Miso Saimin & Fresh Akule at Ethel's Grill

Diner A and yours truly hit-up Ethel’s Grill once again last, last Aloha Friday (not this past Friday, but the one before it), with Diner A craving to try their Miso Saimin.

This, after tasting their most EXCELLENT complimentary Miso Soup. Which, while you may take Miso Soup for granted, Ethel’s take on it is simply INCREDIBLE. Definitely one of the best Miso Soups he or I have tasted on Oahu in recent memory, regardless of caliber the Japanese restaurant it’s been served at.

Ethel’s Miso Soup just has that magical “it” factor. That “Umami” factor, which if you ask me, is CLAMS. Yes, clams. I can’t confirm that, but that’s my presumption. Their Miso Soup also has bits of tofu (or egg?) floating in it, which gives it this fantastic texture and added “oomph” like only good ‘ole home cookin’ has.

Getting right to it, “oomph” is the operative word of the day, as here we have Ethel’s Miso Saimin, served in a bowl of gargantuan scale…

Ethel’s Grill – Miso Saimin. $5

Holy Sumo Saimin, Batman! Look at the size of this thing! I swear, this took up almost 1/4th of the real estate of our small table in the corner of the restaurant. Specifically, the bowl measured 11″ in diameter, which if you take out your tape measure or ruler, you’ll see exactly how massive this bowl o’ noodle soup is.

All that for just $5? Incredible! Plus, not only do you get this, but it also includes Ethel’s simple-yet-delicious complimentary house salad with Parsley-Dijon dressing…

Ethel’s Grill – House Salad with Parsley-Dijon Dressing. $ complimentary with entrees.

Wow, what a deal! No wonder this place is always packed.

Here’s another angle of Diner A’s Miso Saimin, shown to scale with a standard pair of hashi…

For toppings we have several slices of ham, luncheon meat, Kamaboko (the pink and white thing, which is a fish cake), egg (in two styles) and sliced green onion. Just about perfect. The only thing missing is Charsiu, which personally I think is one of the definitive toppings every saimin should have.

So how is it? Sample some, cuz…

I tried the broth, and you know what? It doesn’t taste the same as the house Miso Soup, but more like Japanese Miso Ramen broth — oh, say, like the one made by Sun Noodle. Completely different than Ethel’s amazing house Miso Soup.

Most notably different is that they add Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese red pepper flakes), which totally changes the flavor profile.

All-in-all it’s a tasty “miso” broth, but not really what Diner A was expecting or hoped for. What he (and I would have) really wanted was their most EXCELLENT house Miso Soup broth with Saimin noodles and toppings in it. Simple as that — no more, no less.

Speaking of saimin noodles, let’s check it..

The noodles — sourced from Oahu Noodle Factory — are very thin like Angel Hair Pasta and cooked on the softer side. Which I suppose I shouldn’t complain, as that’s how many saimin shops serve saimin, unlike authentic Japanese Ramen noodles, which are ideally served a bit firmer. A plus for the thin saimin noodles is that they hold more broth (and its flavor) as you slurp them up.

What’s interesting is this Miso Saimin has two types of eggs in it: “dropped”, meaning it appeared they added that type of egg in raw and let the hot broth cook it right in the pot. …

and an omelet…

Summing it up, Diner A gives Ethel’s Miso Saimin 3 SPAM Musubi, noting (and I’m noting as well) that it could have been a 5 had they not added the Shichimi Togarashi, but served the exact same broth they use for their incredible house Miso Soup. Next time he or I will certainly request that.

On to the next dish, not knowing just how MASSIVE this bowl of Miso Saimin would be, Diner A ordered a Teriyaki Burger to accompany it…

Ethel’s Grill – Teriyaki Burger. $2.75

Well, I don’t think I need to tell you that this turned out being overkill and over the top, yet incredibly, “skinny” Diner A finished everything. Amazing.

As for the burger, he said it was very good. The house-made patty was juicy inside with a tasty seared crust on the outside, yet the Teri’ sauce needed a little more “oomph” (like the Miso Soup has). Overall 2 SPAM Musubi.

