Tenkaippin's Assari Ramen

On the Diamond Head end of Kalakaua avenue in Waikiki is Kapahulu avenue, where heading mauka (towards the mountain) you’ll find a wide variety of popular ethnic eateries. Just to name a few of many, get your Hawaiian fix on at Ono’s, your Portuguese fix on at Leonard’s, your Middle Eastern fix on at Pyramids, or your Japanese fix on at Tenkaippin Ramen, where I visited yesterday. Or at least the latter is supposed to be Japanese. Read on.

Everyone, including the restaurant themselves, raves about their Kotteri Ramen, which is explained as “Our #1 best seller. Healthy chicken soup base, so rich and unique, it’s habit-forming.”

Before we immerse ourselves any deeper in broth, as always, first let’s take a look around the joint…

Typical ramen-ya style centrally-serviced wrap-around countertop, although as you see here, the two busy waitresses spent most of the time on the perimeter.

Owner/President Scott Suzui, along with his wife and son, have a popular television show on OC-16 called ‘Ultimate Japan’ (similar to Soko Ga Shiritai), which not surprisingly, episodes are played on a loop on a big screen TV in the restaurant…

The Kotteri Ramen is advertised all over the place here, practically making you feel guilty if you don’t order that!…

The condiment station…

Noteworthy in here was that tan-colored jar on the left with the brown domed cover, which inside had minced garlic and chili pepper, which the server says is also commonly to add in their ramen. I’m not into spicy-garlic ramen, but I did add a generous amount to my Gyoza dipping sauce, and it was FANTASTIC!

Now let’s check out the menu…

Sorry folks, like Ramen Nakamura, looks like it’s cash only here too.  I must note though, there’s no curry here, thank goodness! Yet another dedicated and faithful Ramen shop! Yet for some reason I’m kinda’ curious about that choice #11, the Garlic Steak!

OK, now let’s talk broth. My lovely servers (notice plural) took plenty of time explaining and sharing their opinions of each one to me. The server who initially took my order came right off the bat and said she didn’t care for the Kotteri broth, finding it too thick and rich for her tastes, preferring the Assari shoyu broth. Which is exactly what I was hoping to hear, as I didn’t want to be coaxed by biased opinion “Kotteri this, Kotteri that, blah, blah blah”. lol

On the other hand, the other server said she really liked the Kotteri broth, yet noted it did take a little adjusting at first. She noted Tenkaippin’s Paitan broth is similar to the Kotteri broth in flavor, but not nearly as thick. She also noted that, while not on the menu, you can order what’s called ‘Kosseri’ broth, which is a 50/50 combination of Assari broth and Kotteri broth. I like the sound of that!

Not willing to take chances on this first visit, I again stuck by my guns and went with the Assari broth, which is explained as “Healthy chicken base soup with soy sauce flavor.”

While I made up my mind on the Assari, because of the hype, curiosity of the Kotteri broth remained, and thankfully the servers were nice enough to grant my request and bring me a “sampler portion” in a soup spoon (no charge of course) of their Kotteri broth, so I could at least have a sneak preview of what it’s all about…

What’s the “sneak preview” Kotteri broth verdict? Take a whole roasted (a.k.a. “huli huli”) chicken, bones and all, from Costco or your favorite supermarket, stick that in a juicer or food processor with water until it reaches a creamy viscosity kinda’ like a thin gravy, and that’s basically what this tastes like. It’s very “chicken-ee” with noticeable undertones of chicken bones. That thin gravy-like viscosity is certainly the part that takes some acclimating to. At first I sort of cringed, but I quickly overcame it and actually kinda’ liked it! Although I have yet to try it with the ramen noodles, where the starch in the noodles will certainly play a major factor in how this thick Kotteri broth pairs with it.

Before I was brought that sampler spoon, one of my servers showed me a bowl of a finished bowl of Kotteri Ramen, so I could get an idea how thick it is…

Notice how it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and adhere to the angled wall of the ramen bowl. This diner was obviously very generous in adding plenty of garlic and chili pepper to their Kotteri bowl.

