Self-serve udon hits Waikiki

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Ever since the demise of Go Shi Go last year, the loss of Honolulu’s best udon shop has been a gaping hole in my heart. So it leaps when I get word of the impending arrival of a new udon shop from @PHOTOluluTV, a Waikiki resident who emails a series of photo updates.

First, a new sign in a window on Kuhio Avenue. Then, white-uniformed workers undergoing training. Last week, menus and plastic food displays on the sidewalk outside. Finally, right on schedule on April 1, congratulatory flowers and a lunchtime line snaking out the door. Marukame Udon is open!

Hallelujah — this town has been down one udon shop for too long. We’re pretty much left with Jimbo, which is good but pricey for a humble bowl of noodles, and Yamagen, the yummy Moiliili hole-in-the-wall with two parking stalls, and the Yajima-ya udon truck on Sheridan, where prices are just a tad higher and the broth delish, but the noodles come from frozen.

So here’s Marukame. But what the heck is self-serve udon? And how good can it be?

I feel even more clueless when I find out Marukame and other fast-food udon chains have been sprouting up all over Japan for more than 10 years. Marukame alone has 445 branches. So it’s totally fitting that its first overseas shop is in a space formerly occupied by Jack in the Box.

This is not meant as a review — I mean, call me a food snob, but we are talking fast food here. This is a video answer to the questions above, with major help from @PHOTOluluTV, @jasmondknows (who took the pic at the top), @donnaxgonzales (check out her iPhone fish-eye lens), and Alvin, Kumi and Ryo Rivera, all excellent eaters who show up to meet me for a first taste on Day 2.

I know my camera work sucks (I’m working on it), so for better shots of our udon bowls and more details, click on the slideshow under the video.

Marukame Udon Waikiki
2310 Kuhio Ave.
808-921-2740

Marukame

Where Jack in the Box used to be.

— Photo courtesy of @PHOTOluluTV

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12 comments
turkfontaine
turkfontaine

very nice. your camera work is good. Hitchcock used a long tracking shot in 'FRENZY'. there used to be a similar udon shop here in Marin at Larkspur. it went away in a remodeling of the Villages mall.

were the bowls on 12of12 plastic,like in Japan? i forget what those models of food are called.

i like to hear you pronounce Japanese words.

bettydalycity
bettydalycity

Wow self serve udon place look so good . I will try them out when in town. There no special one here yet in San Francisco but Ajien Ramen in Westfield Mall a famous chain all over Asia.

CindySJ
CindySJ

Ooooh! I love udon! I'll have tobtrybthis place, even if it "fast food." Have you tried the undon from Yagura on Liliha Street? Used to go all the time when I worked in that neighborhood and loved the udon there.

M
M

Hello Mari, looks good but the portions looks small. I could at least eat 2 bowls.

MoOgooGuypAN
MoOgooGuypAN

I'm still waiting for someone to start those ramen noodle stands I would always see on Soko Ga Shiritai. Something about getting your noodle fix from a cart and having to eat it standing up makes me say "yumm".

Annoddah_Dave
Annoddah_Dave

EO: Not bad video...slow enough to pick out what was happening. Not at all like those old time Japanese news film where you get whip lashed eyeballs from the fast camera swings. In those days, I guess editing was not a big thing...and it was more about saving film and time. Is this place better than Jinbo?

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@turkfontaine plastic food? that's the only name i know. i'm trying to hold that tiny camera steadier in both hands and to remember to look thru the lens, instead of directly at ppl when we're talking, so i don't end up w/ so many partial face shots. as for my pronunciation, honto ni arigato gozaimasu!

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@M w/ all the tempura and musubi sides, i cdn't finish my small. i think a large might do u.

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

@MoOgooGuypAN it's the ambience of a cart...the outdoors! the casualness, the street! Something about noodles from a cart makes them taste waaaaaaayyyy different than restaurant noodles.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@MoOgooGuypAN i agree, but then again i get excited abt noodle bowls in general. btw u just reminded me to add in a belated reference to yajimaya, the udon truck on sheridan that's based on the stand-up udon flavor and concept.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@Annoddah_Dave thnx for kind words re video, esp since i'm from print. not better than jimbo's, way cheaper. (old-time jpnese news film??)