Savoring Saimin and More

Digest Eat This

March 6, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Tanaka Saimin is the place to be when the first pangs of hunger for local favorites hit you. And although the saimin is second to none at this North Nimitz Highway establishment, chef Sing Lee brings all this and more to the table.

  • Steamed Basa Fish ($12.95)
  • Chef Sing Lee, server Kapi Dias (center) and manager Gigi Kim offer up local favorites to patrons daily.
  • Hot miso soup accompanies the Basa Fish and Miso Butterfish.
  • Tanaka Saimin's famous oxtail soup ($12.95)
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“We use no MSG in our saimin broth,” says Lee, a 45-year veteran in the culinary industry. “It’s one ethnic food that mostly everyone seems to like.”

Owners Joan and Paul Watanabe couldn’t agree more, and have been working diligently since the restaurant first opened last October to get the recipe down pat.

Yet it’s dishes like Oxtail Soup ($12.95), Baked Miso Butterfish ($11.95) and Steamed Basa Fish ($12.95) that give the restaurant’s famous saimin some steep competition.

“We cook the oxtail soup for almost two-and-a-half hours and the meat is very tender,” says Lee, adding the dish is served fresh daily without exception.

He wouldn’t reveal a few secret ingredients in the broth, but will share with diners that the soup also is rich with peanuts, shiitake mushrooms, long rice, mustard cabbage and garnished with Chinese parsley. And the proof is in the numbers, as Lee says, because the restaurant sells about 35 to 50 bowls of soup per night.

Served at anytime of the day, the Baked Miso Butterfish has been a local favorite since earning a place on the menu. Diners relish that the savory miso sauce is homemade as well, and something you can’t find anywhere else.

Finally, it’s the Steamed Basa Fish that has indeed reeled in the appetites of many. Cooked oriental-style, the Basa fish is served with lap cheong, shiitake mushroom, green onion, preserved cabbage and topped with a special shoyu sauce. Paired with rice and choy sum, guests are quite happy with this meal of choice.

“Oriental-style steamed Basa is a very delicious white fish,” Lee attests. “This fish is very tender and firm, and a lot of people really like that — the texture is similar to that of a sole filet.”

Tanaka Saimin

  • Where
    • 888 North Nimitz Highway #103
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 524-2020
  • Hours
    • 6 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Monday – Thursday
    • 6 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    • Fridays
    • 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    • Saturdays
    • 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
    • Sundays

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