OK, enough with the Kotteri Ramen. Let’s get to my order, which was their Assari Ramen and Gyoza set…

Tenkaippin – B set (Ramen and 3-piece Gyoza) – $9.95


Doing the math, that comes out to an additional $1.75 for the 3-piece Gyoza. Not bad. Actually though, in hindsight, I wish I had ordered C set (Ramen and 3 Fried Chicken), as at this point I’m getting a little “Gyoza’d out”. Not yet “ramen’d out” though!

Let’s take a closer look…

Tenkaippin Ramen – Assari Ramen: Healthy chicken base soup with soy sauce flavor.

The Gyoza…

Tenkaippin Ramen – 3-piece Gyoza (house-made)

Back to the Assari Ramen, after a moment of observing and connecting with its spirit, I go in for a taste of the broth…

Globules of chicken fat visibly slick the Assari shoyu broth surface, which is always a good sign for the flavor police. Sipping it, what’s the verdict? Remember what I said about the Kotteri broth tasting like a processed whole roasted chicken? Well imagine if you took just the drippings from that whole roasted chicken, with the addition of shoyu and that’s pretty much what this tastes like. That, while also reminding me of roasted turkey for some reason, albeit in liquid form. You may be asking why I don’t say it tastes simply like chicken or turkey stock, which I’ll say it’s much more “roasted” in flavor than that.

What’s most interesting about this broth, along with my “sneak preview” impression of the Kotteri broth, is that they both taste very UN-JAPANESE! Which is a rather blasphemous conclusion to come to considering this is a chain from Japan, with most of the ingredients imported from there. Yet, really, if I hadn’t known that, I’d have thought this ramen broth recipe was concocted in — ehem, cough, cough — California, or perhaps even Georgia or Tennessee.

Again, a liquified whole roasted chicken (and/or turkey) is the best way I can describe the broth’s flavor profile.

I will say, it’s delicious! Indeed different than any other shoyu ramen broth I’ve ever had, but very delicious!

Let’s try the noodles…

As expected, like just about every other ramen-ya on Oahu, the noodles here are sourced from Sun Noodle Factory, again to their own specifications. I actually found the noodles here slightly overcooked. Just slightly though. Not enough to complain about, but at least to note.I must also note that the pronounced poultry flavor from the broth adhered quite a bit to the noodles; more so than I normally find ramen broths do. So I imagine the flavor and texture of the noodles will be very “interesting” when being slurped up in the much thicker Kotteri broth.

Now let’s try the Charsu (notice the spelling)…

Excellent Charsu. Permeated throughout with flavor from the braising liquid, while being super tender and having a good balance of meat and fat. My only problem with it was that it was so tender, yet so sliced so thin, I could barely pick it up without disintegrating in my chopsticks…

The single, thin slice of Charsu was also a bit inadequate to accommodate the entire bowl of ramen. Therefore,  if you’re a charsu fan (like I am), since Tenkaippin’s Charsu is so good, I’d recommend getting the Charsu Assari Ramen.

Thankfully my other favorite topping was NOT inadequate, as there were generous helpings of Menma included in the bowl…

The menma was probably the saving grace that kept this ramen “Japanese”, and not entirely something that came out of the west. I wonder if they should put a piece of Nori in their ramen to further “Japanify” it. (is that valid word? lol)

Summing up Tenkaippin’s Assari Ramen, I give it a deliciously different, poultry-screamin’ 3 SPAM Musubi.

Now on to the Gyoza…

The Gyoza is house-made with the typical filling of pork, plus beef, cabbage, green onion, ginger and garlic. They arrived in front of me simultaneously with my Assari Ramen piping hot fresh outta’ the frying pan.

They were pan-seared to a tasty golden-brown finish on the bottom, with perfectly al dente wrapper all around. What really made it though was the minced garlic and chili pepper condiment added to the dipping sauce. So, so ono!

That said, easy 4 SPAM Musubi for Tenkaippin’s Gyoza, especially factoring in the value as a set.

Everything was so delicious, I once again polished it!…

Ah, oishikata!  Gouchisou sama deshita!

