Jimbo (Honolulu, HI)

Honolulu has several excellent Japanese noodle shops. Ramen and saimin garner the lion’s share of devotion. But udon deserves as much attention, especially those served at Jimbo. Made in the Hokkaido style (according to the waiter), the broth is rich, luscious, slightly smoky from specially imported katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). We were told that one chef makes the broth and another, the udon; one in the evening, the other in the morning. The noodles have a soft, velvety exterior over a firmer, chewier middle. Though there are other Japanese entrées on the menu, the udon is likely the star of the restaurant.

The nabeyaki udon ($14.70), served in a traditional nabe, comes piping hot. I burnt the palate of my mouth. The tempura consisted of a single prawn and a Japanese eggplant, both wonderfully flavorful. The batters retain their crispiness unless you let them sit in the dashi too long. Thoughtfully, an empty bowl is provided if you decide to rescue the tempura. Rounding out the ingredients is a single piece of kamaboko, sliced baby bok choy and negi, snow peas, spinach, napa, dried shiitake, raw egg and fuki. As good as these additions are, you could argue that they almost take your attention away from noodles and broth.



The ume wakame udon ($11.40) is an impressive combination. The ume flesh, which the restaurant bothers to scrape from whole umeboshi and mince, lends an interesting tartness to the dashi and provides a nice contrast to the rich broth. A few slices of negi onion are sprinkled on top.

Ume wakame udon

Ume wakame udon

For an extra charge, you can order different sizes of udon, large or skinny. Also for extra, you can substitute soba. The skinny noodles in my wife’s order were very good, though they didn’t have quite the same texture as the regular. All these variations are handmade at the restaurant.  On hot summer days, you can also order many of the udon dishes cold.

A popular dish for slime fans is natto bukkake udon. It comes in a dark broth with the ultimate combination of natto, okra, daikon oroshi and nori. I’m surprised grated satoimo wasn’t included. The waiter said that the natto is particularly odoriferous, a big asset for natto lovers. Hmm, maybe on another visit.

Jimbo is another restaurant that is dedicated to offering an unparalleled experience by making everything from scratch and using the best ingredients. The waiter also indicated that most of the ingredients are flown in directly from Japan. The udon prices are definitely higher than you’d normally pay elsewhere, but with udon this good, you don’t really care.

1936 S King St # 103

Poke Stop (Waipahu, HI)

Sweet onion ahi poke

Sweet onion ahi poke

The Waipahu Poke Stop is in the middle of an enormous shopping center, those maddening strip mall/village hybrids that meander over acres, making it almost impossible to find any particular store. What an odd place to set up shop for a chef who trained under Alan Wong, Emeril Lagasse and Sam Choy. But, it’s a seafood restaurant Elmer Guzman wanted, one where he could serve locals the freshest seafood available.

The poke is what caught the fancy of the locals. Depending on what’s fresh, you’re going to find a wide variety of poke, all of it displayed behind glass cases and all of it available for sampling. The menu lists the following: limu ahi, shoyu ahi, sweet onion ahi*, creamy ahi, blackened ahi, Kapakahi ahi and opihi, garlic edamame ahi, seafood wasabi ahi, sesame tako, kim chee tako, creamy tako, furikake salmon*, ginger scallion shrimp*, limu mussel, kim chee mussel, Inamona white crab, kim chee Kona crab, “Da Works” oio*, hamachi poke, and tofu poke. The asterisked ones are menu-listed as “must try” signature pokes. The price is $10.95/pound (hamachi and Kapakahi are $12.95).

We ordered the sweet onion ahi (top photo), crispy chicken chunks (third photo) and seared ahi bowl over furikake rice (second photo). The ahi was very fresh and sweet, lightly seasoned with salt and sesame oil, sprinkled with green onions and chile flakes. The onions were sharp and biting; Maui sweet onions in season would definitely improve things. The seared ahi was also nicely done. The chicken is prepared Korean-style. Chicken thigh nuggets are lightly battered and fried, then tossed with taegu sauce.

One dish I regret not having ordered were the eggplant fries. I kick myself for forgetting. This has been mentioned several times by internet posters as a “must try.” It’s served with remoulade.

While the poke is excellent, it might not be worth the trip out to Waipahu or Mililani Town just to try it. If, like us, you’re on your way to leeward Oahu (Hawaii’s Plantation Museum or Ka’ena Point), it’s worth a stop in Waipahu. For closer-in poke, the word is that Ono’s Seafood (not Ono’s Hawaiian, but across and up the street from it) in Kapahulu has an excellent version.

Poke Stop
94-050 Farrington Hwy # E4
Waipahu, HI 96797

Hawaii Plantation Village

Hawaii’s Plantation Village showcases the restored living quarters of the sugar cane workers who worked on Oahu’s last sugar mill. Laborers came from all over: China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal and Puerto Rico. Many of the buildings that housed the workers are on display, complete with furniture pieces, articles of everyday living and other artifacts. It’s very interesting to see how differently the ethnic groups set up their homes. Despite the sugar mill’s deliberate strategy to segregate the communities, much intermingling and sharing of food took place, which might be a clue to explain what evolved into island cuisine. Plants, trees and vegetables important to the diets of each group are also on the grounds.

The association trying to keep the village on-going is obviously having a difficult time, despite some government help to pay for restoration. Much vandalism and theft continue to take place.

Volunteer docents lead very informative tours. Depending on the interests of the visitors, they can last upward of 2 hours or more, like ours did. Our guide Amy (who works only on Thursdays) led a fun and fact-filled tour. Having grown up in the area, she recalls things that happened when she was a child.

Hawaii’s Plantation Village is a must-see.

Hawaii’s Plantation Village
94-695 Waipahu Street
Waipahu, HI 96797