served in a variety of ways through its base broth….Shoyu, Shio, Tonkotsu, Miso…..the list goes on…many of today’s chefs even go a step further and introduce hybrids and other new flavors.  That’s why when I heard that local noodle producer and distributor Sun Noodle was going to fly in their executive chef Shige Nakamura, dubbed one of Japan’s 4 “devas” or “Gods” of Ramen, from New Jersey, I circled November 25 on my calendar – Ramen Night.

Many people perceive a local Kalihi-based company like Sun Noodle as a small operation dedicated solely to serving locals.  You would be wrong…they’re actually a lot bigger than you think.  Hidehito Uki, the founder and owner of Sun Noodle has taken a small local operation and turned it into a noodle empire, making their presence known on a national level with factories in Los Angeles and New Jersey.  Ramen Lab NY was founded by Chef Nakamura and Sun Noodle New Jersey General Manager Kenshiro Uki to produce tailor-made noodles and broths for chefs across the country.

Ramen Night was the brainchild of Hawaii Sun Noodle employee Hisae Uki, who wanted to share her Sun Noodle/Ramen Lab NY food fair and pop-up experiences in New York with locals.  With the help and support of Chef Nakamura, Kenshiro and host site Lucky Belly—Ramen Night was born.



Word got out that Sun Noodle was putting on this event, becoming a hot topic on the social networks.  My friends (@StarletShay @Nanigurl @Incurablepicure @NadineKam) and I knew we had to get their early to avoid waiting in a long line and to make the first seating as the event according to Hisae would be first-come-first serve.  The event started at 5pm, we got there at 4:15, as the second party in line. It’s a good thing we went early, I was latter informed  that the line got pretty long and though the event was slated to end at 11pm, Ramen Night was sold out by 8:30!


The line for Ramen Night got pretty long as darkness neared.

Once seated you had a choice of 3 different types of Ramen: Tonkotsu, Shoyu and the chefs special creation, Italian. Of course you can’t just have one, so as a group we ordered all 3 and got a taste of everything.


Old School Tokyo Ramen: Traditional chicken broth paired with shoyu base topped with charcoal grilled char siu. Wafu spinach, shoyu egg and bamboo shoots. $11.


Tonkotsu Black Ramen: Deep and rich pork broth topped with charcoal grilled char siu, Cloud Ear mushrooms, scallions and drizzled with the chef’s secret black garlic essence. $11


N.Y. Heritage Ramen: Italian inspired tomato broth topped with basil, crimini mushrooms, italian sausage and romano parmigiano-reggiano cheese. $13

The overall verdict? All 3 bowls of Ramen were unique and unlike the versions available here in Hawaii. All 3 did not disappoint. If I had to choose them in order of what I’d prefer, I’d go with the Shoyu first, which was the favorite amongst my party for its balance between the flavor of the broth and noodles not to mention the shoyu egg.  The Italian for its savory flavor and fatter chewier noodles.  My last choice would be the Tonkotsu which despite the cloudy broth, was not at all overbearing allowing for much depth of flavor even behind the garlic essence.

Kudos to the Sun Noodle and Ramen Lab NY team for putting on such a great event, I along with many others, hope they will make a return visit to Hawaii soon.


Everyone’s a foodie.


You’ve seen it online, on TV or right in front of you at a neighborhood restaurant.  Food.  We tend to be surrounded by it. We enjoy it’s smell and it’s presentation  Heck it gets more attention than the featured summer blockbuster movie.  Thanks to social media, like an A-list actor/actress being hounded by paparazzi, people whip out a cellphone camera the minute they’re in front of some food and start snapping away ready to post to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.

It’s amazing to see how much attention food gets today. You even have chefs gaining more traction and attention than Hollywood movie stars. Food creates a culture, gains it’s own following and can be argued as the foundation of many established networks such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Foodspotting…..the like.  You’ve heard of the saying the international language is love?  For the geeks they’re probably saying it’s mathematics but how can you not say that food is a language we all speak?

With that said and before I start rambling…doesn’t it seem like today that everyone is a “foodie?” You know those hipsters you see around town posting reviews on Yelp, taking photos for their social networks and rambling on their blog about this place or that….get this dish over that….right??  With the explosion of foodies it’s no surprise that food awards soon follow to recognize the establishments that provide the “best” food.  So here in Hawaii we’ve got things like the Hale Aina Awards (established by Honolulu Magazine) and the Ilima Awards (Star-Advertiser).  For the Hale’s, votes primarily made up of Honolulu Magazine readers (online/hardcopy) select the best restaurants based on categories such as best overall restaurant, best Italians restaurant, best romantic restaurant, etc. The Ilima awards have a larger base using the Star-Advertiser readers to vote on the “People” Choice awards and a select panel of judges to create the “Critics” Choice awards.

