Menchanko-Tei's Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen & Hakata Ramen

I knew it wouldn’t take long before I’d be back at it again, savoring my ichiban favorite comfort food on earth, Japanese Ramen. Still bent on my quest to find “The Perfect Bowl” right in my back yard, after sorting through the many positive reviews about the place on Yelp, I decided to try the offerings at Menchanko-Tei.

Menchanko-Tei is located in the heart of Waikiki in the now infamous Waikiki Trade Center on Kuhio avenue, with notable neighbors including The Shack, Zanzabar, and upstairs, Black Diamond Nightclub (formerly Fashion 45).

‘Menchanko-Tei’ is actually the namesake of their signature dish, the Mechanko, a sort of noodle stew which appears to be a spin off Chankonabe, a dish made especially for Sumo wrestlers.

Yet they also serve several styles of Ramen, including Kikuzo Shoyu, Hakata (pork), and Zabu-Zabu (cold), which I’ve recently tried the Kikuzo Shoyu and Hakata Ramen. To my delight, they also serve Oden as well, which I’ll get more into in a bit.

As always, first let’s check the place out…

There’s a private room in back, which is furnished much more elegantly, and appears to be intended for VIPs such as myself. lol

There’s also a bar where you can walk right in and seat yourself…

Since I was on a solo mission on both visits, I sat at the bar right under that “Tonkatsu” light. Which I think is a sign that I need to return here to try their Tonkatsu, as that’s another dish served here that Yelpers all rave about. Yelpers also speak highly of their Menchanko, which I’ve got on my high priority list of dishes to try as well.

Speaking of dishes, let’s take a look now at Menchanko-Tei’s very extensive menu…

This is as Japanese as it gets folks. The only thing that’s missing is sushi and tempura, but no problem, as we can that just about everywhere nowadays.

Notice there was a section dedicated to Oden, which according to Wikipedia is “a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon radish, konnyaku, and processed fish cakes stewed in a light, soy-flavoured dashi broth. Ingredients vary according to region and between each household. Karashi (Japanese mustard) is often used as a condiment.”

Here’s Menchanko-Tei’s Oden station…

I learned to love Oden after having being hooked up by the stuff from my late aunty Betty Sakamoto, who so graciously taught me how to make it. Really easy, as the Oden-nomoto does most of the work. See this link to learn how to make your own Oden.

As you see on the menu, Oden selections are sold ala cart for $2.25 each: fried fish cake (satsuma age), white radish (daikon), Japanese yam potato jelly cake (konnyaku), mochi in fried tofu pouch (atsurage), tubular fish cake (chikuwa), fried tofu (agedashi dofu), beef tendon (gyu-suji) and boiled egg (tamago).

Here’s the server dishing up a few servings of Oden for her table guests…

Notice the dollop of Karashi mustard on the side of the deep dish. Also notice they don’t drown the ingredients in broth, but only serve a little for moisture and flavor. When I make mines at home, I drown it, as I’m a “broth-ee” kinda’ guy. lol

Now here’s my bowl of Oden…

Menchanko-Tei – Oden with agedashi dofu (fried tofu), konnyaku (Japanese yam potato jelly cake) and tamago (boiled egg), with Karashi mustard condiment. $6.75

In typical Japanese form in always paying attention to detail, they even brand their agedashi dofu (fried tofu) with their name. Neat-o!

In retrospect, instead of the tamago, I should have gotten the gyu-suji (beef tendon), as my Shoyu Ramen already had a boiled egg in it.

This is one hunkin’ chunk of fried tofu…

And this is one hunkin’ chunk of Konnyaku (Japanese Yam Potato Jelly Cake; what a mouthful!)…

How is it? Oishii. Very good. The broth is mildy sweet and katsuobushi-ish just like Oden should taste. Admittedly I think Aunty Betty’s recipe tastes better, thanks to the konbu maki and pork-stuffed aburage, but this works for me.  Only the price is a bit high. Each ingredient should be closer to a $1 each, not over $2. Not factoring the price — which I should, but I’m not, because after all, this is Waikiki — I’ll give it 3 SPAM Musubi.

Now on to the main attraction, the Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen…

Menchanko-Tei – Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen. $8.95

I first take a moment to connect with it. Observe it. Smell its essence. Realize its ichinen sanzen. Tamashii. A religious experience. Yes my friends, ramen can be that deep.

I observe closer…

Ah, oishisou, nei.

Hai, itadakimasu (let’s eat!)…

How’s the broth? Oishii. Very, very good. It’s complex, bold and “meaty”, yet I wouldn’t necessarily say “porky”, but  simply “meaty”.  There’s a hint of sweetness to it, which is the only thing I don’t care to taste in my ramen broth. Other than that, thumbs-up.

