Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been binging on Japanese Ramen, continuing my search for that “perfect bowl”. Which brings me here today to Yotteko-Ya, an eatery in McCully Shopping Center that specializes in the style from Kyoto, a prefecture in Japan that also includes Osaka and Kobe.
Reading over the 100-plus reviews on Yelp (a good sign!) of the joint, it’s no surprise the unanimous favorite is their signature dish, the Paitan Ramen. Specifically, more demanding “rameniacs” insist on getting the Kakuni Paitan Ramen, which according to their menu is “topped with a block of our homemade chashu”.
The Kakuni option is available in limited supply, with only 20 orders available on any given lunch or dinner schedule. For that, you pay an additional $3 premium over the standard Paitan Ramen, or $4 more when ordering any combo set.
So I went with the Yelp masses plus “rameniacs” and ordered the Kakuni Paitan Ramen set, which we’ll get to shortly.
Before we get to the grindz, as always in “Tasty Island fashion”, let’s take a look around the joint….
Here’s the menu…
There on the back of the menu you see the various combo sets to choose from, which is definitely the way to go for the best value.
What I appreciate here, is it’s kinda’ like Burger King, where you can have just about everything “your way”. First of all you can choose how you want your noodles done: either “Japanese Style (more traditional and firmer), or “Local Style” (softer). Then you choose what style of broth you want: either Yataiaji (Kyoto style Shoyu), Tonshio (Hawaiian Salt) or Paitan (the House favorite). For the Gyoza, you can choose either pan-fried or deep-fried. Finally, for the rice (gohan), you can choose either either the mini Yakibuta Chahan or Chashu Gohan.
With that, I ordered “Set C”, which includes ramen, gyoza and fried rice for $12.45 , “turbo charging” the meal by choosing the Kakuni (braised pork) Paitan option, which adds another $4 to the bottom line, bringing my total bill, including a soda to $18.45 including tax, but not tip. That’s a significant chunk of change for a ramen lunch, yet I’m willing to go for it if it proves its worth.
For the gyoza I chose the deep-fried version, as that’s something different than the usual pan-fried potstickers. Finally, for the gohan, I chose the mini Yakibuta Chahan.
Without further ado, presenting Yotteko-Ya’s “famous” Kakuni Paitan Ramen…
Ooooh…. ahhhhhhhh….ooohhhhh…aaahhhhhhh. Lookin’ good.
The mini Yakibuta Chahan (fried rice)…
Rounding out the meal, the deep-fried Gyoza…
That, and an ice cold glass of Coca Cola and I’m set.
OK, let’s take a closer look at this “famous” Paitan Ramen…
Before I continue this careful analysis, let me stop for a moment to note that I’m VERY PICKY when it comes to authentic Japanese Ramen, as my idea of the “perfect bowl” is none other than that AMAZING “Pork Noodle” me and my parents enjoyed year after year at this little ramen-ya in the Ginza district of Tokyo. So far the only place that’s come close (and that’s stretching it) is the now defunct Daruma, which was located in the Sam Sung Plaza on Koreamoku street. This AMAZING “Pork Noodle” was done in the Tokyo shoyu style, and that’s why i usually “gauge” a ramen shop here by their shoyu broth. Yet I was willing to think outside the box for this moment and give their highly-touted Paitan Ramen a shot.
With that, notice how “milky” the broth appears, where sure enough, it tastes “milky”, while also having a subtle sweet accent to it, which could possibly be from the mirin I’m guessing they use to braise the Kakuni. According to their menu, it says: “Our homemade soup is simmered for over 10 hours with the choicest pork, the freshest chickens and 10 different vegetables and spices. This meticulous process produces a uniquely thick collagen rich stock that will actually help prevent aging of skin and joints. So please enjoy our soup the last drop and look younger!”.
Yet in actuality it wasn’t as thick as I thought it would be, having no more viscosity than shoyu ramen.
As expected in my picky one-track mind, the Paitan broth didn’t fit my personal taste. You would only have had to try that Ginza Ramen I so often make reference to in order to understand how so far nothing I’ve tried here on Oahu has lived up to it, save for Daruma. I understand Paitan is a different style with its creamier, more robust flavor profile, and it’s very respectful in that regard. It’s just not my style.
As for the Kakuni, you certainly get your $4 money’s worth, as there seemed to be practically more pork than there were ramen noodles!
I swear, at least half the net weight of the ramen in this bowl consisted of the Kakuni Chashu pork. So much that I ended up taking some out to make access to the ramen noodles a little easier.
