Momosan Waikiki (Hawaii 2018): Ramen and Kushiyaki
In our visit to Hawaii in May of 2018, we decided to stay at the newly renovated Alohilani Resort (formerly the Pacific Beach). One of the main draws to this hotel is that they have not one, but two restaurants run by Iron Chef Morimoto. Momosan Waikiki is his casual eatery that’s located on the first floor, across the street from the beach. While they have an inside bar area, the best place to sit is on the covered, outdoor patio that fronts Kalakaua and Liluokalani.
Arriving on a late flight in from Vancouver, we were happily surprised that they were still open and managed to get our order in before their last call. Since this was still during their grand opening, they were only open during their dinner seating (no reservations) but they have plans to open for lunch in the near future. We wanted to try a bit of everything so we wound up ordering the Kakuni Bao ($6), Gyukotsu ($28), Oyster Yakimono ($10 for 3 pieces), as well as some Kushiyaki.
The Kakuni Bao is a simple dish prepared with tender braised pork belly and lettuce with a dijon mayo on a white steamed bun. It’s a nice appy but I’ve had better in Vancouver. The Gyukotsu is a bit expensive for ramen but this is Waikiki and prices for restaurants here is expected to have a tourist premium. Once you get past the sticker shock, you’ll really enjoy this ramen… made with 7 hour braised beef rib that just falls off the bone, sesame kale-bean sprouts, black pepper oil, aji-tama (soft-boiled seasoned egg), and toasted nori (seaweed). I was surprised at how good these noodles were. While the menu says they only have 25 orders per day (not sure if that’s an exaggeration to build up hype), we managed to order this at the end of the day. That may be because they just opened and they’re not as busy yet.
According to their menu, Iron Chef Morimoto recommends the Oyster Yakimono which is simply grilled in the shell with soy. It was a pleasure to slurp these down. Not knowing what else to try, we decided to grab some kushiyaki, which are skewers of various meats which you can get flavoured with shio (salt) or tare (a mildly sweet sauce made from soy, mirin and sugar). For the chicken ($4), beef ($4.50), and duck ($4.50), we opted for the tare and for the butabara asparagus ($4) which is asparagus wrapped with grilled pork belly, we went with shio. The skewers here are seriously on point.
After this epic first meal in Waikiki, we knew that we’d be back here many times (4 times to be exact)… especially since it was so conveniently located in our hotel. There’s actually a fairly good selection of kushiyaki, ramen, and appies here and our serves made recommendations on what items were the best.
We came back for our first revisit two days later (after having dined at Iron Chef Morimoto’s other restaurant – Morimoto Asia the previous night). One of the items at Morimoto Asia (located above Momosan Waikiki) which looked intriguing was their Peking Duck. We didn’t wind up ordering it at Morimoto Asia but we did wind up ordering the House Roasted Duck Tacos ($12 for 2 pieces) at Momosan. If these delicious duck tacos are any indication of the duck at Morimoto Asia… make sure you order them! The generous slice of house-roasted duck with skin intact was meaty and flavourful and combined with crunchy cucumber, hoisin and apricot sweet chili sauce in a crunchy shell. Definitely one of the highlights here.
The Tetsunable Pork Gyoza ($12) is served in an iron skillet and drizzled with soy sauce table-side by the server as he presents it. The pork and chive gyozas are draped with a line of ginger scallion sauce and have a nice, crisp skin from the sizzling hot plate. Like many dishes here, the presentation of their dishes is well thought out.
Last up for this revisit was an order of Toro Salmon Kushiyaki ($4.50) which turned out to be one of our favourite skewers here. The fabulously grilled salmon belly with a tare glaze was melt-in-your-mouth tender. Honestly, I’m still drooling over this salmon belly! To finish things off, we also ordered the Tsukemen ($16) and the Chicken Tsukune with Soft-Boiled Egg ($4.50 + $3). Tsukemen is a dipping style ramen with a thicker tonkotsu (pork bone based broth) soup that’s served on the side. The tsukemen comes with tender pork chashu, aji-tama, menma (bamboo), takana (pickled mustard greens), toasted nori, garlic oil, soy tare, and lime. This was a fairly good ramen but not as good as their gyukotsu.
We had a wonderful chicken meatball dish in Japan (not sure why this isn’t a bigger thing in Vancouver) and were happy with the chicken tsukune served here. Glazed with a soy tare sauce, you can order it separately or add the soft-boiled egg which you dip the skewer in.
Our third visit was for a quick snack at the end of our day and we decided to stick with some of our favourite skewers: the chicken thigh, duck breast, and more of that wonderfully fatty salmon belly. We also tried ordering the chicken karaage but, after a somewhat long waiting period, our server came back and told us that the chef said the chicken karaage “went bad” and didn’t want to serve it to us. Not entirely sure how it goes bad (we literally saw some other tables eating the dish 10-15 minutes before us). In any case, we wound up ordering the Tetsunabe Wagyu Hamburg Steak ($12) which is a Hamburg steak made of ground wagyu beef served in a sizzling iron skillet and drizzled with momosan teriyaki sauce tableside. This turned out to be a good substitution and because of the mix up, they took the charge for this off our bill.
As Momosan Waikiki was our first meal in Hawaii this year, it was only fitting that we came back here for our last meal as well. As I mentioned before, their patio is a great place to enjoy the view of the beach and people watch. We couldn’t help but order the Gyukotsu again… love the flavourful broth they use here and the super tender braised beef, not to mention the toothsome, slightly chewy noodles. They say they use a special type of noodle that is more resistant to becoming soggy while still holding their texture.
We finally managed to try their Chicken Karaage ($9) which is a boneless fried chicken dish that’s served in a sweet, spicy, and sexy garlic soy sauce. The chicken had the perfect amount of crispness to the exterior while still retaining a moist and juicy interior. Yup, we also got more of those tasty salmon belly skewers!
We had a bit more room in our tummies before heading back to Vancouver so we ordered their Duck Fat French Fries ($8). We were a little confused by the picture in their menu because these didn’t look like any fries we’ve had before (they kind of looked like the fried squid you find at dim sum restaurants). These thick, spirally cut fries turned out pretty good (not the best item on the menu but we managed to polish this off fairly easily) with the thinner pieces being my favourite.
Momosan also has a pretty interesting drink menu. We enjoyed their Momosan Ice Tea ($4) with blueberry calipco and passionfruit ice tea as well as their Mint Yuzu Spritzer ($4) with mint, yuzu, and sprite while catching the sun setting.
Momosan Waikiki is a definite winner and I’m glad we got to try them out so many times during our stay. Service is fairly quick and friendly with most of the servers being quite helpful and attuned to details. And how can you argue with such a great location right across the beach?
2490 Kalakaua Avenue (first floor of the Alohilani Resort)
Posted on May 28, 2018, in Japanese, Restaurant Review and tagged Chicken Karaage, Chicken Tsukune, Duck Fat French Fries, Duck Tacos, Food, Gyukotsu, Hawaii, Honolulu, Japanese, Kakuni Bao, kushiyaki, Oahu, Pork Gyoza, Ramen, restaurant review, Salmon Belly, Tsukemen, Wagyu Beef, Wagyu Hamburg Steak, Waikiki. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.