Oxtail Soup at Asahi Grill

As in Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Oxtail Soup!

While the gist of Asahi Grill’s offerings feature the usual modern Japanese fare, being the younger sibling to the same owners of Kapiolani Coffee Shop, an entire page on the menu here is dedicated to “Kapiolani Coffee Shop Specialties”. This includes their famous Oxtail Soup, Fried Rice, Lup Cheong Fried Rice, Kim Chee Fried Rice, Hamburger Steak, Loco Moco, Chicken Cutlet with Brown Gravy, Pork Cutlet with Brown Gravy, Chop Steak, and Chicken Stir-Fry. In other words, “local style”.

As it turns out, the variety on their menu makes Asahi Grill a great choice if the folks in your party don’t really know what they feel like eating, with something for just about everyone.

We also discovered this looks like a good place to enjoy a dine-in breakfast, with a dedicated menu for that, reasonable prices, convenient location, and they open early at 6:30am every morning.

This was our first time here, and believe it or not, MY first time trying Oxtail Soup. I know, I know, you’re gonna’ say, “Whoah brah, what ‘kine local you? Nevah try Oxtail soup. Sheesh”. lol Well, there’s a first time for everything, so I decided to set the par with the best known example of the dish. And Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Oxtail soup continues to win reader polls as “Hawaii’s Best”.

They also say that KCS has good fried rice, so I ordered that “on da’ side”. But I came here for one dish, and one dish only, and that was to try Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s “famous” Oxtail Soup…

Kapiolani Coffee Shops “famous” Fried Rice and Oxtail Soup

First let’s take a closer look at the Fried Rice…

Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Fried Rice, $1.50 as an Oxtail Soup upgrade option (or $4.75 ala carte)

I was going to order the fried rice separately, which costs $4.75 for a small order, but the waitress was so kind to offer me an “upgrade” to the standard white rice that comes with the Oxtail Soup for just $1.50 more. Sweet!

If you look closely, you see there’s little pieces of Portuguese Sausage and chopped green onions, and that appears to be it. Quite simple. No eggs either. At least none that I could see or taste.

Well, how is it? Pretty good. I wouldn’t drive from Waianae to town just to get my hands on some, but it’s good. Tastes like they season it primarily with shoyu and pepper. The rice had more of a soft texture, like they use fresh rice, not day-old or two-day-old rice.

I think the main reason the fried rice wasn’t striking for me was because it didn’t compliment the Oxtail soup – more throwing it off. The neutrality of the white rice would have been better for sure. Still, I can see this fried rice working great as a foundation for an ono breakfast. Throw one sunnyside egg on top and one papaya on da’ side and nuff. Winnah right there.

Now let’s look what we have here with this Oxtail Soup…

Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s “famous” Oxtail Soup (regular order), $11.95

There’s two sizes of Oxtail Soup on the menu: small for $9.75 and regular for $11.95. Notice they no call ’em large, eh? Da’ buggah not ‘dat beeg! Not dat’ small eedah, but ‘dis not going be ’nuff fo’ braddah Konishiki, das’ fo’ sure. When I asked the waitress about the size of the “small”, brah! ‘Day not kidding! Da’ small stay one size of one Miso Soup bowl! No way, das’ not enough! At least if this going be my entree.

Actually, this regular order turned out being just right in quantity for my lunchtime hunger. After polishing off this bowl, along with a little of the fried rice, I was stuffed!

For “Wow Factor”, most impressive was that massive Oxtail piece towering out of the soup surface as the bowl was brought to the table. The cook knows the customers will be asking “where’s the beef?”, so he makes sure you see the beef! I see it! I see it! lol

$12 is quite a chunk of change for a bowl of soup, especially when you consider you can get just as much TLC and greatness in Pho or Ramen at those respected establishments for considerably less cash than this. At least you feel somewhat compensated by the generous servings of meaty oxtails included in the bowl…

There were a total of 7 meaty pieces of Oxtail, including that MASSIVE one that was towering the bowl.

Looking closer at that massive Oxtail, you can tell this had been simmering for a very long time, as the marrow in the bones have all dissolved away…

…and there’s only one place for dissolving Oxtail bones to go, and that’s in the broth!

The broth had a nicely-balanced beef flavor, being neither too mild or too deep. At least for my amateur Oxtail Soup tastebuds, it seemed spot-on. There was nicely-scattered bead slicks of fat (oil) on the surface which provided added character to the soup. There was also a noticeable, yet mild presence of Star Anise flavor in the broth, almost reminding me of Pho. The broth wasn’t as complex as I thought it would be, though. Just beef and anise flavor. That’s all I could detect. It was salted perfectly, but I did add just a drizzle of shoyu for an added boost. You know da’ rules!