What I find interesting is that if you compare categories in the two awards as well as the top restaurants on Yelp….the results will surprise you.  They don’t really match.  So if Roy’s was voted best restaurant in the Hale’s you would think it’s also the top restaurant in the Ilima’s or on Yelp right?  Or at least near the top? Wrong.

Yelp’s top restaurant as of 11/14/2012 is Gaku. Not Roy’s or Le Mer like you see in the Hale’s or Ilima’s.

What this tells me is that everyone depending who you ask, has their own tastes.  The results reflect the difference in tastes between the voter demographic make up of the Hale Aina Awards versus the People’s Choice awards in the Ilima’s.  Those on Yelp tend to be more vocal about who their favorite is and why.  You’ll notice that Gaku is the #1 restaurant on Yelp…..they weren’t even a finalist in the Hale’s or the Ilima’s as best restaurant let alone best Japanese restaurant!?

So who do you believe?  Me personally, I tend to put more faith in Yelp.  These are the group of foodies that tell you what they like and don’t like about a particular restaurant.  The awards to me are based more on popularity and how strong the brand of a restaurant is.  If you’ve noticed over the years, a lot of times some of the same restaurants win.  I fear that they win based on what people perceive rather than the overall quality of the food.  Opinions very when it comes to food but hey….that’s why everyone’s a foodie.

Noodle monger, Italian style.


Man it’s been awhile, sorry for being absent for so long but every since I’ve joined Yelp, I’ve been blogging constantly there to keep up with my ‘Elite 12’ status.  So after doing that I sorta get “blogged” out.  I mean in all honestly this post should have taken me 20 minutes but I kept getting distracted so it took a course of 4 days to finalize.  But anyway, since I’ve been eating so much Italian food lately, I thought I should put my favorites down while they are still fresh in my head!

As you know I love noodles.  Whether they be the Japanese Ramen variety or the Italian….I’ll get them breakfast, lunch, dinner and anytime in between.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite Italian spots on Oahu along with a few insights.  For me the criteria was pretty loose.  If you typed “Italian” into the Yellow Pages online search or on Yelp and the restaurant appeared….then I guess we’ll call it Italian . 😛 You can chime in and let me know what your favorites are…..

La Cucina. Yum. A smaller Mom & Pop’s type of joint with homemade noodles, personable people and the tastiest of foods. You’ll need to get a reson because this place is packed.  They take reservations for parties of 4 or more otherwise you’ll have to walk-in which I recommend at a later hour like after 8:30. I have so many photos to post of the place but I’ll limit myself to 1 for each eatery.

Vongole with I believe the fatter and thicker trenette noodles. So good I went back another time and got it with tagliolini noodles.

Arancino Ristorante Italiano.  With 2 locations in Waikiki and a website that pushes the Japanese language, you would figure this restaurant caters only towards the Japanese market with “Japanese Italian” food…. much to the liking of Angelo Pietro’s or Kit-n-Kitchen. Not so, the dishes are strictly Italian and very good at that.  The prices here are also reasonable so if you don’t mind battling the Waikiki crowd or traffic maybe you should think about hitting Arancino’s.

Bernini of Honolulu Despite what everyone thinks, this place is authentic Italian. It may be owned and run by Japanese nationals (Chef Matsumoto & Motoyo Koyata) but it’s more authentic then most Italian eateries in town. Matsumoto-san got his training in Northern Italy, so KCC’s got nothing on that!  What I also like about this place is it’s diversity.  Besides pastas, they also have thin crusted pizza’s, entrée’s, and a variety of appetizers, salads and desserts.  My favorite would have to be the Beef Ragu shown below.

Beef Ragu @ Bernini of Honolulu.

Paesano Ristorante Italiano. It may be of the same family as Assaggio Hawaii but Paesano definitely tops them all in terms of taste and atmosphere.  Love the Vongole and the Chicken Anchovy Olio here. Here’s a tip though, make sure you don’t eat these things if it’s a first date.

Mediterraneo. Very similar to La Cucina. In fact, it should be as Don, the chef at La Cucina actually came from Mediterraneo.  Fresh homemade noodles, great atmosphere and simply great food.  I hear that you should actually try to go earlier for dinner since towards the later part of the evening, chef has a few drinks which may affect your dish lol!

