Naniwaya Ramen is located in the massive polyglot "Makai Market" food court of the Ala Moana mall near Waikiki. After hearing advertising on the Japanese language radio station, KZOO, I finally got the chance to try during a recent visit to HNL and a shopping expedition to Ala Moana.
Makai Market is a bit of a madhouse, with many different types of food on offer around a central seating area. It can be hard at times to find a seat and tables can be left dirty.
Food is ordered and picked up from a counter. The menu is standard ramen fare, with some local flair. Shio (salt) ramen, miso ramen, chashu ramen, shoyu (soy) ramen, wantanmen, kimche ramen, and "Naniwaya Ramen" are the main choices. Naniwaya Ramen is a mixed ramen with chicken wings as the point of difference from the standard ramen types. There are also some extras on the menu, including gyoza, shumai, and manapua (bbq port filled chinese bun).
I ordered the chashu ramen with 5 gyoza. Price is a bit on the high side, my order totaled about $12.
The ramen is served in a flimsy styrofoam bowl with hashi chop sticks and a small plastic chinese soup spoon. A minor tick, the spoon is too small to pick up adequate amounts of soup. Its hard to enjoy ramen soup with a spoon the size of a teaspoon.
The soup is a more a broth and not at all rich. My chashu ramen had a beef stock kind of soup base, similar to consomme, rather than a more traditional tonkotsu pork soup. Soup always makes or breaks ramen and this is the grand weakness of Naniwaya's ramen. The broth is just not good enough; real ramen soup needs to be rich and flavorful and is a ramen-ya's secret ingredient.
The other ingredients ("gu") were surprisingly good. Noodles were hidden in the bottom, with no real flavor personality. The menma bamboo sprouts and moyashi were a pleasant surprise, both generous and flavorful. The chashu was the best part of the meal, with a generous portion served thick on top the the noodles, almost American style.
The gyoza were horrible. The consistency was similar to hard gumballs, with no pork filling flavor. The gyoza were prepared in advance and were not fresh. There is none of the fused porky flavor that a good side dish of gyoza offers. Best to skip the gyoza.
Overall, its not the best ramen, but Naniwaya ramen serves up noodles that are can satisfy a ramen craving. Nanawaya ramen does a decent job of serving up Japanese inspired ramen dishes although the gyoza is close to uneatable.
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