A Haven for Flavors New & Old

Columns Foodie Fare

March 3, 2013

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Leah Friel

As many will remember, Shiro’s Saimin Haven has been in the same spot in Waimalu Shopping Center since the 1970s. And the restaurant, which opened its first location in Aiea in the 1960s, has been serving up many of the same goods since then. Throughout the years, Shiro’s has remained a go-to spot for saimin and other local favorites.

“We have kept a lot of the same recipes that have worked over time,” says Shiro’s manager and catering manager Bryce Fujimoto, who is founder Shiro Matsuo’s grandson. “These are original recipes, and we have just added upon them.

“It is meant to be home-style cooking,” Fujimoto adds. “We don’t cut corners. We make things from scratch whenever possible.”

Whether you have been a longtime fan of Shiro’s or are just discovering the eatery, you can rest assured that its newer items will have the same quality as the restaurant’s classic dishes that have made it a local favorite. One that it has added recently is Clam Saimin ($9.95), which features clams, won ton and Shiro’s garnish, which is comprised of char siu, luncheon meat, green onion and an egg roll.

Another newer item is Calamari Saimin ($8.75), which features won ton noodles, garnish and a side of calamari.

“The clam flavor is cooked into the base, and a little bit of miso is added in there, too,” Fujimoto explains.

Clam Saimin and Calamari Saimin both debuted on the menu last week.

If classic Shiro’s is more your speed, try Local Boy Stew ($8.50), which is a tomato-based stew filled with potatoes, carrots — and plenty of beef.

“We say that if you don’t see the meat, you don’t pay for the meal,” Fujimoto says of the dish. “This is one of Shiro’s recipes, and it is one of the old favorites that we have not changed.”

By popular demand, another dish you can now enjoy at any of Shiro’s locations is Bento A ($9.50), which features fried noodles, chicken katsu, Spam, teriyaki beef, one cone sushi, one maki sushi and rice.

“We have been serving this at the takeout window for a long time, and customers have been wanting to eat it in the restaurant for a really long time,” he says.

For those who just can’t get enough of Shiro’s, you will be delighted to know that the eatery serves breakfast. It also offers catering for parties. Call in advance to place an order.

In addition to the Waimalu location, Shiro’s has a second shop in Ewa Beach and a saimin stand in Waipahu.

On the Side

As the grandson of the late, famed Shiro Matsuo, Bryce Fujimoto grew up in the restaurant industry.

“My mom always took me around wherever she went,” he recalls.

As Fujimoto got older, he started serving water to customers, then worked as a dishwasher. Eventually, he worked his way up to saimin cook, fry cook and server. These days, Fujimoto is the restaurant’s manager and catering manager.

“I like the restaurant industry,” he says. “I like the fast pace of it.” Matsuo founded Shiro’s Saimin in the 1960s, after gathering culinary training in a lot of different restaurants.

“He worked for all different kinds of chefs,” Fujimoto explains. “He worked for a Chinese chef, at a lot of hotels. He also got some training in the Army. He worked for Gov. Burns … It is pretty exhausting looking at the list.”

All of those different influences culminated in a creative style that is distinctly Shiro’s.

“He always had a dream of opening up his own restaurant,” Fujimoto says, “and finally, in 1969, he overcame a lot of odds and opened up Shiro’s Hula Hula Drive-In in Aiea Shopping Center.”

In the 1970s, the restaurant relocated to Waimalu Shopping Center, where it stands today.

One of the main reasons that Fujimoto is so fond of the restaurant industry is because of the people, both customers and coworkers, with whom he has worked over the years.

“I consider them family now,” he says.

Shiro’s Saimin Haven

98-020 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Waimalu Shopping Center, Aiea, HI 96701

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