Add Izakaya Goodies To Your Ramen ExperienceCover Story
January 21, 2018
Story By: Caroline Wright | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
Though it’s no surprise Manichi Ramen is home to many popular and sizzling noodle soups, store manager Chris Jon would like you to know that the restaurant’s selections go far beyond the humble soup bowl.
“I would describe it as a ramen shop plus izakaya,” he says. “Not just a ramen shop, though. I want customers to know that we offer more!”
For starters, the pupus are terrific, and there might not be a cozier place on this entire island in which to enjoy a cold Asahi and a delicious bowl of Pork Kakuni. Hip and fun, Manichi is decorated in black and white with bright splashes of red. There’s comfortable seating for a couple dozen guests at twoand four-top tables, all eye level with a bar that seats nine more in the center of the room.
A very on-trend Pandora playlist pumps through the house speakers, providing a modern soundtrack for the huge, modern Matsuri murals on the walls. “One heart! One soul! One bowl!” reads the proclamation over the kitchen.
As the little place begins to fill with folks from the surrounding neighborhood, it seems even cozier and friendlier. “We have Asahi, Asahi Black and Sapporo on tap for $4 and $5 during happy hour. Pretty cheap, you know!” says Jon cheerfully.
For those who don’t care for beer, Manichi also carries three different types of sake, and five of shochu, including Iichiko’s Blue Premium, Ume and Yuzu, and from Kuro Kirishima, a shochu made with sweet potato.
And to perfectly complement the spirits, Manichi offers a menu of inexpensive pupus, each tastier than the last. Char Siu Bao Buns ($3) consist of a fluffy steamed bun stuffed with chopped char-siu pork. “The char siu is marinated, which gives it a lot of flavor,” Jon says.
“We have pork belly (kakuni) buns too, for 50 cents more.”
Next up for the apps: Wasabi Char Siu ($4), a lovely blue ceramic plate of thin, perfectly seared slices of pork belly. It’s handsomely dressed with a bright green stripe of chopped radish marinated in wasabi. Chicken Tatsuta Karaage ($5.50 for five pieces), presented on another eye-catching blue plate, is tender, crispy, and delicately flavored. “We provide a little lemon to squeeze on it and it’s really good,” says Jon. “It goes really well with the beer.”
Almost irresistible, Pork Kakuni Bowl ($5) holds four generous chunks of succu-lent pork belly. After marinating for four hours, the pork is rich with flavors of dashi, soy and sake, as well as hints of ginger. It’s blanketed with green onions and accompanied by a dab of karashi (spicy mustard).
And when cravings for a bowl of rich ramen do set in, Manichi offers a diverse — and delicious — array to choose from. The restaurant fills with the mouthwatering aroma wafting from a bowl of Creamy Curry Ramen ($11). Generously garnished with bean sprouts, green onions, half an egg and two slices of char siu, the savory pork-based broth is a great finale to a visit to this friendly little restaurant.
Of course, other customer favorites, such as Manichi Special Tonkotsu Shibori, Sho-yu Ramen or Soy Milk Ramen, are worth a try, too.
“Come on down, have some apps and a few beers, then finish with a bowl of ramen!” says Jon.
Pork kakuni is a regional dish from Kyushi, the southernmost of the main Japanese islands. The word kakuni means “square simmered” and refers to the shape of the pork belly chunks, slow-braised in ingredients that traditionally include soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, ginger and scallions. Kakuni likely has Chinese origins, making it a form of Japanese Chinese cuisine, and is similar to a dish from Hangzhou, China, called dongpo pork.
GIVE THE GIFT OF RAMEN
As of November of last year, Manichi Ramen now offers gift cards for folks who cannot get enough of its delicious ramen, gyoza and other appetizers. Cards are printed with Manichi’s distinctive logo, and can be reloaded at any of Manichi’s three locations (Kona Street, Shirokiya’s Japan Village Walk at Ala Moana, and Windward Mall’s food court). “Local people love the cards,” says store manager Chris Jon. “Our initial printing of 300 is almost gone!”