Service was very friendly (I had two servers!) and quick, with order arriving within 10 minutes of being placed. Here’s one of my servers, Michelle (who hails from China), who even followed me out as I left to further explain Tenkaippin’s menu to me!…

I’m telling you, it’s gotta’ be my charm and handsome, good looks that gets me such great service at these ramen shops. Just kidding! lol  No, but seriously, she was very enthusiastic about Tenkaippin’s menu and, picking up that I was passionate about ramen, she went above the call of duty to explain all she knew about it to me. Now that’s what you call customer service! For that alone, I’ll definitely be back! Service = 5 stars!

Tenkaippin Ramen
617 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii  96815

Tel. (808) 732-1211

The Tasty Island Rating:

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

Related links:
Tenkaippin Hawaii – ‘Ono Kine Grindz
Tenkaippin Ramen, a closer look – AkuEats.com
Tenkaippin, a healthy choice –  Star Bulletin
FUUD: Tenkaippin in Kapahulu – Honolulu Advertiser
Ramen Hunt Part 2: Tenkaippin – Hawaii Metblogs

P.S. It’s been a beautiful Memorial Day weekend here in Hawaii Nei. This past Saturday I stopped by “China Walls” in Portlock on the east side of Oahu. Here’s a segmented panoramic view at Chinawalls, overlooking Maunalua Bay…


17 thoughts on “Tenkaippin's Assari Ramen

  1. Pomai, it good you informed blogers that it cash only so they would be sure to have enough cash if planing to head there. I am that kind of person make sure to to calculate tax plus tip to what I plan to order before even entering the place.

  2. This place should change their sign a bit to establish that it’s CASH ONLY, because the eye will see CREDIT CARD & PERSONAL CHECKS and might assume that this is okay. Then again, you do not do this blog to correct a possible oversight.

    It looks good. To me, the prices seem high (as with previous entries on ramen) but if it is that good, I would make the effort to pay the price, although I’d bring my own slab of butter from elsewhere if needed.

    Love the bonus photos at the end, instant homesick.

  3. John, I agree, CASH ONLY would be much easier to notice and comprehend. IIRC, there’s a sign on the front door that stated that.
    As for the prices, I think they’re competitive. While those toppings prices seem high, I really don’t see why you’d need them when each ramen has enough toppings already included. I swear, if I was in a ramen-ya and seen someone smuggle in their own butter or other topping, I’d probably slurp a noodle through my nose! Movie theaters, perhaps, but ramen shops? LOL!
    Glad you enjoyed the bonus photos. I enjoyed being there taking them!
    Patty, see my reply to John in that regard.
    Kimo, my bill for the Assari Shoyu Ramen and Gyoza set B (I drank water) totaled $10.42 including tax, to which I left $2.58 cents tip, or about %20 of the check.
    I’m definitely coming back here to try the Kotteri Ramen. Based on that sneak preview, I think I’m really gonna’ enjoy it!

  4. you are def gonna see this coming…..but for that bonus pic of the lovely waitress…i would def give this 5 spam musubi!!!! hehehe! pomai, you are one dedicated ramen warrior! on a slightly different note…i finally took easy-off + my power washer to the weber kettle grill here. did a vn’mese style marinade of fish sauce, sugar, black pepper, garlic, onions; i was missing some lemongrass & ginger. i added some olive oil to keep things just a tad slick on the grill, and also tossed in lemonade to sweeten/moisten things, along with pineapple juice, to sweeten/moisten & tenderize! not sure if ppl know, but pineapple, and also kiwi fruit, have a tenderizing effect on meat–something about an enzyme that breaks down connective tissue. in addition to your plain charcoal, i also had some oak lump charcoal. the initial hot coals quickly seared & grilled the pork chops, while the chicken enjoyed a slower, almost smoking-style cooking. both were great, and the perfect footnote to the wknd. cheers!!!!!

  5. Pomai, sometime in business you can’t please anyone . I use work at a place that charge just .15 a slice of cheese to sandwich yet this customer said too high should be .5. Some places is high in cost other were not and reasonable prices still yet people not happy still.

    The stab of butter should be added on for free since it so little other charge is fine.

  6. Pomai, pricing items in business is not easy I should know in it also. Sometime you can’t please anyone. .15 a slice of cheese at one place is fair yet customers said it should be .5 a slice. that too low of course.