According to the menu, Menchanko-Tei was founded in 1980 in Hakata, Japan by Akihide Yonehama, who created all the noodle and menchanko recipes based upon years of culinary experience. Hakata is located in Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu.

With that, not surprisingly the Kokuzo Shoyu broth here tastes quite different than the style I’m familiar with from Tokyo’s Ginza district, which is far up north on the main island of Honshu. To which, like all the other Shoyu Ramen broths I’ve judged in the past, I can’t expect this one to taste like Ginza Ramen, because it’s not. Yet this one stood out as being uniquely GOOD. Some of the others had their own character for sure, but weren’t good. This one thankfully is EXCELLENT. Different, but exellent.

Now let’s try the noodles, which again are sourced from Hawaii’s own Sun Noodle Factory…

Perfectly cooked in the Japanese style of being on the firm side. Yosh! The silky coating of the noodles also took on some of the flavor from the meaty broth, which added some excitement to the slurpfest.

Next let’s sample the charshu…

Nice. Very nice. Good balance of fat to pork meat, with a flavor-packed outer edge that carries right through to the center. It’s also super succulent and tender. If they had a Chashumen version of this Shoyu Ramen (more slices of pork), I’d certainly opt for that. This place seems pretty flexible, so I’m sure if you asked for that they’d do it.

Well look what we have here… my favorite, Menma!…

My server didn’t know where they source their menma from, but I found these larger and deeper in marinated flavor than the Yamachan and Shirakiku brand I’ve bought at Marukai. Menchanko-Tei’s is slightly better.

Rounding out the rest of the garnishments, there’s half of a boiled egg (tamago), fish cake (kamaboko), green onion (negi) and dried seaweed (nori).

Rounding out Menchanko-Tei’s Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen, I give it a uniquely delicious 4 SPAM Musubi, thanks to the depth and overall flavor profile of the broth, perfectly cooked noodles, and excellent charshu and menma.

Getting “crafty”, I decided to try combing my Oden with my remaining Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen broth (when nobody was looking, of course. he he)…

You know what? Not bad. Not bad at all. Which has me thinking, they should create an “Odenmen” – a hybrid of Oden and Ramen, where instead of the usual ramen toppings, they put in various fishcakes, mochi, tofu and beef tendon. Actually, I wouldn’t doubt somewhere in Japan this already exists.

Ah, oishikata. Onaka ipai desu. (that was delicious. I’m stuffed). Oden AND Ramen in one sitting? You’d be stuffed too!

I enjoyed their Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen so much, I decided to return the very next night for an encore, this time trying their Hakata Pork Ramen…

Menchanko-Tei – Hakata Pork Ramen. $8.95 (and glass of Kirin draft biru. $5.50)

Ah yes, nothing like an cold, cold glass of Kirin draft to go with a bowl of ramen. Fantastic combo!

So here we have Menchanko-Tei’s Hakata Pork Ramen, which as you see the broth looks very creamy. It also appears to be thick in viscosity like Tenkaippin’s Kotteri broth, but it’s not. Yet it does have a little more body to it than the Shoyu ramen.

Time again to observe the ramen. Feel its ichinen. Its tamashii…

Oishisou, nei.

OK, hai, itadakimasu! First let’s have a sip of this creamy-looking Hakata pork broth…

Ah, oishii! Sugoi! OMG, I. AM. DIGGIN. THIS. It actually does taste creamy, but in a porky way. Not that that sounds enticing, but one sip and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. There’s also a slight hint of sesame flavor from the goma seeds, but it’s very subtle, thank goodness, as I’m not a big fan of sesame-flavored ramen (Goma Tei’s Tan Tan Ramen is that).

While the Hakata pork broth already has plenty of character on its own, putting an exclamation mark on its expression, you’ve got Beni Shoga in there…

Beni Shoga are slivers of red pickled ginger flavored in the acidic style of umeboshi (the red plum commonly found in musubi). With that, it adds a pronounced undertone of ginger with an acidic kick to the broth. All-in-all, a very appealing marriage of flavors between the creamy pork and bite of the ginger, coming together in unctuous decadence. AWESOME.

Let’s try the (Sun) noodles…

Once again, like the Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen, the noodles in my Hakata Pork Ramen were cooked perfectly, with just enough firm bite to them. They also took on the flavor of the creamy Hakata pork broth just enough to keep the party going.

Let’s try the Charshu…

These slices were a little leaner than the ones I had in the Shoyu Ramen the night before, yet still equally succulent, tender and flavorful. Winner.