The taragosa with fettuccine noodles. Magical.

Cafe Sistina. A place I always forget about but when I’m there I always enjoy my food. Ironic that it’s right up the street from Mediterraneo.  Good food, good wine, and great paintings…you feel as if you’re eating in Sistina itself.  Sorry no picture but you can check them out on Yelp.

A couple places I have yet to try but based on their reputation, I’ll add them on my “to-do” list. Prima Hawaii in Kailua, Taormina in Waikiki and Sabrina’s in Kaimuki. I’ve heard great things about all of them from credible sources so I’ll honor them here.

Honorable mention aka “A-OK”:  Angelo Pietro, Kit-n-Kitchen, Assaggio, Formaggio, Happy Valley Pasta & Pizza Verbano Ristorante Italiano and Sarento’s Waikiki.

Red House in Honolulu.


This weekend checked out the new Korean eatery Red House in Honolulu on Keeaumoku near Michinoku and the Korean “Supermarket.”  When you walk into the restaurant it feels like you’re stepping into a party or an entertainment center similar to a Karaoke Bar.  There’s a huge video display on the side wall which plays non-stop Kpop.  The staff is all very friendly and helpful, they are attentive and as a nice touch when you call in for a reservation, there’s a personalized hand-written thank you card waiting for you when you’re seated.

The Kpop playing on the wall makes you feel like dancing while you eat!

The ambiance and staff here are some of their stronger points.  The food itself I thought was pretty good.  If you’re looking for traditional Korean food, don’t come here.  You’re better off down the street at Millions.  This place does to Korean food was Shokudo does to Japanese food.  There’s a new age spin to their ethnic cuisine.  Don’t let this discourage you however, overall I thought the food was pretty good.

Fish cake soup. It's plain as you can see but it doesn't lack in taste.

The free pop corn shrimp with a Yelp check-in! Unfortunately, not sure if you can tell by the photo but it was a bit overcooked so it was a bit tough on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The tangy sweet sour sauce that came with it made it bearable.

Bulgogi Pizza. One of my favorite dishes. Unusual but don't let this concept scare you, it's very good.

Kim Chee Jige. It's delightfully spicy and savory. Watch out for the bones left in the spare ribs (It looked like spare ribs).

Eggroll that comes with the Kim Chee Jige. We weren't sure what the sauce was but it looked unappetizing because of it's yellow color. The texture was a bit of a turnoff with it's creaminess and the taste was a bit too sweet for our liking. It's not something we would volunteraly order. When we asked our waiter what the sauce was he wasn't sure as he mentioned it was just, "something the chef concocted."

The Chef's chicken sorta had a cross between a local style garlic chicken and korean style fried chicken. It was served with some leaks marinated in the same sauce. I liked this dish the most of everything I had.

I probably wouldn’t pick this place as my first choice of eateries but it’s great for groups and I would have no problem coming here again.  The parking is a bit of a drag as the lot is pretty small and crowded due to the sheer volume of other establishments surrounding them.  Make sure you go before 6:30 or after 8:30 so you won’t have to battle for parking…as much 🙂

Red House in Honolulu
835 Keeaumoku Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
944-0088 Reservations recommended
Mon, Wed-Sun 11am – 10pm

Bernini Honolulu (revisited).


Prior to it opening last April (2011), I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview of some of the dishes that Bernini Honolulu had to offer.  Nearly one year later, Bernini Honolulu is still going strong serving up beautifully presented dishes that taste as good as they look.  Last night, along with a few friends (@nanigurl @ricknakama @marthacheng @incurablepicure) we were fortunate enough to be hosted by owners Motoyo, Chef Matsumoto and their PR representative @yumi1001 to preview some new menu items that will be available beginning 2/21/12.  I’ll say this upfront that you will not be disappointed.

Marinated Shrimp and Steamed Chicken Infused with Dill. A light dish that doesn't shy away from flavor. The chicken is soft and moist while the shrimp is plump and cooked to perfection. The added greens, herbs & shredded green papaya add a nice touch for body. $14

"Seppie" - Seared Squid served with Sherry Vinaigrette over rice salad. Unfortunately, I don't eat squid (allergic) so I can't tell you much about it other than the fact that @RickNakama doesn't eat squid either but he tried it and enjoyed it thoroughly. I did try the rice salad along with the veggies flavored with the Sherry....I wish I could buy a bottle of that stuff! $16.

