No Monkey Business at Chinpei
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While a cartoon chimpanzee serves as the playful mascot adorning the logo above Chinpei Ramen’s entrance, owner and chef Yoshi Hashigami definitely is not monkeying around when it comes to providing flavorful, authentic Japanese cuisine.
Hashigami opened Chinpei Ramen in Moiliili on South King Street five years ago with a simple menu featuring a mere 10 items. But, after fielding multiple requests from his growing customer base over the years, Hashigami has expanded the menu, which now features more than 80 Japanese-inspired dishes. Chinpei Ramen currently offers a vast array of items made from scratch daily, and utilizes all-natural soups and broths in its ramen selections. The restaurant also has multiple vegetarian options, offers gluten-free rice ramen noodles when local supply allows, and its dishes are free of MSG.
His father, who operated a restaurant in Japan for 55 years, had such a tremendous influence on Hashigami that after the eatery closed, he immediately took over the operation, moving it to Hawaii and renaming the restaurant to forge his own identity. He spent 15 years working at the restaurant in Japan, learning a wide range of cooking and preparation techniques that are behind the quality offerings on Chinpei Ramen’s ever-expanding and affordable menu.
One of the healthier options Hashigami recommends is Chicken & Tofu Salad ($9 small, $10 regular). The dish features a lush bed of lettuce and spinach topped with chicken and tofu, sliced cucumber, onions, corn, tomatoes and is topped with either Thousand Island or shoyu dressing — the two toppings also can be mixed to create a sweet and tangy combination.
Another dish that was added to Chinpei Ramen’s menu because of its popularity in Japan is Vegetable Cold Noodle ($9.80). The refreshing dish includes a choice of thick or thin noodles (add $1 for udon, yam or organic flour noodles) topped with corn, sliced cucumber, tomato, bean sprouts, choy sum and seaweed. A zesty sauce also is available to tie all the freshly prepared vegetables together.
The popular eatery also offers complete Teishoku meal sets, which include miso soup, rice, macaroni salad and cabbage. Yasai Itame ($8.50 side order, $10.50 with rice, $13 Teishoku) is a vegetable stir-fry creation containing fresh produce seasoned to perfection.
Diners go ape for Chin-pei’s tasty Gyoza ($1 per piece, available in multiple quantities), as the freshly made pot stickers are delivered piping hot to the table. Vegetable Gyoza ($1.10 per piece) also is available in multiple quantities, and provides a healthier alternative to its meat-filled counterpart. Another highly requested pupu item is Shu Mai ($1.20 per piece), and like gyoza, the pork hash is available in an array of quantities to satiate any appetite. Hashigami recommends his homemade sesame oil and chili pepper dipping sauce, which offers a flavorful kick to the meal.
Chinpei Ramen is known for its crafty combo deals and specials, many of which are posted on the eatery’s walls for all to peruse. A special half-size curry rice with a choice of noodle is available for just $4.50, as is a half-size fried rice with four pieces of gyoza and a noodle choice for $5.50.
Also, during lunch only, customers may indulge in three pieces of gyoza with the purchase of a regular noodle dish for just $2 more.
Chinpei Ramen also offers a host of side dishes, including Spicy Shoyu Pickled Cucumber ($2.20) and Edamame ($3). The aforementioned items pair well with the eatery’s large selection of domestic and imported beer, sake and shochu. Happy hour specials are available from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 4 to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and include Kirin Ichiban ($2.50 glass, $9 pitcher). Additionally, diners enjoy 10 percent off all Japanese sake selections every Monday.
The restaurant is open daily, and serves both lunch and dinner every day except Monday, when it opens for dinner at 5 p.m. Upon visiting, diners are encouraged to offer up ideas for new menu items, and one should not be surprised if Hashigami ends up adding the dishes to his collection so that others may enjoy them, too.
2080 S. King St., Honolulu 96826
Monday, 5-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (lunch) and 5-10 p.m. (dinner); Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.