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Noodle Tuesday: Looking for tonkotsu bliss at Tenkaippin


Tenkaippin's paitan/tonkotsu ramen

Before Menya Ifu Do Do set up shop in Shirokiya, Tenkaippin was the default for tonkotsu ramen, though lots of rameniacs get waylaid by its kotteri ramen, a Tenkaippin special featuring a crazy-thick chicken broth. Thick as in gravy-thick, thick as in you don't even need a soup spoon; so much clings to the noodles that by the time you're done with them, there's not much "soup" even left.

I tried it for the first time recently, and I don't see the point—if I wanted sauce and noodles, I'd rather have spaghetti bolognese or ja jiang mien, something more texturally interesting or spiced.

But on to the tonkotsu ramen …

First, there's a bit of confusion: on the menu, it's listed as paitan (translation: white soup) ramen, but described as a tonkotsu (translation: pork bone) base. I'd always associated paitan as primarily a chicken broth, based on Yotteko Ya's paitan ramen, but Tenkaippin's server told me paitan soups are not exclusively chicken.

So how does it compare to Menya Ifu Do Do's? While it was the favorite of all three bowls we tried at Tenkaippin, it didn't have the depth of flavor that Menya If Do Do's broth has. It was properly milky, but oddly, didn't convey a rich porkiness. It needed all the toppings—green onions, bamboo shoots, fried garlic chips and pickled red ginger—to keep it interesting. Noodles were great—perfectly cooked and firm.

Assari ramen at Tenkaippin

Second favorite at Tenkaippin: the assari ramen, a clear, shoyu-based broth, the lightest of all those offered. Same noodles as the paitan and kotteri.

Kotteri ramen 

And last: the famous kotteri ramen that we didn't really care for. Just like a gravy, flour is used to thicken the broth, but it's not well-dissolved; it feels grainy on the tongue. Tenkaippin's unique condiments, including the pickled spicy garlic, help alleviate the heaviness of the bowl.

Tenkaippin, 617 Kapahulu Ave., 732-1211 

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