The oxtails were cooked perfectly; fall-off-the bone tender, yet they still had enough integrity to hang on; and they still tasted “beefy”, not all rendered out. The cartilage between the barely-hanging-on meat and bones was a pure delight to gnaw at and chew on, and very tasty as well.

What really enhanced the dish was the generous amounts of Chinese Parsley and green onions sprinkled on it. I LOVE those two together, no matter what the dish is. It provided a refreshing taste and texture contrast to the savory broth and oxtails.

Being an “Oxtail Soup Amateur”, I actually had to ask the waitress what was the proper way to eat this, to which she instructed me to mix grated ginger, shoyu and hot sauce in the provided side bowl, and dip the Oxtails in that….

Yum!. Very nice! I must note, trying to eat any meat on the bone is most effectively done with what God gave you, which would be your hands. And that’s exactly how I ended up eating the Oxtails themselves. Scoop one out, dip it in the sauce with my hands, eat it, then chase it with a spoonful of soup broth. Hey, it worked! Winnahz. So ono.

On taste and execution alone, I give Kapiolani Coffee Shop’s Oxtail Soup (c/o Asahi Grill) a solid 4 SPAM Musubi rating. Factor in price, and the rating must be reduced to 3.

My girlfriend didn’t know what she felt like eating for lunch when walking in, and indecisive looking over the menu. Then, when our neighboring table’s onolicious-looking plate arrived, she told the waitress to get her “one like that!”….

Asahi combination lunch: Shrimp Tempura and Kalbi, $14.50

Don’t we all do that? See a dish land at a table and think, “Oohh, that looks good. I want that!”.

This comes as a “set” which includes rice, macaroni salad, tsukemeno and soup…

Tempura dipping sauce and tsukemono


Somen noodles and wakame in dashi broth

So how was her order? First of all I’ll mention the not-so-good, which was the somen “soup”. This should’ve been called more like Somen “water”, as that’s practically how the broth tasted. Suggestion to the cook: TASTE YOUR PREPARATIONS BEFORE SERVING IT!.

There was barely a hint of dashinomoto in there and zero presence of miso. The tap water from your refrigerator door dispenser probably has more character than what was in that bowl. lol The somen noodles were overcooked (soggy) as well. But ah, minah, You know us locals: when no’ mo’ flavah, pour on some Shoyu and it’s alllll goood! So that’s what she did and it was much better. At least the shoyu enhanced the dashi flavor. I’d say the best thing in there was the Wakame.

The mac salad was also, eh… ok. Too much stuff inside, and the mayonnaise used in it lacked flavor. “Whott?!, wen’ run outta’ Best Foods?” lol

The good news is, the rest of the dish saved the day, which my girlfriend gave a solid 3 SPAM Musubi for overall flavor, texture and presentation. Notice the grill marks on the Kalbi, giving it that seared taste, which is very, very important when making Kalbi. I would tell the cook to sear it more though. I tried a piece of the Kalbi and Shrimp Tempura and it was good. Not the best in town, but pretty solid.

As for the establishment, Asahi Grill’s dining room was very clean and – perhaps because of the small size – quite cozy and intimate for an open table setup…

The air conditioning wasn’t freezing cold either, as some other reviewers have mentioned. Just right. Service was also friendly and accommodating on our visit. There were two waitresses on duty. If one were to call in sick, and this place was a full house, then I can see there being problems. On our visit during lunch, it was steady, with about a 30% capacity of mostly working folks in the nearby area on their lunch break, families and friends. I didn’t see any tourists in there. You’d fit right in either dressed up or in t-shirt, shorts and slippahz.

Asahi Grill is located on the Diamond Head side of Ward avenue, a block mauka of Ross & Sports Authority. There’s a Shell gas station right across the street.

There’s parking on the side of the building with about 10 stalls and 2 handicap stalls (don’t quote me on that)…

I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of eating Oxtail Soup, and we both thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Asahi Grill. So much that we’ve added it to our “great casual, please-everyone place to entertain guests” list.

