Would you wait in line 38 minutes for ramen?

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Sunday night I sucked up my hatred of lines and stood on a Chinatown sidewalk 38 minutes for ramen. Sun Noodle, you see, is legendary to noodle fiends for making just about every kind of Asian noodle Hawaii eats, at more places than you know. As in, 100 kinds of ramen, soba, udon, saimin, won ton wrappers and other noodle goods, totaling roughly 90,000 servings a day.

Since this year, part of that output has been coming from Sun’s new Ramen Lab in New Jersey, meaning Sun Noodle now supplies ramen shops in the city as well as chefs like David Chang, Marcus Samuelsson and Ivan Orkin, the New Yorker-turned-Tokyo ramen king-turned New York ramen returnee. Honolulu-born Sun Noodle is big time in the Big Apple.

Even more enticing, Ramen Lab’s executive chef, Shige Nakamura, is a ramen superstar in Japan. So when I heard Ramen Lab was coming to Honolulu for one night, with offerings including an Italian ramen in a tomato broth with sausage, mushrooms and cheese, I stopped breathing. There was no choice. I put on my Crocs and headed down the hill.

At 4:22, 38 minutes before Ramen Lab’s scheduled opening inside Lucky Belly, I was something like tenth in line. At 5 p.m. the line snaking up Smith Street stood at 48 people. And I am sorry to do this to you who missed it, but I post this report because I snagged two minutes of Nakamura’s time and found out this one-time phenom is already looking for a Hawaii encore.

So for when Ramen Lab comes back, here’s my report: what made 38 minutes in line absolutely worth it.

Ramen Lab pop-up

Picture 1 of 7

No surprise: full house! Ramen Lab lets in up to 36 at a time, and almost immediately the ramen starts flying out of the kitchen. Japanese eaters, who often eat noodles standing up, are awesome. The table next to us turns over twice while we're still eating.

15 comments
Soos808
Soos808

I don't eat/like ramen - too many noodles, too much soup & pork - but I LOVED the NY Heritage ramen! What's not to like about pasta soup with sausage, mushrooms, parm, great noodles and tomato broth? The ramen eater in the family said the tonkotsu was great - and he doesn't usually like thin noodles. We'd both go again. Now, @nonstopmari , inquiring minds want to know which soup you just had one bowl of - you 3 had 2 each of the others!

KevinSOshiro
KevinSOshiro

That must be better than Cup O' Noodles, Top Ramen or Maruchan instant saimin, in which you wait like 3 minutes in the microwave (or boiling it on the stove)..

EurekaGal
EurekaGal

AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! I. Miss. Ramen. :(

turkfontaine
turkfontaine

i love the 'empty bowls' photo. that says it all.

 

crocs?

Annoddah_Dave
Annoddah_Dave

EO:  What?  Noodles came from China!!??  LOL.  I heard about this one and would have been in line but other things got in the way.  Thanks for the run down.

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

When we left, there were maybe 10 people in line. I guess part of the hysteria is that we don't want the food to run out....but I think there was just enough. You just never know.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

 @Soos2005 i love noodles and noodle soups, and spaghetti is my fave food in the whole world, so we def had 2 bowls of the italian! the one bowl was tokyo-style shoyu, and then we only ordered it bc the server said it was chef's specialty. while good w/ a ginger dimension to the broth, it also turned out to be our least fave

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

@KevinSOshiro I have nothing but respect for momofuku ando, who invented instant ramen. But for me that's a late-nite desperation snack. Whole nother universe from a 38-minute bowl.

nonstopmari
nonstopmari moderator

 @Annoddah_Dave u wd have been happy. i had my italian ramen w/ a glass of tentaka kuni junmai, a v nice combo

Melissa808
Melissa808 moderator

 @nonstopmari Very nice! I liked that the noodles were all different. I can't tell you which was my favorite because they were all good. I was ready to declare the NY one the best, but the shoyu was such a surprise....I expected it to be plain, and it wasn't. 

konaish
konaish

 @nonstopmari  @Melissa808 I tried the NY Heritage first. Mistake, because the flavor was so bold, it made the others pale in comparison. They were good, but the tomato broth really stood out for me. I'm glad Chef Nakamura wants to return!