One of my favorite dishes of the night. The "Boscaiora" with mixed mushrooms, homemade sausage & a light cream sauce. To be honest I'm not really into creamy or rich and heavy type of dishes but this was still light enough for me to enjoy without worrying about feeling bogged down. If you're a mushroom lover this will certainly be one to try. When the new menu comes out on 2/15 they will serve this dish using Porcini mushrooms! $24.

"Gorgonzola" Gorgonzola cheese & asparagus in a light cream sauce. As I mentioned before I'm not a fan of rich creamy sauces but to my delight these weren't heavy dishes at all. I love how chef uses sauces that could come off as overpowering, yet the flavor of the ingredients remain intact. A delicious choice. The gorgonzola was not too bitter either. $20.

"Pollo" Mozzarella, Chicken, Bell Pepper & Anchovy. It tastes just as good as it looks! A lovely edition to our meal, very colorful and full of flavor. Another favorite of mine for the evening. $18.

"Prosciutto e Mascarpone" Mozzarella, Prosciutto & Mascarpone with Tomato Cream Sauce. A flavorful pizza with a nice sweet buttery like taste accentuated and balanced out by the saltiness from the prosciutto. $21.

For those concerned that some of your favorites will not make the new menu, fear not. Things such as the Beef Ragu and the Panna Cotta below will remain a constant!

My favorite! Panna Cotta! $7.

Chef Matsumoto also graciously let us try his Dolce, the white chocolate mousse. This will only be available on Valentines Day, part of their Valentine's Day menu. Check them out if you have the chance! Go to their Facebook page for the full Valentines menu.

If you have yet to try Bernini, it’s time you went.  Chef Matsumoto received his training in Northern Italy so his Italian Cuisine is as authentic as it gets. Many people have the false belief that this is a Japanese Italian fusion restaurant because of the Japanese owners. Not so, this is the “real deal.” For many of you who have been to Bernini, then you’ll want to wander back and amuse your taste buds with some of these new dishes while staying true to a few of your favorites.

Bernini Honolulu
1218 Waimanu Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 591-8400 Reservations recommended

Sushi Ogame.


Some of you may have remembered hitting the old Sushi Ogame on Sheridan Street behind Walmart a few years ago and leaving with a smile.  That smile turned into a frown when you found out Chef Koichi Ogame had closed his doors making you wonder why? Is he going to open somewhere else?  Fast forward a few years and Sushi Ogame has reemerged but with a twist.  Word on the street is that Chef Ogame now rents out a bar in the Red Cafe Chinese restaurant on Queen Street in the old Queen Bee location. I wasn’t able to verify whether that connection is true or not but you’ll be happy to know that I have confirmed that Sushi Ogame is within Red Cafe.

The sushi bar at Ogame. When I got here the entire bar was full with patrons. All Japanese nationals, a good sign for a Japanese eatery!

I’m still confused about what the relationship is and if Red Cafe is even open for business because when my party arrived, the only people there were there for sushi.  It was staffed with just one person who was helping Chef Ogame out.  There is a full bar within the premises, however when I called Chef Ogame for reservations, he informed me that it’s BYOB…which makes me believe that Red Cafe isn’t open.  The menu we received was also only for sushi but we saw another menu on the table nearby that did offer Chinese food… go figure.  If you find out let me know what the deal is.

As you can see there was no one there for Red Cafe. The interior however, is quite nice...and don't let this photo fool you because it can get quite crowded here for Ogame.

One thing that wasn’t so confusing was the food.  We each ordered the Omakase.  With tax and tip it ran you up about $58, $60 if you were generous on the tip.  $60 may be a little steep, so the next time I would probably order ala carte.  Although getting the variety we got was undeniably awesome.  Unlike some other eateries with more volume you can tell some of the fish was previously frozen.  But many places serve previously frozen raw fish so it’s nothing out of the ordinary.  The taste is what’s most important and the food was still delicious.

The black noodle reminded me of the Korean naeng myun noodles with a tart vinery dressing topped with unagi. The sweetness from the unagi and the tartness from the dressing were a perfect pairing.

From left to right and top to bottom: Maguro, Hamachi, Aji, Sake & Saba.


From left to right and top to bottom: Unni, Ikura, Toro, Tai & Ama Ebi.

Ume cucumber and Toro takuan.

Ebi miso soup with Asari. This one was oh so good, warmed the soul!

So there you have it. Food was good, but like I mentioned before I don’t think I’d do the Omakase next time.  I think I’ll go ala carte.  The menu is listed on the Ogame website but the prices aren’t so just for you, here it is:

Sushi Ogame
747 Queen Street (parking in lot or on street)
Reservations: 220-4123 or (walk-ins welcome)

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