Old-Fashioned Favorites

Digest Foodie Fare

October 22, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

It’s only mid-October, but the chilly, rainy winter weather is already moving in. That means it’s the perfect time for a hot bowl of saimin. And what better place for saimin than The Old Saimin House?

  • Wun Tun Min ($7.50 extra large)
  • Former restaurant next to Tamashiro Market. Photo from Lois Ikei
  • Fried Saimin ($8.25)
  • BBQ Stick ($1.90)
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This noodle eatery, once called The Saimin House, is the same that has delighted taste buds since the 1960s next to Tamashiro Market. Now located on North King Street, The Old Saimin house has a new name and new location, but still offers the same great dishes.

After nearly 50 years of business, The Old Saimin House still serves up old-fashioned noodles just like back in the day. “We hope to maintain the simple menu and style that our parents taught us,” says manger Lois Ikei, whose family has been running the joint for four generations. Ikei explains that the saimin noodles are “old-fashioned style,” which refers to the texture of the noodles. “When we cook the noodles, we try to keep them firm,” she explains. “We try to keep it very simple, local style. For garnishes, it’s just char siu and green onions.” The Saimin ($4.50 for a small, $5.25 for a large, $6 for extra-large) is served in a homemade broth.

Other warm, tasty noodle options include Wun Tun Min ($6.25 for a large) and Udon ($6 for a large). Ikei says that the Wun Tun Min, which features handcrafted wun tun, is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.

“Our Fried Saimin ($8.25) also has become very popular,” Ikei says. The Fried Saimin comes with char siu, fish cake, Spam, cabbage and green onions.

To complement the noodles, you should also try the Kim Chee (95 cents), Musubi (90 cents, $1.80 with Spam), or a hibachi-grilled BBQ Stick ($1.90). Other menu items include Fried Soba ($8.25), Wun Tun Udon ($7 for a large) and Fried Udon ($8.25).

Or, go for the Combination Plate ($6.60), which includes a Musubi, Macaroni Salad, Spam and two BBQ Sticks. “It’s just like a home meal,” Ikei says. “People order that with a Saimin, and they tell me it just hits the spot.”

As winter approaches, all the dishes at The Old Saimin House will really hit the spot. “When it rains and when it’s cold, people come out of the woodwork,” Ikei says. “Especially after a holiday, people just love a simple meal.”

On the Side

What is now a local family favorite first started in the late 1950s as a small venue. Tomizo and Mitsue Ikei first opened The Old Saimin House near Aala Park with a little gas stove under a tarp tent. “There was a nearby gas station, and when that would close, they would pitch the tent and put up their stove,” says Lois Ikei. “They used to sell the noodles for 25 cents.”

The original recipe was the old-fashioned saimin that the restaurant still uses today. In 1962, the Ikeis moved their roadside attraction indoors to a location near Tamashiro Market, where it became a late-night hot spot for local bowlers. The hangout was stocked with a jukebox and games like pinball and Space Invaders. Today, The Old Saimin House is still a hot spot for those looking for quality saimin and other local favorites.

Many patrons come to relive the memory of the classic noodles from the past. “It’s very nostalgic for some customers,” Ikei says. “Many customers who (visited) the restaurant in the 1960s are now bringing in their children or grandchildren.”

These returnees will be happy to know that the menu hasn’t changed much since then. “We like to keep our menu very simple,” Ikei says. “It’s comfort food.”

Regulars at The Old Saimin House can attest to the quality, old-fashioned style of the cuisine.

Customer Ken Ikeda told Ikei: “Recently, my family has been frequently visiting The Old Saimin House … as I miss the old style saimin that I knew growing up in Hawaii. I love the simplicity (and) the texture of the noodles.”

Another regular, Wayne Yasutomi, recently told Ikei: “I first acquired the taste for the The Saimin House’s Wun Tun Min when it was next to Tamashiro Market back in the late ‘60s. Through four generations, the family has kept the same great original recipe.”

The Old Saimin House

  • Where
    • 1311 North King Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96817
  • Call
    • (808) 842-7697
  • Hours
    • Lunch
    • 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
    • Tuesday – Saturday
    • Dinner
    • 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Tuesday – Thursday
    • 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.
    • Friday – Saturday
    • Closed Sundays and Mondays
  • Website

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