Speaking of Miso Soup, here it is, which was included with my Fresh Akule entree, along with a drink…

Ethel’s Grill – Complimentary house Miso Soup and Drink (Fruit Punch in the case)

Here you can kinda’ see the bits and pieces of tofu (or egg?) floating in the broth…

So oishii-ono-broke da’ mout’ winnahz! 5 SPAM Musubi, easy! Throw in some Japanese black baby clams and it would be a 10! And if your order doesn’t include Miso Soup, you can add it on for just 75 cents for the small (shown) or $1.50 for the large. What a deal! I swear, it’s worth the drive from Waianae or Hawaii Kai (how’s that for contrast?) into town just for this. I promise.

My fresh Akule also included Ethel’s House Salad with Parsley-Dijon Dressing, shown earlier in this post. Good stuff. Love that dressing.

Now for my main attraction, the Fresh Akule, a.k.a. Bigeye Scad…

Ethel’s Grill – Fresh Akule with Celery Vinegar. $9.75

According to the ‘daily specials’ menu hanging in front, this is served with Celery Vinegar…

It tasted like regular white vinegar mixed with a little mirin and enhanced with grated celery, yet it didn’t “scream” celery in flavor. Personally I would have preferred Ponzu (citrus flavored soy sauce), and in retrospect, what I should have done was add some shoyu to this sauce.

Let’s have another look at the Fresh Akule, which is simply cleaned and butterflied whole, then pan-fried until the skin is crispy…

Look at all that Akule meat cooked on the bone. You know this is gonna’ be good! Let’s sample some…

Oh man, so tender and juicy, it just flakes right off with little effort on my part. Flavor-wise, I only wish they had seasoned it more. As is it was rather plain. Let’s see if the Celery Vinegar does the trick…

Oh yeah, the tang from the vinegar definitely kicks it up several notches. As I said earlier, what I really should have done was added shoyu either to the vinegar or right on the Akule.

As for the skin, I think they should have been more liberal with the flour dredge, as there wasn’t much substance to it, nor was their much seasoning. Essentially it tasted like they took the Akule, dropped it quickly in flour (that wasn’t seasoned enough) and then threw it in the pan. It needed more TLC in the prep. Otherwise it was cooked to perfection. One thing I love about having fish served whole is you get to eat the eyeball!…

Om-nom-nom-nom. Nothin’ like some good fish eyeballs. lol Seriously though, good stuff!

Here you see all that tender and juicy meat and crispy skin easily pulled right off the Akule bone…

Whatever you do, if you order the Akule, make sure to pick-out them sharp pin bones, which is the only drawback of eating small coastal reef fish like this.

No question Ethel’s Fresh Akule is some good eats. More seasoning in the flour dredge and this would have easily been a 4 or 5, while the Celery Vinegar also needed some shoyu for that  extra “oomph”. As is, I give Ethel’s Fresh (fried) Akule a very solid 3 SPAM Musubi.

What I need to return to Ethel’s for is their Pig’s Feet Soup…

Another popular item I always see on other folks’ tables here is the Jumbo Rib Steak.  Of course, just about everyone orders Ethel’s famous Tataki Sashimi, which no doubt is another fantastic value, considering the quality and portion.

Good home style cookin’ and great value is what draws a consisent crowd into this hole-in-the-wall gem that is Ethel’s…

Ethel’s Grill
232 Kalihi Street
Honolulu, HI 96819
(808) 847-6467

Business hours:
Mon-Sat. 5:30am to 2:00pm

Ethel’s Grill Menu (<click to download/view PDF)

The Tasty Island Rating:

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

Related links:
Return to Ethel’s Grill – The Tasty Island
Kalihi Kai Eats: Ethel’s Grill – The Tasty Island
Ethel’s Grill – ‘Ono Kine Grindz
Ethel’s Grill serves sumotori-sized portions – The Honolulu Advertiser
Cheap Eats:  Ethel’s Grill – KHNL NBC NEWS 8 Honolulu
Hungry chefs head to Ethel’s Grill – The Honolulu Advertiser
Ethel’s Grill – Yelp user reviews


15 thoughts on “Miso Saimin & Fresh Akule at Ethel's Grill

  1. Pomai, I just a teriyaki burger at Ethel’s Grill the other day but never try their miso saimin.  Wonder if they would add butter and corn to it like ramin but here we go again the toppings that other bloggers try to do in other ramin shop.  The grill akule is one I order from time to time best tasting ever.

  2. Now you made me hungry again with this entry and I am trying to watch my weight.  I will order takeout on the grill akule so not to get too much other food there .  If I eat in might order miso saimin and never leave for a while.

