IchiBen's Ichimen Shoyu Ramen

“Ramen’d out” yet? Good. Me neither! Which has our chopsticks continuing its “Ramenathon” pace, now running into the Pearl City area of Oahu for a sample of the Shoyu Ramen at IchiBen. This, in honoring a suggestion by reader ‘geishagirl’, who said, “Being a rameniac myself, I suggest you try Ichiben ramen in Waimalu. They also serve paitan, which I find is a lighter version than usual. Their gyoza is excellent, along with the fast and friendly service. To be a true rameniac, lots of slurping and sweat must be involved when consuming.”.

That last sentence was exceptionally enticing. Sounds like we’ve got a plan!

So here we are at Ichiben, which is located in Times Square Shopping Center in Waimalu, with nextdoor neighbors including IHOP and, of course, Times Supermarket.

As seems the trend in this genre of hybrid Japanese ramen restaurants, Ichben not only offers that, but curry and barbecue too, as indicated by these photos displayed prominently on their front window…

Let’s take a look inside…

The full-colored wall-to-wall mural sure looks pretty. Great to use as a masthead for their website, although they don’t have one yet, as far as I could find.

Like Goma Tei, Kiwami Ramen and,ehem Ramen Nakamura, Ichiben has a similar clean and modern asian-inspired  decor theme.

The usual shoyu, rice vinegar and Togarashi (Japanese chili pepper flakes) condiment station at each table…

Now let’s check out their menu (click image to view full res’)…

Hmmm. Interesting. “Steamy Ramen”? Sounds “saucy”. lol They provide a thorough explanation of their broth-making process, which if holds true, we should be in for one mighty fine bowl of authentic Japanese ramen here. We shall so find out.

As you folks know, I’m a stickler for Shoyu broth, and brushed off any possibilities on this first-time visit I’d “think outside the box” and try their Paitan broth, nor their Miso broth. No way. Time was tight, and I just didn’t have room for “error” in this situation.

Glad I stuck by guns, as you’ll soon find out. Without further ado, presenting Ichiben’s Ichimen Shoyu Ramen and Gyoza set…

Ichiben – Ichimen Shoyu Ramen and side of Gyoza

Ah, oishiisou! (look’s delicious!)

Let’s go in for a closer looks…

Ichiben – Ichimen Shoyu Ramen: House special combo with shrimp, char siu, egg, Kamaboko, Choy Sum, bean sprouts, menma and green onions. $7.95

Wow, that’s quite an assortment of toppings. Kinda’ reminds me of Zippy’s ‘Zipmin’, which in my opinion is one the best bowls of Saimin you can get on Oahu.

Let’s check out da’ Gyoza…

Ichiben – 4-piece Gyoza “add on”. $1.95

Wow, now THAT’S  a great deal! $1.95 for four pieces of Gyoza? Sweet! That’s less than half the price for Gyoza compared to Ramen Nakamura.

Back to the Ichimen Shoyu Ramen, after spending a moment observing and absorbing its “tamashii”, I go in for taste of the broth. Hai, itadakimasu…

You know what? Impressive. Very impressive. Oishii! Easy 4 SPAM Musubi in and of its own right. While still not “the bowl” I’m looking for, this Ichiben’s Shoyu broth hits several key flavor factors that resemble it. It’s deep and complex with earthy, meaty undertones, while the globules of fat floating on the surface provide that much desired silky texture as you slurp of the noodles.

Speaking of which, let’s go in for that…

As with most other ramen-ya on Oahu, as confirmed by my waitress, Ichiben sources their noodles from my ichiban favorite, Sun Noodle Factory. Yet also like other ramen-ya staff have insisted, according to my server, Sun Noodle makes it according to Ichiben’s own special recipe. Sure. OK. lol

They were cooked perfectly al dente in the Japanese style of being slightly on the firm side, just how I like it, while flavor-wise, tasted pretty much like Sun Noodle’s nama ramen sold in the store. But I’ll believe theirs is a “special recipe”. lol  Slurping it up, I’ll go 4 SPAM Musubi on the perfectly-cooked noodles.

Now let’s try the char siu…

Eh. Not bad. Not great. There wasn’t enough shoyu/mirin/sake/ginger flavor on the outer area of the cut, making it overall kinda’ plain. Speaking of cut,  they’re quite thin…

I’ll go 1 SPAM  Musubi on their char siu (chashu). Glad it’s there, but next.

