I loathe standing in line. I don’t do it for sales, I don’t do it for Eat the Street (I go early, or late, or cut to the front for permission to take photos), in fact the only thing I stand in line for is HIFF, and that’s because it’s my one chance to see the movies and documentaries the international film festival brings.
That’s why I sucked up my own objections and stood on a Chinatown sidewalk 38 minutes Sunday night for ramen. Sun Noodle, you see, is legendary to noodle fiends in Hawaii for making just about every kind of Asian noodle we eat, at more places than you know. As in, 100 kinds of ramen, soba, udon, saimin, won ton wrappers and other noodle goods, totaling roughly 30,000 servings a day.
Mega, no? Since this year, part of that output has been coming from Sun’s new Ramen Lab in New Jersey, meaning Sun Noodle, which supplies ramen shops in the city as well as chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Ivan Orkin (the New Yorker-turned-Tokyo ramen king-turned New York ramen returnee), that same Honolulu-born Sun Noodle has now cracked the Big Apple.
Even more enticing, Sun has stationed its executive chef, Shige Nakamura, in New Jersey, making his ramen exclusives tantalizingly elusive. So when I heard Nakamura was bringing Ramen Lab to Honolulu for one night, with offerings including an Italian ramen in a tomato broth with sausage, mushrooms and cheese, I stopped breathing. There was no choice. I put on my Crocs and headed down the hill.
At 4:22, 38 minutes before Ramen Lab’s scheduled opening inside Lucky Belly, I was something like tenth in line. At 5 p.m. the line snaking up Smith Street stood at 48 people. And I am sorry to do this to you who were not there, but I do it anyway because I snagged two minutes of Nakamura’s time and found out he already wants a Hawaii encore.
So for when he comes back, here’s my report: what I found at Ramen Lab, and what made 38 minutes in line absolutely worth it.
Ramen Lab pop-up (2 of 7)
The choices: N.Y. heritage ramen ($13), my aforementioned; old school Tokyo ramen ($11) with a shoyu-chicken broth, ajitama flavored egg with barely set yolk, charcoal-grilled char siu and memma bamboo shoots; and tonkotsu black ramen ($11) of pork-bone broth with that char siu, crunchy cloud ear mushrooms and a special black garlic essence.
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