Craving Warmth in a Bowl? Two Noodle Shops at the 808 Center Deliver
Mian and Sakura Ramen serve unique bowls of Chinese-style noodles you won’t find anywhere else.
Satisfying our noodle cravings at Mian, which opened this year at the 808 Center.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox
The rain had just stopped, and I was sitting—shivering—in the waters off Waikīkī.
The only thing on my mind at that moment, sitting on my longboard in a thin wetsuit top as Tropical Storm Olivia headed our way: a hot bowl of noodles.
One of my fellow dawn-patrollers, who shares my affinity for food, mentioned he had tried Mian, a Chongqing-style noodle house that opened a few months ago in the 808 Center near Walmart. He raved about the house beef noodles and the pork dumplings.
All I heard was noodles.
Turns out, Mian, a California-based chain, is run by Tony Xu, the chef behind the wildly popular Chengdu Taste restaurants. In this case, Mian opened in the space vacated by Chengdu Taste on the first floor of the 808 Center. (That restaurant, which specializes in the Sichuan dishes of its namesake city, is moving to a larger space on the second floor. It’s slated to open next month.) The same people who ran Chengdu Taste are now operating Mian.
SEE ALSO: First Look: Chengdu Taste
With a name like Mian—which means noodles in Chinese—it’s no surprise the menu is almost entirely noodle dishes, from bowls with sliced chicken gizzards to the popular zajiang mian topped with ground pork, green onions and a fried egg. The noodles are made locally using Mian’s special recipe, which calls for egg whites instead of whole eggs, giving them a lighter, chewier texture.
On a recommendation from my friend in the surf, we ordered the spare rib noodles ($10.99), a humble bowl of noodles, tender pork meat and wilted bok choy in a spicy red broth. We also tried the Sichuan cold noodles ($9.99)—it ended up being my favorite, though it wasn’t a hot bowl of soup—with slightly thicker noodles and dressed in a tangy, vinegary sauce topped with crushed peanuts and green onions. (It’s reminiscent of tsukemen at ramen shops, where the noodles and the dashi come in separate bowls.)
The spare rib noodles with Mian’s special noodles.
The Sichuan cold noodles are spicier than they look.
The heat here is no joke, and, though I’m not much of a tea drinker, I was happily sipping on the complimentary chilled mung bean tea, which cools down the spiciness of the food.
A standout is the chaozhou, or minced pork dumpling ($10.99), which is dressed in a sauce of red chili oil, sugar and garlic. They’re so tasty and easy to eat, you’ll devour three before realizing your lips are numb. (Cue the tea.)
The manager also served us an appetizer of steamed egg with minced pork ($5.99), which brought back memories for my lunch partner. “It’s what my mom used to make—only better,” she said. The egg, which is steamed to a custardlike texture—similar to chawanmushi—is silky, much like tofu. And the pork has the right balance of salty and sweet. I thought I was full from eating the other three dishes, but I found myself able to squeeze in a few bites of this. It’s seriously addicting.
The pork-filled dumplings.
The steamed egg topped with spicy minced pork.
Two doors down is another noodle shop, Sakura Ramen, this one serving Japanese-style ramen along with Chinese noodle dishes even my bona fide Chinese friend hadn’t heard of.
The current owners took over the shop in 2017 and continued to serve the familiar ramen shop dishes that had been on its menu: tonkotsu ramen, miso ramen, chicken katsu curry rice, gyoza.
But they added a few new items that set Sakura Ramen apart from other ramen-ya.
Sakura serves two kinds of maocai, a stewlike dish originating from Chengdu and packed with a variety of veggies and meat in a spicy, oily mala sauce made with Sichaun peppercorn and other spices. The two kinds of noodles used in this dish—long thin rice noodles and thick starchy noodles similar to chow fun (both $10.95 each)—are made in-house. The bowls came loaded with bits of beef, a mound of minced garlic, wood ear mushrooms, cilantro, bamboo shoots, bean curd, green onions and daikon.
The maocai, a stewlike dish originating from Chengdu, features your choice of either thick starchy noodles (left) or long thin rice noodles, both made in-house.
The popular garlic-butter lobster ramen.
We did try one of the ramen bowls: The most popular is the garlic-butter lobster ramen ($13.95), which is a great deal when you consider there are chunks of lobster meat in the bowl. The noodles are typical ramen-style noodles, supplied by Sun Noodle, and the broth is rich, buttery and decadent.
Good to know: Sakura Ramen is open until midnight weeknights and 2 a.m. on the weekends. So when that craving for a hot bowl of noodles hits, even in the lineup, you can satisfy it here.
Both restaurants are located in the 808 Center, 808 Sheridan St. Mian, (808) 589-1818. Sakura Ramen, (808) 773-7765, sakuraramenhawaii.com.