    A stab of butter should be .25 to .50. that more reasonable price but I gather hardly anyone order it any way.

  7. Pomai, well in that case of having you slupe a noodle up your nose (Priceless) I will bring not a stab of butter but a whole cube of it. Just to shock you and workers there too. At movie theather I bring Can’t Believe It Not Butter Spray for my popcorn with my friends. (Heh Heh).

  8. Hey that so funny and great ideal for they should not charge that high to begin with. Pomai if you’re going to be back there I would be there too to see Patty punk everybody. Oh Yeah!

  9. Oh boy, where the hidden camera going to be at? Hope you are going to be there Pomai. Some time crazy thing can be fun in life

  10. I not sure Patty should do that owner and workers might get very upset. No humor maybe from them. Of course for me it very funny to let them know they charge too high for butter. Use margarine? Pomai I don’t think you’ll like noodle up your nose by the way too.

  11. Richard, Brenda, Patty and Erica, probably the owner would be steamed, but I bet the workers could care less. Braddah wants to bring his own butter (BYOB?), fine.
    I notice lots of restaurants have surveillance cameras nowadays. So keep that in mind when you’re pulling that partially melting stick of butter out of your purse or pocket. lol
    So when are you folks gonna’ have your “BYOB Ramen” video posted on YouTube? I can’t wait to watch it!  lol
    Kelike, I believe it’s a “pat of butter”. As for prices of side dishes and add-ons, I’ve seen some restaurants that are absolutely ridiculous. Like $3 for a scoop of rice and $1.50 for a scoop of macaroni salad, just as an example.
    Of course nothing can beat the price-gouging practices at movie theaters. I was just at Dole Cannery last week to watch Iron Man 2, where I took note of the prices at the concession. The small drink is $4.50, the medium $5.50 and large $5.95. Something like that. The Popcorn was similarly priced, with the medium around $4.50 and the biggest one almost $7!!! The hot dog was $4.50 and the candies were all $3. I feel bad for kids who must spend their entire week’s allowance just to have snacks while watching a movie. With that, I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of folks smuggle their own food in to watch movies at the theater.
    Nate,  yeah that’s usually how I add it up.
    Raph, that sounds like a fantastic Vietnamese BBQ marinade recipe. I’ll have to give it a try on my next BBQ cookout! Speaking of Vietnamese BBQ, next time you visit Oahu, you gotta’ try Bac Nam, a Vietnamese restaurant on King street. EXCELLENT. Very reasonably priced too. I especially love their stuffed chicken wings, which has pork, mushrooms and other veggies stuffed under the skin, then it’s deep fried. You eat them like meaty lollipops. So ono! But they also do great BBQ meats, flavored with a marinade that tastes like what I imagine yours turned out like. I do remember a pronounced lemon grass flavor.

  12. indeed my man pomai, vn’mese bbq is pretty distinctive. i love lemongrass…but was too lazy to find it (this was kind of a spur of the moment thing i did….) will def have to put lemongrass in my marinade next time. been a while since i been to the hawaii…..know this: when i get there, i will have researched the best places for food thru your blog 😀

  13. Pomai: recently found your blog. LOVE your pics & detailed descriptions.

    Ate here last night for first time. My friend eats there frequently & his fave is the kotteri. Tried some of the broth, but it was a little too rich & thick for me. I enjoyed the paitan & esp the menma! Shoga was good too. The fried garlic chips were overpowering so I left it on the side. Wish the charsu was sliced thicker.

    Looking forward to your next post!

  14. Great Review, as always. I may just try the 50-50 next time, on your rec, but I’ll wonder, when ordering it, if I’ll miss that rich Kotteri-full-strength. That Chili-Garlic mixed into the Kotteri broth is dynamite delicious. Your description of it’s flavor profile is spot-on.

  15. TheBC, I’m going for the full-strength Kotteri on my next visit. My little sampler spoon has me optimistic I’m going to enjoy it.
    Midori, I’m also not so hot for garlic flavor in ramen. And yeah, the charsu was sliced too thin, and the single slice given not enough to accommodate the entire bowl of ramen noodles.
    Raph, I think the lemon grass’ will make a big difference in your marinade. I love the citrus-like flavor it imparts.

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