  3. Pomai, I always find the place pack so have takeout instead.   But wonder if order takeout on miso saimen will it the same size as eat in?  Some time at certain places takeout containers seen less food in it than eat in.  After seeing how the big saimen looked in entry at 5.00.

  4. Well, now I know after reading your comment on Yelp.  No ordering takeout on saimen from Ethel’s and many other places for containers might be less than eating in portions.

  5. Erica and Erica, saimin and ramen at the highest caliber (if you can consider it that) is one of those dishes (or more like bowls) that just doesn’t work for takeout for obvious reasons.  You gotta’ eat it piping hot right outta’ the kitchen.
    Kimo, don’t expect to sit around at your table for too long after finishing your meal, as the droves of folks waiting outside for a table in this popular, yet very small and cramped restaurant will start giving you “stink eye”. lol
    Richard, nah, I’ll pass on butter and corn in SAIMIN. Ramen, perhaps, but Saimin? No ways. That’s the equivalent of peas in Mac’ Salad!

  6. Hey Pomai!
    For all the rameniacs who constantly want butter corn ramen:
    Buy the sun noodle shio ramen 2 pack (refrigerated section)
    Follow the instructions on the package, add menma, a LITTLE bean srout, a handful of green giant summer crisp canned corn, green onion, menma, and a pat of REAL butter.
    Let me tell you, I first tried this last week, I went right back to Don Quijote (cause it was on sale) and bought 5 more packs. I’ve been eating it EVERYDAY since.
    Very much like a true ramen shop! Of course, just boil noodles for 2 min.! Perfectly al dente!!!!
    Highly recommend!!!!!!

  7. Pomai, at my cousin’s restaurant in Waipahu Far East Chop Suey customers bring their own containers for takeout.  Many have soup and noodle separate containers.    It better for own containers is bigger than takeout ones so you good amount like eating in.    The customers also for chow meins brought own pots and trays when ordering.   So Erica bring own containers for saimin at Ethels and heat soup up at home.

  8. Yeah, that make more sense and it green way to go for all.  Your own containers can be bigger but better in ordering takeout.  It was popular in the 70 and 80 but younger generations forgot about it till now it back again for the green life style.

  9. Pomai, it always packed there so I rather order to go on food there.  Now I know also to bring own containers is great ideal and my parents used to also when order from restaurants.

  10. Pomai, sometime I am in office on weekends so I will head to Ethels and hope it not pack.  Otherwise I will bring own containers just in case also.  I like it for save on landfill and reuse again not wasted.  I now could go to Windward Mall Farmers Market on Wed. or Blaisedall Center one on Wed too.  Free Parking  and get great fresh farmer markets fruits and vegetables. there like KCC one on weekend.

  11. QuarryLaneFarms, just make sure if you order the Miso Saimin that you tell them you want the MISO SOUP SAIMIN. If they don’t understand, then try suggesting the server that you don’t want the Shichimi Togarashi added in the broth. That seems to be a major player that changed the flavor significantly.
    Aaron, I have yet to check out the Farmers’ Market at the Blaisdell. I hear that one does quite well as far as turnout. The KCC Farmers’ Market didn’t take place this past weekend due the Farm Fair at Bishop Museum, where all the vendors took their wares.
    Amy, Kelike and Patty, well I can confirm after looking at their takeout containers, that at least the styrofoam bowls looked much smaller than what you’d get served in the restaurant in their porcelain bowls. As for BYOTOC, I honestly can’t see doing that myself, although perhaps one day I’ll consider it. What’s funny is, if I bring them a gallon-size Rubbermaid storage container for my takeout, should I expect them to fill it up with 1 gallon of Miso Saimin? lol
    geishagirl, I’ll take you up on that Sun Noodle Butter Corn Ramen! Thanks for the tip and recipe! Sounds oishii! Will blog it VERY soon. You know me, Mr. “Rameniac”!
    Wayne, I’ll look into those broken links and try to fix them (if the pages still exists somewhere). Thanks!

  12. I was in the area last week, so I tried out Ethel’s and ordered 3 teri bugers “to go”. Looked so good I “pigged out” and ate all 3. The clerks found out and ragged me,,,,,,,,, “WHERE’S OURS?”. I went to Ethel’s and got 4 teri burgers, for the clerks. They LOVED them and wondered how they make the burgers so juicy. I told them they would have to go down there and ask the chefs. Ha,ha,ha.

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