Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: JINYA RestaurantsRestaurant Insider
January 29, 2023
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANNE LEE
ANNE LEE speaks with JINYA Ramen Bar, Robata JINYA, LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge general manager ROBERT FEWELL
The secret to a delicious ramen are two key ingredients (the broth and the noodles), and the local has a discerning palate. This made me curious to see what made this ramen different.
JINYA Ramen Bar founder Tomo Takahashi knows what it takes to satisfy food connoisseurs. Growing up in Japan, his father owned a successful izakaya restaurant named Jinya. Taking on his father’s legacy, Takahashi opened his first JINYA in Tokyo in 2000. Fast-forward to August 2022, and Hawaii was the 49th JINYA Ramen Bar to open (in the previous Nobu location), along with two other concepts, Robata JINYA (Honolulu is the second location after California) and the first-ever LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge concept to the brand.
General manager Robert Fewell has been working with restaurants in Hawaii for more than 22 years, including with industry icons such as Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise, and is familiar with opening up restaurant concepts. We sat down and tried a few of the brand’s bestselling items, as he shared what else this restaurant trio has to offer and what makes each concept unique.
AL: What do JINYA Ramen Bar, LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge and Robata JINYA offer?
RF: JINYA Ramen Bar is the flagship to the brand. What makes this ramen unique is that our noodles are made from scratch and undergo a special aging process before they are cooked in Fuji water which is 99.9% free from impurities. The broth is slowly simmered for more than 20 hours. There are six signature broths, including vegan, that balance flavors — from whole pork bones, chicken, vegetables, and a combination of bonito, dashi, miso, kombu and other Japanese ingredients — that result in a rich, thick, full-flavored delicious broth.
Our owner’s vision is one where people eat ramen every day, like when people order pizza or a burger. Hawaii is our 49th location and there will be 12 or more locations expected to open all over the country by the end of the year.
Robata JINYA is more of a fine-dining sushi restaurant using the traditional robatayaki type of cooking and techniques that were implemented at his father’s restaurant. This features slow charcoal-grilled skewered meats and vegetables, in addition to some fun signature dishes.
LBD is the first of its kind. It stands for “La Brea dining,” not “little black dress,” as many of our guests ask. Our owner wanted to do a Japanese whisky bar in Honolulu, and this was the perfect open-air location.
With the combination of all three options, we offer something for everyone, and each restaurant has its own entrance.
AL: What are the items that chef has prepared for us today?
RF: The Premium Tonkotsu Red ($19.80) is our spicy ramen in a pork broth. It features pork chashu, kikurage, green onions, seasoned egg, dried seaweed, red hot chile oil and spicy bean sprouts served with thick noodles.You can choose your preference of spice level (0-10). If you choose higher than level six, an additional $1 will be added. Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna ($10.80) is crispy grilled sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, and garnished with sliced serrano pepper.
We offer extensive vegan/vegetarian options, like the vegetarian Impossible Bun ($6.50 for one piece). It’s our plant-based bun, Impossible meat made from plants, guacamole and cucumber with vegan mayonnaise.
Flying Vegan Harvest ($19.80) features vegan miso broth, Impossible meat, tofu, bean sprouts, Broccolini, green onion, corn, red onion, crispy garlic and chile seasoning served with thick noodles. You can substitute kale noodles for an additional $1.20.
Spicy Creamy Shrimp Tempura ($10.80) is crispy shrimp tempura tossed in JINYA’s original spicy mayonnaise, done in the classic “ebi-mayo” style.
AL: You are known for your specialty cocktails (in addition to your extensive sake, wine and whisky offerings). Can you tell me about these drinks?
RF: We like to give our bartenders a little carte blanche to showcase their talents and show some of their flair. The Lycheetini ($10) is one of our most popular, made with soju, lychee juice and fresh lychee. We prepare this tableside, and it comes with a smoked bubble.
The twisted Twisted Sipper ($18) has Haku vodka, fruit de la passion, lime juice, almond orgeat syrup, mango purée and a serrano disk.
AL: There is a limited-time special with Sapporo. Can you tell me more about this promotion?
RF: Until Feb. 28 (while supplies last), order a JINYA Tonkotsu Black plus two pieces of crispy chicken and a Sapporo draft for $24 — and guests can take the pint glass home for free.
AL: Is there anything else you want to share?
RF: The mural is iconic and is at every JINYA location. And our hot sauce is special. It’s handmade with peppers fermented in Napa Valley wine barrels and aged for seven months. All our ramen bowls are handmade and fired in a kiln four times. The process takes about 120 days, and the JINYA kanji is hand painted on each bowl.