Like Yotteko-Ya’s Paitan Ramen, Menchanko-Tei’s Hakata Pork Ramen has Kikurage (Wood Ear Mushroom) in it…

The best way I can describe the flavor of Kikurage, is that it tastes like an “earthy” kombu. Whatever it’s doing, I’m sure it’s playing a part in the overall flavor of the EXCELLENT Hakata pork broth.

I love boiled egg in ramen…

However, one Yelper mentioned that he or she wished the Hawaii ramen shops had the “delicious hardboiled eggs with a orange/red yolk that is silky smooth” that they use in Japan, but so far he or she hasn’t found that here. I know which one their talking about, and it indeed has a much better flavor the eggs we have here.

I took my time sipping every last drop of Hakata pork broth from the bowl…

Summing it up, I give Menchanko-Tei’s Hakata Pork Ramen a unique and well-executed, porky-creamy-beni-shoga-laced-oishilicious 4 SPAM Musubi.

Their Hakata Pork Ramen is one of their signature dishes, as you see they have it immortalized in plastic in the display case in front…

Yet the real star of the show is their Motsu Menchanko, which they also have immortalized in plastic on display in front…

Immortalized Oden…

The service on both of my visits was EX-CEL-LENT, where overall, I’m giving Menchanko-Tei a well-deserved 4 SPAM Musubi, and I’ve only scratched the surface! I can’t wait to go back and try the Motsu Menchanko and their highly praised Tonkatsu!

Waikiki Trade Center
2255 Kuhio Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii  96815

Tel. (808) 924-8366

The Tasty Island rating:

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

Related links:
Menchanko-Tei – Queen of Ramen blog
Some Menchanko Evening – Honolulu Weekly
Menchanko-Tei – Yelp user reviews

P.S. Another gorgeous beach day in Hawaii nei…


10 thoughts on “Menchanko-Tei's Kikuzo Shoyu Ramen & Hakata Ramen

  1. Oden…one of my favorites. All the cobinis (convenience stores) in Japan have it available during the winter. It’s so nice to go and get it inexpensively at all times, and is very tasty. And yes, Menchanko-Tei is very expensive compared to Japan, where it averages about ¥100 per item. One of my foremen back in Okinawa used to bring me a bowl from his home everry time his wife made it. Delicious with a pig shank. Posted a few times. Only place in Hawaii where I’ve had oden is at Izakaya Nonbei in Kapahulu.

  2. Pomai, are you planning to review (or already did) Nihon Noodle on King Street? They have Shoyu, Miso, and Hakata style. There are 3 different types of noodles corresponding to the 3 different broths. The reason I go there is because their gyoza is amazing!

  3. Pomai, this entry brought back memory of one of my business trip to Asia. Taiwan rich Japanese and Chinese cultures have Oden everywhere. It most popular food to serve and sell to people. All 7-11 stores have it at real low cost price and food stalls all over Taiwan. Price reasonable and same type of food as in Japan. Ramen shop are all over and in food stalls too Takoyaki, and taiyaki my favorite.

  4. Pomai, I been craving some chicken donburi and don’t know any good restaurant that make it. Where do you think of a good one that have it?

  5. also am a ramen/saimin eater…….you might want to try Chin-pei, and a new one that opened up……Ramen ya. both offer a full bowl of noodles and the price is right. alot of these ramen restaurants fill it up about 2 thirds and normally have to order a 2nd bowl.

  6. Jean-Paul, nice plug. I’m thinking of wrapping my car with a big graphic of a bowl of Ramen. I might look you up on doing that for me. lol
    Milton, I’ll certainly add Chin-Pei (regardless of its name) and Ramen-Ya to my to-do list. Mahalo for the tip!
    Amy, I’m not a fan of that dish, so can’t say.
    Alice, at $2.25 for each item, you’ll end up needing your credit card to pay for the oden. lol
    Michael, McOden or McRamen, perhaps? Now Taiyaki I have yet to try.
    Trish, I’ve now added Nihon Noodle on my must-do list. Thanks for the tip!
    Nate, oden with a pig shank? Now that’s gotta’ be good! Izakaya Nonbei is another place I have on my radar. I also wanna’ try Mitch’s.

  7. I had the Hakata ramen completely by accident one night while in Japan visiting the Korean consulate in Fukuoka…. completely caught me off guard and was one of the best things I have ever eaten in all my travels…. Seriously, I would move to Hakata specifically for the occasional midnight snack of ramen, gyoza and beer… pure heaven.

  8. Rick, there’s lots of reasons why I’d live in Japan, and their superior ramen is up there at the top of my reasons why. Thankfully, while none of the ramen shops here in Honolulu have yet beat the taste of those in the home land, they’re still for the most part equally as satisfying.

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