B goes through phases. First, he was obsessed with loco mocos. Mmm, makes sense. He is from Hilo where there’s a place called Cafe 100. They claim to have made the first loco moco. After that, it was burgers. Then prime rib. But ever since I took him to Japan, his #1 absolute most favorite food has been ramen.
It’s a good thing that we’ve got such a huge Japanese population in Hawaii! There’s ramen everywhere! Here are our favorite spots.
1. Goma tei
By far, our favorite. Goma tei is a bit different than traditional Japanese (they give baby bok choy with their dishes as a garnish) but it’s DELICIOUS. Their signature item is a semi-spicy sesame flavored broth called “Tan Tan.” In Japan, B and I stumbled into a real ramen shop (we just beat the horde of office workers looking for lunch) and we had “Dan Dan” and whooooo boy. That thing was flavorful but SUPER spicy! Goma tei’s Tan Tan has all of the flavor of the Dan Dan but it’s a lot more pleasant to eat.
I like that they give the baby bok choy–vegetables are always good in my book. I like the texture of the noodles also. They aren’t too chewy and they’re not too soft. Delicious! My default order is the Vegetable Tan Tan because they give lots of Japanese mushrooms. B always gets the char siu Tan Tan (non-spicy. he’s allergic to spicy things). They cook the char siu the real Japanese way–boiled forever and then grilled to bring out the flavors.
Goma Tei has two locations: Ala Moana and Ward. We prefer the Ward location (I’m the Duchess on Yelp, yeah!) but the Ala Moana restaurant has waaay more tables. Both locations are styled the same–cool, modern interiors with a focus on a super neat ramen bar.
Goma Tei Ramen
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
I’ve known this place by it’s other name – Kyoto Ramen – because that’s what’s on the door when you walk in. My friends love this place because it’s cheap (sets are in the $10-$14 for ramen, gyoza, and rice. Yes, rice. Rice + Ramen is very common in Japanese restaurants. Why??? So much starch. But I’m going on a tangent here…) but I like this place because of their specialty–paitan broth. Paitan is a white fatty pork broth. Asians, especially the women, like fatty broths because the collagen from the fat is good for your skin (when I was in Japan, my coworkers saved me the eye of the fish. They were soooo sweet. I guess that’s the one piece their wives always want (highest collagen) but AHHH it was so hard for me to eat it.)
I think the portion sizes are a lot smaller for what you pay (compared to Goma Tei) but this ramen is definitely worth it. I love the garnishes that come with the broth and they are generous with the pork! Speaking of the broth–the taste is “thicker” because of the pork content and it’s very flavorful. Paitan isn’t my regular broth of choice (for everyday or weekly ramen visits) but when I’m in the mood for it, Yotekko-Ya is my favorite place to get it.
The interior is very Japanese themed and it’s cozy. Parking for the McCully Shopping Center is rather bad, around dinner time. I’d aim to come early or on a weekday. Don’t forget, there’s a small lot underneath the building as well!
1960 Kapiolani Blvd #214
Honolulu, HI 96826
I debated on whether or not to put Tenkaippin on my list because I personally don’t think their ramen is that special…but almost everyone I know is a die-hard Tenkaippin fan. If you guys ever go, I’ll let you judge for yourself.
Personally, I think this restaurant is popular not because of it’s food but for these two reasons:
1. It’s a real Japanese chain from Kyoto.
2. It’s run by the family who does the Ultimate Japan TV Show on OC-16 (local show)
When I eat here, I only eat one thing: the Kotteri Ramen, their “healthy” pork and chicken base. I know that they also serve Tan Tan and the other basics aka shoyu and shio. Kotteri is their specialty and it’s made the same way as Paitan–just with chicken and pork instead of only pork. Lots of collagen! The broth is way thicker than the the broths at Goma tei (Tan Tan is shoyu based, I think) and Yotekko-ya (only pork). I think the Koterri is good but it’s not as flavorful. The flavor comes from the garnishes–especially the garlic they put in there. The pork is just alright (I’m spoiled by Goma tei’s grilled char siu) but what I thought was a bit dissapointing were the noodles. I think they’re made locally (by Sun Noodle) which is great but they don’t taste the same!
Tenkaippin has a ramen bar also and a few group tables but it’s harder for bigger groups to sit together. Also, they show episodes of Ultimate Japan on TV while you eat. I like that show–the husband speaks English, the wife speaks Japanese (subtitled), and their son speaks a mix of both. They’re a cute family. 🙂
I think the price is fair but the parking lot for the complex that Tenkaippin is in absolutely sucks. They share it with a bunch of other small businesses and two giants–a Starbucks and a Jamba Juice. Be careful–don’t park at the next door Papa Johns. They will tow you.
617 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96815
Tah dah! Those are our top spots. Next on our list to try are:
Newcomer to the ramen scene, Lucky Belly.
And a Waikiki Staple–Ramen Nakamura.
PS: Credits for all images goes to Yelp