At the end of a welcome-to-Oahu mixer at The Modern Honolulu, local food maven Sean Morris and honorary Honolulan Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy equipped me with plenty of nearby restaurant ideas. Unfortunately, my visit to Waikiki’s tourist zone coincided with the closure (for the night) of a soba specialist, two ramen joints and an udon parlor that went so far as to invite me over for the dregs, only to toss them into the trash immediately prior to my arrival. It’s a good thing Honolulu has so many options, and that Nakamura took pity on me.
Tomoaki Ogura opened his first Ramen Nakamura in Tokyo in 1995, patterning his Nakamura after a restaurant in Hokkaido. He eventually expanded to Honolulu, figuring he could capitalize on Nakamura’s Japanese popularity by appealing to Japanese tourists and curious locals. Apparently he was right. Even at 10:30 p.m., the black linoleum counter was packed.
Nakamura supplied me with oxtail ramen ($13.90) with gyoza ($2 supplement). Shio, shoyu or miso cost an additional 50 cents, but it was my preference to stick with the clean, nearly clear broth that arrived with scallions, crunchy bamboo shoots, collagen-rich cross sections of boiled oxtail, complete with tender chambers and spiral patterned center, pungent fried garlic chips, julienne ginger, crisp bok choy, semi-firm strips of onion that soaked up the flavor of the salty, savory broth.
The oxtail itself was somewhat bland on its own. Thankfully (and intentionally), my server provided a bowl of minced ginger and poured on soy sauce to produce oxtail dipping sauce. The flavor built with every dip of the shredded beef, and picked-bare bones began to pile up in another bowl.
Gyoza was the only minor disappointment. Pork-filled and cabbage-flecked dumplings were overly chewy, even with their crunchy, griddled bases.
Ramen Nakamura provided late night relief that far exceeded fifth choice expectations.
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