Kaimukī’s Newest Noodle Bar, Hale Ōhuna
Chef Lee Anne Wong opens her second restaurant in Honolulu.
Koji Braised Short Rib Mazeman.
Photos: Diane Lee
Chef Lee Anne Wong’s second restaurant opened with much fanfare about 10 days ago, after months of built-up anticipation. Wong, who staked her claim in the local restaurant scene as co-owner and head chef of breakfast spot Koko Head Cafe, is now taking on the night with a second, dinner-only place right around the corner from Koko Head in the old Salt space on Wai‘alae Avenue. Kevin Hanney is a partner in the new venture. Hanney, who owns 12th Ave Grill, also owned Salt Bar and Kitchen before it closed last year.
Hale Ōhuna is a noodle house with a short menu of noodle soups (ramen, saimin, pho), as well as a few appetizers and non-noodle dishes, including a lamb burger. As we’ve come to expect from Wong, she uses lots of local ingredients in all of her dishes, making the ingredients the stars, and piling them high in the giant bowls of noodles.
We’ve visited Hale Ōhuna a couple of times already, and our conclusion is this: We’re going to hold off on a proper review until the place has more time to work out the kinks and hit its stride.
What we can say is that the place, bathed in warm light from pineapple-shaped sconces dotting the walls, has a nice, mellow vibe. It’s being dubbed as a “Hawaiian Noodle House,” although there’s really nothing Hawaiian about it (least of all the noodle menu—there’s no such thing as Hawaiian noodles) except for a pa‘i ‘ai board and a couple of canoe paddles hanging on a wall. It’s more Asian than anything, with Chinese kung fu movies projected onto one wall and a sake and Japanese whisky liquor list that is literally pages long. The bar downstairs showcases bottle after bottle of Japanese drinks. Servers run cocktails and food up to the second-floor loft space that serves as the restaurant’s lounge.
We liked most of the appetizers, with the Lomi Toast being far and away our favorite two bites at Hale Ōhuna. Fried baguette slices are topped with aioli and cubes of ‘ahi and tomatoes—like an ‘ahi poke bruschetta. We also liked the Okinawan Dynamite, a take on potato skins, made with fried Okinawan sweet potato skins stuffed with chicken and shrimp and topped with a mildly spicy dynamite sauce.
The noodle dishes we’ve tried so far have been inconsistent, though always impressively presented. The Elima Pua‘a ramen is an extra-large bowl of Sapporo-style noodles topped with just about every kind of pork thing—pork belly, kālua pig, fried pork rinds—plus about five other garnishes, including a perfectly soft-boiled onsen egg and house-made wakame, all floating in pork bone broth. There’s a lot going on. But, even with all of that, the dish was bland and undersalted. The Garden Pho, on the other hand, suffered a bit from too much salt, while the Ōhuna Saimin, which also comes uber garnished with Jidori chicken, egg, shrimp, cabbage, two kinds of mushrooms and kamaboko, fell somewhere in between, but, what it lacked in seasoning, it made up for in richness.
We love our noodles, and we want to love these noodles, and we’re going to bet that, with a little bit of time, Hale Ōhuna will be added to our growing list of go-to noodle joints. It’s for these reasons that we’re reserving our full take for later. We’ll wait a bit, go back and meet back here to tell you all about it.
Hale Ōhuna, 3605 Wai‘alae Ave., appetizers $7–$12, noodles $15–$20, 744-7567
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