2420 Koa Avenue
Tel: (808) 922-2473
I admit, curiosity got to me when I saw the distinctive logo hanging from the banner outside this front entrance. For our readers familiar with Vancouver, yes, this is the same chain that operates the two outlets in the Canadian city, both on Robson Street, going by the name of Ezogiku Noodle Cafe.
Some more background… The Tokyo honten (main branch) of Ezogiku is a tiny ten-person counter joint, located in the college-saturated station area of Takadanobaba, and competes with many ramen-ya and inexpensive eateries for the tight student wallet. Offering a Sapporo-style miso ramen, Ezogiku has been around for over thirty-years and claims to be one of the first to bring true Sapporo miso ramen to the Kanto region. Forgive me, but my first and only bowl there was way back in 1997, but I can faintly recall that it was pretty decent, a mid-thickness crinkly noodle and a miso soup that was on the heavier side on the fat meter.
Quite honestly, I’m surprised how much they’ve expanded over the years. My only experience in Vancouver (west end branch) is again dated, going back to 2000, and I can tell you there is a reason why I haven’t been back since. I had no idea they had established a solid beachhead in Hawaii, with now reportedly seven Ezogiku places on Oahu island (four of those in shopping center food courts).
Returning to the site of this narrative. The Koa Avenue branch of Ezogiku in Hawaii is on a narrow side street, dwarfed by some towering hotel across the way and tucked into the main floor of a five-story building. Its got all the trappings of a run-of-the-mill ramen-ya – drab colors and decorations and a boring setup of some four-tops and a counter with stools facing the street window.
The framed posters on the interior wall should make the unsuspecting perfectly aware that Ezogiku is a chain. They remind me of the colorful signage you find in the family restaurants chains of Japan as well. With both English and Japanese text, I’m sure a lot of tourists staying at the nearby four-star hotel make their way here for a meal. Of note, if you’ve been following my summer journey of tracking down hiyashi chuka (cold noodle) dishes in Vancouver here on Foodosophy, you’ll know why I smiled when I saw the poster on the right.
Our meal here was a late evening snack (pictured above was my shio ramen; overall, I was mildly pleased with it, good flavour from the broth, ample toppings albeit generous with the sprouts even though it wasn’t miso, and noodles cooked just like I like them.). Actually, we got here just a few hours after our shrimp truck experience on the North Shore. Despite this, the two other fellas in my company and I all decided on the san-ten (three item) set. What is that? Well, let me explain…
If you’ve been to a neighborhood ramen-ya in Japan, you know its not only the ramen you are there for – most often because its not the greatest ramen in the city you could be eating. To help fill the void, places will have other offerings to accompany the bowl, such as gyoza and chahan (fried rice). Ra-gyo-cha (ramen, gyoza, chahan) is what my friends would call it.
I’ll start with the highlight of my meal this evening. The chahan (fried rice). Maybe it was the Chinese-speaking cook I heard in the back, but this was a tasty plate of simple fried rice. I’ve often found the best chahan can be found in surprising places like non-descript ramen-ya.
The pork gyoza on the other hand… well I think the picture says it all.
One of my friends commented that his champon (heavy on the veg and some seafood) was decent.
And lastly, my other friend’s shoyu ramen. He was the most disinterested of us all in the ramen here, as well as probably the one who could have done without this meal since we literally had to drag him out.