Next would be my favorite ramen topping (next to a good chashu), menma!…

Menma, that tan-colored straw-like pieces shown in the photo above, are Japanese lactate-fermented bamboo shoots, often marinaded in a base solution of shoyu, mirin and katsuoboshi. It’s a defining flavor component that gives Japanese ramen that crucial earthy undertone I had pointed out Ichiben’s broth so virtuously possesses.

I could tell this was the packaged stuff, yet nothing wrong with that. It was a mighty fine menma, and worthy of 4 SPAM Musubi based, the taste, texture and especially the quantity. Look how much they gave! That’s about as much as I liberally put on in my ramen at home!

There’s actually some ramen shops that offer a menma ramen, where, obviously, menma is “the man”. Next time I visit a ramen-ya that has it, I’ll order it. LOVE the stuff!

Let’s try the shrimp…

Eh. It’s OK, but personally I don’t think the shrimp flavor matches the earthy, meaty undertone of shoyu ramen broth. Saimin? Yes. Absolutely. Shoyu Ramen? Neh-eh. In and of itself, the tiny shrimp tails were sweet, tasty and tender, but it needs to go over to pool #5. lol For that I give it 1 SPAM Musubi.

Now let’s try the Choy Sum…

I’m cool with Choy Sum in my ramen. While I find it rather unusual, greens are always good. My only wish is that it would have taken on more flavor from the broth. It won’t though, as Choy Sum has too much character of its own to do that, and kinda’ gives the impression there’s some Chinese goings on here in the Japanese sea of love. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. With that, I give the Choy Sum in this Shoyu Ramen 3 SPAM Musubi.

Thankfully, unlike Taiyo Ramen’s “sproutmen” that had like a 50/50 ratio of bean sprouts to ramen noodles, Ichiben is much more conservative with it, just sprinkling in enough to add texture and color contrast to the overall presentation…

We’ll add another 4 SPAM Musubi for not serving me “sproutmen”. lol

As for the egg and Kamaboko, very good. 3 SPAM Musubi, although I still have a problem with Kamaboko in ramen, and think its’ better suited in Saimin. But whatevahz.

That’s that for the fantastic Ichimen Shoyu Ramen. Summing it up, I give it 4 SPAM Musubi, as the broth, noodles and menma all came together splendidly. The char siu needs work and the shrimp needs another gig, but minors. I walked out very, very satisfied with it.

Now let’s try the Gyoza…

Filled with the standard Gyoza filling. Pan seared and steamed with a golden-brown crusty bottom and perfectly al dente wrapper all around. Very good. 3 SPAM Musubi. Yet the value factor at just $1.95 for four pieces is so exceptional, I’m giving them another Musubi for the principle of that. 4 SPAM Musubi!

And if Gyoza ain’t yo’ thang, for the same $1.95 in chump change, you can also choose either Beef Curry Rice or Chicken Fried Rice. Nice!

Prices right across the menu are certainly family-friendly and right on point. If I lived or worked in the Waimalu area, I’d certainly come here often, and I’m anxious to return to try more stuff.

I enjoyed my Ichimen Shoyu Ramen so much, I polished it…

Ah, oishikata! Gouchisou sama deshita! (It was delicious! What a feast!)

Service was top-notch, being fast and friendly, with my ice water kept topped and my order arriving within 10 minutes of being placed.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, geishagirl for recommending Ichiben. Great find!

IchiBen Restaurant
98-1258 Ka’ahumanu St. (Times Square Shopping Center, nextdoor to the left of IHOP and Times Supermarket)
Pearl City, Hawaii  96782

Tel. 488-4200

Ichiben takeout menu (2-page PDF document)

The Tasty Island rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

Related links:
Manolo Morales visits Ichiben – KHON2 News
Ichiben – Yelp user reviews

P.S. I finally went to see Iron Man 2. Awesome. By far my favorite character in the movie (next to Tony Stark/Iron Man) was Black Widow played by Scarlett Johannson. She kicked major okole! Can’t wait for Thor!

Here’s the key scene from Iron Man 1 (high res’ version)…


13 thoughts on “IchiBen's Ichimen Shoyu Ramen

  1. Pomai, I still have not giving up on Japanese Ramen. It my taste bud take time to kick in or maybe kick me. Notice this place have no combo special but seem more for local taste which is for me to try it out. Still want to try Miso, Corn Butter Ramen so Sumo Ramen and Curry got it.

  2. Pomai, it good that Ichibens accept credit cards or debit cards. Thay better their business more than Ramen Nakamura. See menu do not have combo too bad for Im always looking for good deals but still like it. I still don’t get it in gyoza cost more than Chinese Potsticker for it made the same way and Japanese did learn from Chinese to make it.