Now witness how fall-apart tender the Kakuni is…
Notice how the bottom layer of pork meat is falling off the top layer, barely hanging on by the melted fat between it. In fact, it fell off moments after I got that shot.
I gotta’ say though, the Kakuni is crazy tasty, with a deep-braised, succulent flavor that’s mildly sweet, with a soy and what I think is dashi flavor base. I would say if there’s one thing to go out your way to come here for, it would be the Kakuni. Just make sure you come early, as by the time I was eating around 1pm, they were already telling other patrons that the Kakuni had sold out. Why they make a limited amount, I don’t know. Perhaps to create a sense of urgency to their customers, kinda’ like a “7am-10am Only!” Black Friday sale campaign.
Yet I can’t compare it to their regular Chashu, as I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m not sure yet if getting the Kakuni is necessary for a “better” ramen experience here. If you’re a serious carnivore, then absolutely. Me? Nah, as I prefer balance in my meal. Not ALL meat. As I said earlier, there was actually too much Kakuni, where, since Yotteko-Ya is all about options, they should make two Kakuni choices: regular for $2 more and super or “double” for $4 more, which would be this one, as there was easily twice as much Kakuni than necessary in my opinion.
As for the noodles, they were cooked perfectly al dente to the “Japanese style” as promised. I forgot to ask (my bad), but by every guesstimate, like most ramen shops in Honolulu, I’d say they source their ramen noodles from Sun Noodle, which I’m 100% A-OK with, as Sun Noodle rules!
Joining in this Jacuzzi of ramen love were bean sprouts (moyashi) and green onions (negi)…
And that dark brown stuff is called Kikurage, a type of Chinese mushroom…
I was OK with the Kikurage (it’s very healthy!), yet I was a little disappointed they didn’t also include Menma (marinated Japanese bamboo shoots), my favorite Ramen topping of the veggie genre.
While, as expected the Paitan can’t compete with my prefered Ginza style, overall, this was a great delicious bowl of Ramen, thanks in great part to that amazing Kakuni braised pork and perfectly cooked ramen noodles.
Good enough for me to “polish” the bowl…
All said and done, I give Totteko-Ya’s Kakuni Paitan Ramen a very satisfying 3 SPAM Musubi, with the Kakuni itself an incredibly succent, tender and tasty 5!
Moving on, let’s try the Yakibuta Chahan…
I thought and was hoping that yellow thing in there would be takuwan, but it turned out being yellow bell pepper. Basically this tasted like Chashu fried rice. Simple as that. A chashu (simmered pork) fried rice, along with shoyu to help it along. Good. Very good. 3 SPAM Musubi. Really though, I don’t see the logic in serving rice with ramen and having two types of starches, but whatever. I’ll still eat it.
Now let’s try the deep-fried Gyoza…
Being that it’s deep-fried, I was expecting it to taste more like Korean Mandoo, but interestingly, it tasted like what it is: a deep-fried Gyoza. No more, no less. Actually, much more tasty, as you’d expect by it being deep-fried. Oishii! What’s great is instead of plain ‘ole ground pork, they put little chunks of chashu (or it could be Kakuni) in it, which really kicks it up a few notches. Bam! lol For the dipping sauce, I made a random concoction of shoyu, vinegar, chili oil and shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-flavor red chili pepper flakes), which turned out like a kicked-up Ponzu. It was awesome! Summing up Yotteko-Ya’s deep-fried Gyoza (and my ponzu-on-a-fly concoction), this easily deserves 4 SPAM Musubi.
The ramen itself was so filling, I only had room to eat one Gyoza, and barely touched the Yakibuta Chahan, where on this plate, you see how much “extra” Kakuni I took out of the ramen and set aside…
That all got wrapped up to take home, which made for tasty afternoon snack…
As for the service, no complaints. Very friendly and attentive, while my entire spread of Kakuni Ramen, mini Yakibuta Chahan and deep-fried Gyoza arrived within 10 minutes of being ordered. Sweet.
Now I need to go back and try Yotteko-Ya’s Yataiaji (shoyu) Ramen!
Yotteko-Ya Kyoto Ramen
McCully Shopping Center
1960 Kapiolani Blvd. #214 (second floor on the Ewa west end of the building)
Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
Tel. (808) 946-2900
Lunch: Monday-Sunday (daily) 11:30am to 2:00pm
Dinner: Monday-Saturday 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Sunday/Holidays 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Last order: 15 minutes before closing
Closed on Wednesdays
The Tasty Island rating:
(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)