Lining the walls of Shiro’s Saimin Haven at the restaurant’s Waimalu location are “Dear Hearts” poems written by late owner Franz Shiro Matsuo — better known as “Mistah Saimin.” Each reveals a little about what the founder treasured, including words on family, respect and living life to the fullest, displayed for each spectator to take to heart and remember.
The essence of Mistah Saimin lives not only on the eatery’s walls, but also on its menu, which is decorated with more than 60 saimin options that have been satisfying generations of families since 1969.
Crispy Pork Belly Kawali ($11.25)
Miso Ono Clam Saimin ($10.20)
Since the departure of Mistah Saimin, many patrons have wondered if the restaurant would remain the same staple of good food it has been for years now? Vice president and general manager Bryce Fujimoto, who also is the late founder’s grandson, wants to reassure customers that “nothing has changed. We still have the same menu, recipes and quality ingredients, but are improving where we can,” he says.
And, after showcasing some of these improvements, the response is positive.
Shiro’s had a very busy New Year’s, with catering orders galore. Fujimoto explains that surviving the holidays requires a great deal of help — both from staff and volunteers. But, he adds, “This is how we envision our holidays: getting together and making food.”
And when asked if the establishment still is a family-run business, he replies, “Yes, it is. The family still runs the restaurant, and we hire new staff, but the ones who’ve been around forever are practically family, too.”
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Crispy Pork Belly Kawali ($11.25) started off as a special, but quickly made it onto the permanent menu, because of its high demand. And, it’s no wonder, as the pork belly is boiled, baked and fried, then doused in a secret sauce consisting of a vinegar-shoyu base and topped with chopped onions and tomatoes. Reminiscent of a Filipino dish, Shiro’s take on lechon kawali explodes with crunchy flavor and juicy additions that will make your mouth water. A side of starch and hot or cold veggies are there to help sop up every last bit of the dish.
Although choosing from the saimin selections might be daunting, any choice is a good one. The establishment uses their own noodles in each dish and adds extra flavor with unique and varying toppings. Try one of the newest bowls of Miso Ono Clam Saimin ($10.20). Shiro’s noodles are dropped into a miso broth with clams, wun tun, char siu, cabbage and extra garnishes.
Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Waimalu Shopping Center (And In Ewa Beach)
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
Restaurant and catering: 488-8824; takeout: 488-4834
Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m.