In Honolulu, we went casual for dinner. Nothing fancy. Most evenings David and I would tumble out of the ocean when we were hungry, and then drive somewhere to eat; clothes damp from our bathing suits underneath, sand still clinging to our hair. Imanas Tei, an izakaya in Honolulu, was recommended by a Japanese desk clerk at our hotel in Waikiki. I don’t usually trust hotel people for food recommendations, but he seemed to have good taste. He told me he was married to a Korean woman. David may have thoughts to the contrary regarding this subject, but on Imanas Tei we both agreed it was delicious.
We had a number of tasty little bites at Imanas Tei, but the best of all was the King Crab Dynamite ($11.50), or king crab kaiyaki. I wrote how much I loved the kaiyaki at Sapporo East before, but this version I can say was even better. Imagine a king crab leg cut open lengthwise, smothered with spicy roe-laden mayonnaise, and baked until slightly charred at the edges. It was insanity. The sauce was less oily, more concentrated, and perfumed with the taste of crab, which by the way was cooked perfectly inside the shell. It’s pricey considering it’s only one leg, but worth it for a splurge when you’re on vacation. If I lived in Honolulu, on regular nights I’d probably make do with the plain Dynamite ($9.50). There’s no crab, but you get a huge pan of baked molten umami-rich goodness for a few dollars less.
Another favorite of ours was udon at Jimbo. We heard about Jimbo from David’s cousin who used to live in Honolulu. Jimbo makes fresh udon every day, and it was the best udon I ever ate. The soup was thicker than I generally like for udon, but the noodles were soft without being mushy, and flavorful throughout. Jimbo was the only restaurant we went to twice in Hawaii. We liked it that much. David preferred the cold udon dishes because of the summer heat, but I’m a soup girl regardless of the weather, so I opted for hot udon each time.
The Kizami Mochi ($11.90), udon soup with bean curd and mochi, I liked for the texture of the grilled mochi that somehow managed to remain crusty even in the steaming hot soup. However, the bland mochi and bean curd had me longing for a bit more flavor.
More satisfying was the Kani-Keiran ($13.20), udon with egg, snow crab meat, and a generous spoonful of grated ginger. The delicate crab meat was nice in that it didn’t overwhelm the taste of the noodles, and the ginger provided just enough zing to keep the the flavors alive. The noodles, of course, were perfect on both occasions.
Udon at Jimbo and dynamite at Imanas Tei weren’t incredibly luxurious, but both were worth getting out of the water for. In fact, I’d say both are worth taking a thirteen hour flight for.
2626 South King Street (South of Kalo Place; map)
Honolulu, HI 96826-3248
Jimbo (a.k.a. Jimbo’s)
1936 South King Street (b/n Artesian & McCully St; map)