If you’re like me, your social media feed has been blowing up with ramen photos lately, all within the same half-mile radius, from three new ramen shops near Ala Moana. Two of them are brand new; one, Kiwami, is simply in a new location. Everyone wants to know: which one is best? Like anything else, taste in ramen is subjective, but here are my picks and pics, in ascending order.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
In a nutshell: The broth is good; the noodles, not so much. And there’s a 40- to 60-minute wait on most days, so you have to decide if it’s worth the wait. It was kind of cool to see this big-time chain from Japan hit Honolulu, though, and start off in an area accessible to locals instead of in Waikiki. (Click here to see my blog about it in Asahikawa last year.)
There was a lot of excitement when Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, a chain from Hokkaido, opened at Don Quijote recently. Finally, Japan was coming to Hawaii! I thought the name sounded familiar. At this writing, there is still a 40 to 60 minute wait to get in on most days.Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
801 Kaheka St.
Japanese Ramen Kai
This is an independent ramen shop, the first venture into restaurants for a Japanese food distribution company. The broth is good, the noodles are good, and as of this writing, there’s no long wait.
Japanese Ramen Kai
Kai is the newest of these, having opened on October 14. It's owned by a distribution company in Japan that supplies food to cafeterias and hospitals, and this is their first venture into running a restaurant. Their noodles, however, come from local company Sun Noodle.Japanese Ramen Kai
1430 Kona St.
Locals love this ramen shop, and now that it’s in a place with better parking, the audience will be more diverse. We love the broth, the noodles, and the fact that there is a wide variety of add-ons. They also now have gyoza, so Nonstop’s Grant Shindo won’t have to build a cart to sell dumplings along Keeaumoku Street.
If you've been in the ramen scene here a while, you remember Kiwami, which used to be in the basement food court at the Waikiki Shopping Plaza. It's reopened on Keeaumoku next to Panda Cuisine, so they have ample metered street parking and validated lot parking.Kiwami Ramen
641 Keeaumoku St.
Have you tried the new ramen shops? What do you think?