All ramen enthusiasts living in Honolulu know how incredibly fortunate they are because of the wide range options that are available to us. Honolulu is teeming with a variety of authentic Japanese ramen joints—we can choose anything from hakata tonkotsu to tan tan to pop-up ramen shops straight from Japan whenever we like. It’s no surprise then that it feels like I’m always in a race for new ramen, a race that I am far from finishing and happy never to. Here are my favorites thus far, but I’m always hungry for more:
Located in the bustling Yataimura food court of Ala Moana mall, this is one of my go-to places when I want comforting, hot, and savory noodle soup while taking advantage of Yataimura Beer Garden’s fantastic happy hour ($1 beer!) daily from 5:30 to closing mall time. I usually pair a shiroton ramen with Kirin draft. On certain days, this combination is just like heaven. If you do visit here, make sure not to miss the epic music coming out of the TV near the menu board. It is a must hear to set the right tone for your ramen tasting.
1450 Ala Moana Blvd
(inside Shirokiya, 2nd fl)
Also located in Ala Moana, Goma Tei is known for its tan tan ramen. I like it better than the nearby Gomaichi ramen that serves a saltier version of the same dish. Goma Tei also uses better pork, always a plus. I go here when I crave for something different than just the straight savory palate that I typically get from salt based ramen. I’ve also tried the mabo tofu ramen here, which is good albeit very rich and oily.
1450 Ala Moana Blvd
(bottom floor, facing beachside parking lot)
I think people come here more for their nabe than their ramen, but I enjoyed their hakata ramen the one time I went. The broth is so thick and creamy that it’s basically as opaque as milk. The noodles are probably the best I’ve had in Oahu: thin, straight, and cooked on the hard side so they stay firm while submerged in hot broth (soggy noodles is a downer). The first ramen I fell in love with is hakata style at Shinsengumi in Southern California, so nostalgia may be a factor in my satisfaction with the ramen at Menchanko Tei. I also just realized that the Menchanko Tei in New York City is part of the same chain. I love ramen empires (see next ramen spot)—Ippudo, I’m looking at you to open a branch in Honolulu!
903 Keeaumoku St
I’ve loved Santouka’s shio and spicy miso ramen since the Costa Mesa location opened (just 10 minutes away from my house) during my high school years and I’m blessed now that a new location just opened its doors in Honolulu. I also just learned that there are 2 locations in Jakarta, my hometown, and I’m totally telling my family to check it out.
To the luck of people from Honolulu, the Santouka here is better than the one I grew up with. The Costa Mesa location is inside a popular food court of Mitsuwa supermarket, so they’re churning out bowls at rapid speed, especially during office lunch rush. Here in Honolulu, each one is prepared to precision and the kitchen looks far more equipped than its Costa Mesa counterpart. You can even request the noodles to be under cooked so that it comes out firm (my favorite!). The broth is saltier and less creamy than hakata tonkotsu and shiroton, so this is the ultimate savory ramen.
801 Kaheka St
(same shopping center as Don Quijote)
While I come here for the izakaya, I love to close my meals here with their chicken ramen. It is a simple, delicate, and clean soup dish that ends every meal in the best way. Eating it is a bit reminiscent of a precious, comforting moment from your childhood. I highly recommend this restaurant not just for this chicken ramen, but also for their amazing izakaya—one of the best I’ve had.
2626 S King St
While I have listed what seems like a lot of ramen places, I know I’m missing plenty others that I have not tried. For example, I can think of at least three places on Kapahulu Avenue. What restaurants are your favorites, and which dishes? I’d love to try!
And now for a good laugh about the art of eating ramen. I wish I could be this Zen every time I eat noodles: