Rev Up Your Ramen RoutineOno, You Know
September 17, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
When it comes to the hottest food trends around, ramen continues to dominate the restaurant scene. And while local diners have appreciated the Japanese specialty since long before it became the rock star of the foodie arena, even Oahu has experienced a recent surge in ramen bliss. Over the past year or so alone we’ve seen ramen stalls pop up in Ala Moana Center’s Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, simmering bowls pour out of Waikiki’s Yokocho gourmet food alley, not to mention a number of independent ramen shops open around town.
Now that many patrons have had the chance to explore the island’s truly bubbling array of ramen options, both old and new, I wanted to see which bowls stand out in the crowd. Even better, I’ve been in search of places that offer a unique approach to ramen that can’t be found — nor slurped up — anywhere else.
Here’s the tasty treasures I found:
Of all the ramen shops that have opened in recent years, without a doubt Manichi Ramen seems to have garnered one of the strongest followings. I can personally attest to that, as I’ve heard countless friends and family members share with me their enthusiasm over this ramen since the eatery opened on Kona Street in 2014.
Once I finally tried it for myself, I couldn’t do anything but agree wholeheartedly, as there’s something special about Manichi’s rich, flavorful and silky tonkotsu broth. There are a few secrets behind the full-bodied pork soup base, of course, but general manager Chris Jon did share with me that the bones simmer away for hours until they release all their stunning flavors.
The bowl to try is best-selling Manichi Special Tonkotsu Shibori ($13.25), which proves to be unlike other ramens because of its one-of-a-kind fusion of ingredients.
Classic slices of char siu are supplemented with intriguing spicy ground pork and mysteriously delicious black-garlic oil. When mixed into the soup broth and combined with velvety bites of the soft-boiled egg, the sesame-hinted flavor profile of this dish is all the more complex and enriching.
Another plus: Manichi has mastered the art of timing when it comes to serving the ramen at just the right piping-hot temperature, and with long, straight noodles that have the perfect amount of firmness for maximum enjoyment.
And, Manichi Special is not the only unique ramen on the menu. Try other exclusive sips like Soy Milk Ramen, a completely vegetarian dish.
FRESH SPIN ON AN OLD FAVE
When seeking out noteworthy ramen, sometimes you have to look beyond the newest, trendiest places. Here in Hawaii, we’re blessed with a number of old-school establishments that serve up delectable soups, and they too deserve to be in the spotlight.
One such hole-in-the-wall is Asahi Grill on Ward Avenue, which is known for its local-style fare. The shop is perhaps most famous, however, for its kamaaina-approved oxtail soup, which predates the 2007 opening of Asahi Grill and stems from the original recipe offered at the former Kapiolani Coffee Shop. It’s this very house specialty, in fact, that serves as the inspiration behind our next standout dish, Oxtail Ramen ($11.50).
“The origin of this dish is our regular oxtail soup,” explains supervisor and long-time employee Victoria Sayno. “A lot of customers would ask if we have any noodles to add to the soup, so we decided to make an Oxtail Ramen.”
The ramen version of the adored soup features the same clear, light and flavorful broth that’s been boiled to perfection and beloved for decades on end. Oxtail Ramen also is packed with a signature mix of tender oxtail pieces, kamaboko, green onion and parsley, and you can even have the traditional shoyu and grated ginger for dipping on the side. The addition of ramen noodles, however, brings a new heartiness to the classic recipe, which typically is served with rice.
In my opinion, and that of many Asahi Grill regulars, it’s a wonderful blending of two distinct — and divine — types of soup.