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Noodle Tuesday: Comfort Classics at Golden Pork Ton-Kotsu Ramen

A new ramen eatery opens this week in the space of old Mediterraneo on King Street.


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Photos: Natalie Schack

 

If there’s one thing that Honolulu has an abundance of, it’s noodle shops. But we could always use one more. So when we heard that a new ramen joint was opening up in the old Mediterraneo on King Street, with a focus on rich, creamy tonkotsu-style broth, we were excited.

 

Our first piece of advice: Bike to dinner. The parking situation in this area is not pretty. Once we stepped through the doors, however, our attention was grabbed by the striking renovations inside. The Japan-based owners enlisted Tokyo design firm Spice Works to create an artsy space that combines Japanese aesthetics with modern touches. Think lantern fixtures adorned with images of cherry blossoms, a mosaic Mount Fuji on the wall and wave paintings undulating on the ceiling.

 

But enough non-food talk. Because there’s more than enough to say about the dishes. We tried a handful of appetizers, and can assure you right up front, there is gyoza. Phew. Settled that.

 

The other appetizers were a little more unexpected. We started off with a Caesar salad that was familiar and Caesar-y in every way … except for a couple of surprises: thick hunks of pork and a runny, soft-boiled egg. Fortunately, eggs and bacon really do make everything better. Once our eyebrows settled back down, we cleaned the plate.

 

Next were crackers and miso cream cheese, which came in their own fancy clay dish. We’ll never turn down a saltine, and the buttery texture of the cream cheese wasn’t unpleasant, but probably the biggest contribution this dish made to the meal was as a conversation piece. In their defense, they were quickly overshadowed by the golden pork buns, bao stuffed with luscious slices of pork, teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and some mustard for bite. You’ve had pork bao before, but the spicy mustard really makes this version.

 

On to the main event! We tried two ramens, the spicy red miso dragon ramen and the golden pork tsukemen (dipping style). The latter came with a thick sauce with an almost-gravy-like consistency, and, of course, cold noodles. These noodles were flat and wide, giving a pleasantly chewy experience reminiscent of al dente udon that’s taken a pounding. The sauce was a bit intense, with a seaweed-y, fish-y flavor that didn’t quite agree with us—especially in this ultra-concentrated form. It was looking a little grim until we were instructed to squirt a dash of lime juice (wedges provided) on each noodle bundle as we go—and voila! The citrus gave us a totally different taste experience, the sour balancing out the heavy, salty meatiness of the sauce wonderfully.

 

As for the spicy red miso dragon ramen, the pleasantly peppery dish was just the right amount of hot (we opted for medium spice level), with delicate, stringy noodles. They perfectly sopped up the porkiness of the aromatic broth, the salty fruit of grand chef Masahiro Endo’s training at a number of respected ramen shops across Japan.

 

1279 King St. The restaurant officially opens to the public on Friday, March 27.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY NATALIE SCHACK

 

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