Asahi Grill
515 Ward Ave.
Honolulu, HI

Business Hours:
Monday – Friday 6:30am to 10:00pm
Saturday 6:30am to 11:00pm
Sunday 6:30am to 10:00pm

Breakfast Menu*
Lunch Menu*
Kapiolani Coffee Shop Specialties Menu*

The Tasty Island Rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related Links:
The Great Ox Election – Star Bulletin
Kapiolani Coffee Shop in Kapalama – Honolulu Advertiser blog
Kapiolani Coffee Shop at Kam Bowl – Ono Kine Grindz
Asahi Grill – Yelp User Reviews
Oxtail Soup is Going, A Mouse is Coming – Star Bulletin


17 thoughts on “Oxtail Soup at Asahi Grill

  1. aloha pomai!!! i’m vietnamese….and my fiancee, also vietnamese, introduced me to oxtail in pho. her mom boiled up a whole pot of those things, and i can say, it’s so damn tasty ‘n rich. not sure what else was in your oxtail soup, but if you ever find a vietnamese restaurant that serves oxtail in their pho, you’re in for a big treat. i have another friend who is chinese, and will make oxtails too–says they stink, but once you figure out how to prepare it, it’s quite delicious. boiling fatty meat!!! haha sounds gross until you dip it in some sauce!!! i remember awhile back you also had an experiment with fresh pork belly. my fiancee’s mom would rub salt all over the pork belly, then just cover with water and put on a low to medium simmer for awhile. we’d then fish out the pieces of pork belly after awhile, and they were just to die for (literally! haha let’s not get into the health aspects). cheers!

  2. “make your nipples hard” air conditioning. Ha! I know what you mean with dat one. Some places like make em so cold that you just like eat and go. so you leave quick then they can get the next customer in. glad you made that point.

  3. ilikegrind (nice screen name BTW), my theory to making the joint freezing cold was that they were hoping this would encourage more patrons to order the Oxtail Soup to warm up. at $12 a bowl, there’s gotta’ be a huge profit margin on that dish. As I mentioned though, on our visit, the AC was set at a comfortable temperature.

    It was actually an odd time for me to order a hot soup dish, as it was noon time on a blazing hot summer day (outside). I must say though, if you were sick in bed, this Oxtail Soup would be the PERFECT comfort dish to make you feel better.

    Aloha Raphael,

    I’m also a Pho amateur, but from what I’ve sampled at Bac Nam Vietnamese Restaurant here in Honolulu, I must say, it had quite a similar flavor to this Oxtail Soup. Perhaps Oxtails are the secret to great tasting Pho, which your fiancee’s mom looked to be in on it!

    As for the pork belly, you must be referring to my lard rendering experiment, which turned out a success. Not bad for using pork belly. Next time doing that I’ll seek out the proper pork fat to use. The remaining pieces you’re talking about is what they call “cracklings”, which are very tasty with just a little salt sprinkled on it. Tastes like fresh bacon bits.

    Recently I wrote about a visit to a Tonkatsu (Japanese Pork Cutlet) specialty shop in Waikiki named Ginza Bairin, where they tout the use of Cottonseed Oil for its cleanliness and delicate texture it offers the Panko (Japanese bread crumbs). What I’m curious is how Tonkatsu would come out if you deep fried it in pure lard. I’d put money down that it’d completely blow away any other oil, both in flavor and delicateness of texture. Makes total sense too; pork deep fried in pork fat.

    All this talk about soup reminds me, I have a bunch of Portuguese sausage in the freezer I need to make use of, so I’ll be making another pot of Portuguese Bean Soup in the coming week. This summer heat isn’t exactly “soup weather”, but I gotta’ make use of it before it ends up freezer-burnt.

  4. Well, It was in poor taste to write about freezing cold part using that way of saying it. There are women out there upset about. Keep it out of the gutter in writing for blog regarding food please!

  5. There’s a Kapiolani Coffee Shop on Kamehameha Hwy. in Waimalu so, thankfully, the folks in Waianae don’t have to drive all the way to Asahi Grill for some really great oxtail soup. Sadly, the portions have been getting smaller and the price higher over the six years my husband and I have been going there. The regular used to be bigger than I could manage. Still, when we get a craving for oxtail soup, it is so worth it. I like that they don’t put a lot of extra things in the broth and with a big handful of greens on top, I can almost pretend it’s healthy! I like to eat the oxtail first, then add a scoop of rice to the broth and a couple squirts of sriracha sauce to make a kind of porridge. So delicious.

  6. Jeanie (and to anyone else upset), my sincerest apologies. Gomenasai. I’ll certainly keep that in mind and not use such inappropriate phrasing again. I changed it in the copy, keepin’ it “G”.

    Hi Fran, Isn’t there supposed to be peanuts in the broth? I thought I read that somewhere. My bowl didn’t have peanuts, which would have been a nice touch. That’s OK though, at least it was loaded with Oxtails!

    Putting the rice in the broth sound interesting; like jook! I certainly wouldn’t have done that with the fried rice though, lest I kill the dish.

