My mom, who I’ll nickname Mama Piggy, was getting “island fever” being at Aulani for the past couple days so she wanted to head into the city to eat and walk around. Annoyer (as Overworked, Underfed calls him) became the designated driver of our rental SUV and Overworked, Underfed, Mama Piggy, Hubster, Twin Tornadoes, and I all spent the day in Waikiki eating and checking out the sites, with a heavier emphasis on the former compared to the latter. Our first stop was Marukame Udon which is a place Hubster and I discovered randomly on our trip to Honolulu a couple of years back. Last time, we went to the Waikiki location which had a long line of people queueing up no matter what time of the day it was. It was the extremely long line that caught our attention in the first place. With two toddlers in tow, waiting in line was not an option, so thankfully, Overworked, Underfed saw there was a second location in the downtown area.
The Downtown location was relatively smaller with less seating than the Waikiki location, but there was notably shorter wait. In fact, we got there early enough so we were able to walk right in but by the time we left, there was line of handful which was still pretty manageable.
The bowls of udon are made to order, so after making your choice at the beginning, you progress down the line to a wide variety of tempura to supplement your meal. Admittedly, I was overwhelmed by the numerous options before my hungry eyes. The pictures above don’t full capture it but it was extremely difficult narrowing down from the options. In spite of it all being deep-fried, all of the tempura did not have a heavy oiliness like you’d expect. I’m impressed how Japanese tempura manages to make you feel less guilty about eating fried foods. It all tasted pretty good. I particularly like the vegetable and onion tempura. It reminds you of a smaller, better version of the Blooming Onion from Outback Steakhouse.
The Curry udon was solid with a mild Japanese curry and strips of beef.
I ordered the Paitan Udon which is a tonkatsu and chicken-based broth. It was very rich (and therefore, fattier than any of the other udons), but I really like the deep and flavorful broth.
The kake udon was their standard fish-based udon and this was comes with shredded pieces of sweet beef. I also liked the clean taste of the broth. Although simpler in presentation, there were many layers of flavor in this clear and light tasting udon.
This initially did not appeal to me, because it was a cold noodle, but the Nikuzaru Udon was a special and someone had to order it. It has sweet beef, clover sprouts, nori, and udon with spicy dipping sauce on the side. This was the surprise choice of the meal. The dipping sauce was very good and really made this bowl of udon sing.
Overall, I really loved this place. The udon, in particular, is very well done. They hand make the udon fresh right before your eyses as you stand in line waiting to order. It has a nice chewy texture and makes a perfect centerpiece for the different broths that are offered. Aside from the taste, the best thing about Marukame Udon is it is SUPER inexpensive. Each bowl runs about $5 or less and each piece of tempura between $1-$2 so you can get very full for well under $10. Even though udon doesn’t seem that special or that Hawaiian, I still think Marukame Udon deserves a spot on any tourist’s “where to eat” list when they visit Oahu.
1104 Fort Street Mall
Honolulu, HI 96813
PAFO Ratings for Marukame Udon:
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 4½ stars
Overall rating 4½ stars