My name is Lauren Nakamura, and I am a noodle lover. I’m the type of person that loves traditional, simple, reasonable food. I am the anti-hipster. I do not feed into Instagram-worthy trends. As I was reading Jason Chin's Best loco mocos in Hawaii: Our Top 5, I thought, ’Yeah there’s still people out there just like me that want old-school noodles.” At the very bottom of the article, it said you could email firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas, so here I am writing about what I love: noodles.
Let’s start off with the Asian dishes. First up, won ton mein.
Best won ton mein: Hong Kong Noodle House
I only recently discovered this not-so-hidden gem when I was surfing through Yelp. They make their noodles in-house and they are so chewy and bouncy. Usually when I order this at other places, the noodles tend to cook while you are eating and end up being soft and soggy. Not in this case! The noodles at Hong Kong Noodle House remain the same consistency till the very last bite!
The bowl is simple — about eight pieces of shrimp and pork won tons, choi sum, green onions and noodles. To me, simple is the best. I feel like so many restaurants have lost the traditional sense and made it into a whole other creature.
Not a noodle lover but you love wor won ton? Then go to On On on Kapahulu Avenue. Tons of veggies, won ton and slices of char siu and pork.
100 N. Beretania St. • Chinatown • 536-5409 • Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-4 p.m., weekends and holidays 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Best pho: Saigon's Restaurant
Oh pho! How it cures a hangover and soothes a cold. I’m not about the fancy pho with smoked bacon, 12-hour brisket and braised green onions. No. Once again, I like traditional pho and Saigon’s is my go-to.
When it comes to pho it’s about the broth and noodles … duh! Saigon’s broth is so clean and without that dark, meaty color and taste of pho at some other restaurants. It’s light and citrusy and served with the typical sides of bean sprouts, lemon, jalapenos, basil and cilantro. With pho I typically finish more of the broth than the noodles, but here I finish both, leaving nothing behind. The noodles are nice and chewy till the last bite. You don’t need to add much to the broth; just a dash of chili oil and pepper and you are set for a hot chewy ride of comfort food. This is how it should be. Another mom-and-pop shop that serves a hot bowl with a warm smile at the right price. A regular size pho is $9.75 and includes choices like fresh sliced steak or shredded lean cooked chicken.
3624 Waialae Ave. • Kaimuki • 735-4242 • Tues-Sun 11 a.m.-9 p.m., closed Mondays
Best miso ramen: Ezogiku
I love Ezogiku because it doesn't ask you a dozen questions: What spice level do you want? Do you want a 24-hour broth or a 12-hour broth? Soft or chewy noodles?
You just tell them what kind of ramen you want. Miso ramen is not my favorite, but here is an exception. I love their broth and noodles. I mean, wow! I never drain the entire bowl; here I look forward to it. The soup comes out boiling hot, just as it should be, not lukewarm like at some hipster ramen spots. It’s truly a simple bowl: broth, noodles, char siu, bean sprouts and a sprinkle of green onions. Simple and delicious. Yes, it’s in a food court but so what!? I’m not here for the ambience, I’m simply here for the ramen. Plus you can add gyoza and/or a small fried rice for a small amount.
98-020 Kam. Hwy. • Aiea • 488-9850 • Sun-Thurs 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Best mul naengmyeon: Yu Chun Korean Restaurant
Even a cool day in Hawaii is a good day to chill out on some Korean cold noodles. Yu Chun makes their own noodles, which is why they're chewy and bouncy. You can get this bowl spicy or plain (I prefer spicy one). On top of the freshly made noodles you’ll find thinly sliced cucumbers, a half boiled egg and a thin slice of beef tongue. The icy, almost slushy broth,is poured over the noodles. Add a heavy pour of vinegar and mustard to mix up a cool party in your mouth. The spicy and sour flavors of the broth and the chewy noodles are so refreshing. Need a little more? You can always get kalbi or bulgogi to round out the meal. While this is not the cheapest option for naengmyeon, it is quality on par with the price.
1159 Kapiolani Blvd. • Ala Moana • 589-0022 • Daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Best udon: Yamagen
To me the king of all udon is nabeyaki udon. You get everything in it: chicken, vegetables and a shrimp tempura — why wouldn’t you think it's the king?
This hole-in-the-wall has been here forever — well, as long as I can remember. The chef cooks that udon so fast you'ill be waiting no more than 10 minutes. In keeping with tradition, it comes in a boiling hot iron pot. The noodles are cooked to perfection and the broth is so homey it reminds you of grandma’s cooking. One of my favorite little touches is that the chef adds mochi. Most Japanese restaurants don't. But the mochi adds texture and is a nice surprise. Another best part about eating here is the price: Everything is $20 or less. So please go to Yamagen and support our wonderful mom-and-pop shops.
2210 S King St. • Moiliili • 947-2125 • Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m., closed Sundays and Wednesdays
Best American-style pasta: Bravo Restaurant
OK. I’m feeling the vibes from you guys. Enough about Asian food. Let's get to pasta! I decided against going the authentic traditional Italian route because that’s a whole notha article. Yes, I know Bravos is popular with the locals, and here's why. They make their own noodles, the portions are big and the price is right!
One of my favorites is the lasagna. Why? Because of that wonderful marinara — the zesty, flavorful tomato sauce that surrounds this meaty, cheesy dish. It has that tang that you don’t find in other marinaras. The lasagna itself is packed full of meat, cheeses and mushrooms. It’s a hearty meal and you can get extra sauce at no charge. The place is family-friendly and always packed, but the wait isn’t too bad since the dishes come out so fast.
98-115 Kaonohi St. • Aiea • 487-5544 • Sun-Thurs 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.