    Ah, so the bowl DID shrink. When the waitress told me the small was the size of a miso soup bowl (at $9.75), I almost fell off my chair!

    That’s right, I forgot about KCS in Waimalu. You probably already heard that they closed the one in Dillingham City Square, and are looking for a new place to set-up shop. In its place there will be a Vietnamese Pho Restaurant (how ironic!) and nearby where Grocery Outlet was will be a Chuck E Cheese.

  7. All this time I never had oxtail soup Japanese style. I had Chinese Muslim style with carrots , celerys and tomatos in it. Top with green onions and Chinese serve with pan grill bread. Of course I got it in Beijing and Taiwan. Will check it out this Asahi Grill.

    Yeah I too was not happy with way it was phase my editor would have kick me and scold me badly for use of such words. Who know out in the street by now. Bloggers have be very careful in writing.

  8. All this time I never had oxtail soup Japanese style. I had Chinese Muslim style with carrots , celerys and tomatos in it. Top with green onions and Chinese parley serve with pan grill bread. Of course I got it in Beijing and Taiwan. Will check it out this Asahi Grill.

    Yeah I too was not happy with way it was phase my editor would have kick me and scold me badly for use of such words. Who know out in the street by now. Bloggers have be very careful in writing.

  9. Whoa, never knew Pomai would use such way to phase things. I glad it all clean up. Some times minors might read blogs also. Peanut in oxtail soup is Cantonese style of it. Northern Chinese like in ginger, garlic also due to cold weather serve also with grill bread and noodles. They always have hot pepper on the side for those who like it.

    There lot of Chinese Muslim restaurants on Gold Street in Beijing when I was there . Only things you must know Mandarine or it hard to order food. Some places have menu with pictures so it easy or waitperson who speack English.

  10. Another favorite business gone. Asahi Grill since is the sister business got the same menu and more. I enjoy other bloggers sharing their stories on oxtails soups. Now I will head out to get some to eat and to cook at home. Aloha!

  11. Don’t be embarassed, Pomai — I grew up in Honolulu and never tried oxtail soup either until a few years ago. I ordered it at KC Drive-In on Kapahulu Ave. and loved it. I don’t recall that it contained as much oxtail as the one you had but I still enjoyed it and wondered why I waited so long. Sadly, KC Drive-In is gone (goodbye waffle dogs and malasada fried ice cream) but it’s good to know that the Asahi Grill does a good job with it. I don’t remember what KC Drive-In charged for their oxtail soup but I don’t think it was cheap there, either.

    I wish I had started reading your blog last year when we went to Honolulu to visit family. We walked by and drove by the Asahi Grill more than a few times and I kept wondering if it was any good but never had time to check it out. Next time I’m there I’ll go in.

  12. This post made me run out and get oxtails yesterday to make oxtail soup. Yum. I have mine just like that with green onions and Chinese parsley or cilantro and without the peanuts. I didn’t know about the dipping sauce so I’ll have to try that now. It’s triple digits here but I’ll turn down the AC more and enjoy it. Besides, we eat saimin whether it’s hot or cold, right? Waiting on your Portuguese Bean soup now for that Portuguese sausage sitting in the freezer. 😉

  13. Hi Gwen, you know I thought the same thing, and you bet I’ll be making my own Oxtail soup in an upcoming post… perhaps about a month from now.

    Funny you mention the Portuguese Bean Soup, as I just made it the other night. Haven’t got around to blogging it, but will soon. I made enough to put into individual ziploc bags for lunch. Works like a charm and mo’ bettah ‘den Zippy’s!

    Jenny, Dayton Asato, heir of the KC Drive Inn waffle dog name and equipment, is still around selling the original Waffle Dog. He has a website at http://www.kcwaffledog.com.

    Amy, I’m on the same page with you and Gwen about making my own. I’m going to follow Jean Watanabe Hee’s recipe.

    Jo Jo, thanks for clarifying the peanut thing. I thought I read somewhere that Kapiolani Coffee Shop had peanuts in theirs. So maybe I’m thinking the cook that day either didn’t put any in, or didn’t bother to scoop them out when serving my bowl. No matter, as he gave me plenty of Oxtails!

  14. Wow your post makes me want to go all the way to Hawaii to taste this soup! I have always loved oxtail soup (Korean style) and have recently explored other ways to prepare this delectable meat. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything has an excellent recipe for braised oxtails in white wine. Swoon…

  15. Funny how the best tasting meats used to be the cheapest… and now they’re “gourmet”, and the price is up! Grocers are no dummies! ;o)

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