    In Chinese restaurants it cost about 25 to 35 cent a piece for it for ground pork and cabbage are low cost ingredients.

  3. Thanks for the shout out Pomai! I’m glad you enjoyed the ramen, I forgot the added perk of menma! I love menma too! They’ve expanded their menu since I’ve been there.
    Another one to try is Rai Rai ramen in Kailua and Kapahulu ave. If they’re still in business, their ramen is quite good, with some fried garlic chips on top as an added bonus!
    Ganbatte on your future culinary endeavors!

  4. I like to order the curry chicken katsu when I am there for I get a lot to enjoyed. Been coming to Ichiben off and on for a while.

  5. Pomai, the mabo tofu with miso soup was good and was planing to add on later beef curry rice but ended up full. I never really or gyoza for I make my own potstickers or buy from Chinese takeout with order. Erica and I are back together again guess kicking me also made me realize she always the one for me.

  6. Aaron, glad to hear about you and Erica’s reunion. Sounds like you two have a common interest: food! I don’t think the Mabo-Tofu Ramen would fit my taste, but I won’t knock it ’til I try it. I’m very picky when it comes to tofu dishes. I have a great Chinese Tofu Watercress recipe that I’ll share here later.
    Richard, if I weren’t in “ramen mode”, the Curry Chicken Katsu would probably what I’d order.
    geishagirl, THANK YOU for hooking me up with this place. It’s a keeper! For me, the menma is the deal maker. A ramen shop that serves it earns my total respect. Those that don’t, I’m kinda’ like “hah?”.
    Erica, although they don’t have combo sets listed, the “add-ons” (4-piece gyoza, Beef Curry Rice or Chicken Fried Rice) are just $1.95 more, so those are your choices. As for the Gyoza, at $1.95 for 4 pieces (49 cents each), that’s not bad. Sure, maybe you can buy cheaper Gyoza in Chinatown, but this isn’t Chinatown, we’re talking Pearl City, where I’m happy just being able to find a decent bowl of Ramen!
    Amy, see my reply to Erica regarding the combo “deal”. I noticed Ramen Nakamura also had butter listed as one of their toppings. So does that mean they simply add a dab of butter as a topping and let it melt into the broth? If so, that sounds kinda’ weird! Sketchy.

  7. This place add on seem not bad to check it out. Next thing blogger like to know most how big for the price. Well it does save some bloggers time to finding it out. I like when you do that in your entries at time when your hand is use to compare in size portion. (Ha Ha)

  8. Jessic, good point. From now on I’ll be sure to include my hand or hands in the shot to give some scale to the dish. I will say every ramen I’ve featured here in these last string of entrees were all about the same size. Specifically how much in weight or fluid ounces, I don’t know. Just think your typical ramen or samin bowl, and that’s the size.

  9. Pomai, i know how big the ramen bowl size just wondering how big are their Add On like curry beef with rice? Must be smaller than mini kids size meal for. 1.95. Will check it out when there with some friends.

  10. Pomai, you wrote in your last entry of why tourists still like to eat food that they could get in their own homeland? Well I am like that when on travel to Asia to check if they make it a bit different than at home. I try Mcdonald, KFC and Pizza Hut and they are so different from home.

    Pizza Hut bland tasting in Beijing, KFC chicken so small size but not bad for not salty just right have custard tart and jook too. Mcdonald Asian wrap pretty good so corn pie.

  11. Michael, I kinda’ figured that, but for me, I could care less how Pizza Hut, Mickey D’s or KFC tastes in Japan. I’d go in to scope out the menu, and that’s about it. I’m saving stomach space for REAL Japanese food!
    Patty, I don’t know about the size of the Curry Beef Rice or Chicken Fried Rice, but I do know the 4 pieces of Gyoza I got were average size, and not smaller to compensate for the low price. Very good deal.

  12. Pomai, speaking (writing) of Japanese Food my sisters and friends are heading Asia for the summer and hope to taste many interesting food there. I ask them to try real Japanese Omurice with Demi Glaze Sauce not ketup like some place use. Taiwan Potsticker are different for they longer shape and street food stall snacks.

    Kind of strange Ichiben have three differents sizes regular and mini and Add On. I know they can’t have mini as add on size so must be smaller. They should have just regular and mini and charge add on same as mini.

  13. Kelike, it’s odd how Omurice hasn’t really taken off here in Hawaii. Seems a no-brainer, considering how beloved eggs with rice are here in the islands. IIRC, there was one local plate lunch place I visited that had fried rice wrapped in an omelet, but they didn’t name it ‘Omurice, as it wasn’t prepared or presented exactly like that.

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