Tanaka Saimin and Shabu Shabu Bankok
Tanaka saimin, located on Nimitz has OK decor, is rather clean and the saimin was meh...the broth and saimin noodles were just okay and the portion size average. We were not impressed at all with the food or the service. We went the week they opened and when we requested the check from 3+ staff, they kept asking for our table number, which wasn't posted anywhere! By the 3rd person asking the same question, needless to say my remarks were "that I don't work here and if you don't want me to pay, that's fine with me". It seems popular as it is busy, but for a foodie like myself, I won't be going back there, totally unimpressed.
Shabu Shabu Bangkok - located on Kapahulu service and food was better than Tanaka's in my opinion. They have 3 tasty dipping sauces that come with whichever shaving you order. One sauce had ginger & oil, another had cilantro & some sort of red chili and the last was like a Thai Tum yum sauce. They're all tasty but may be too strong for some. Ordering one of the preset menu options (i.e. chicken shabu) is cheaper than ordering all the smaller ala carte items of which the preset can be comprised of. You also pick the soup stock that you prefer, like beef or chicken broth or a tum yum base.Obviously you cook it yourself. The bill was under $35, without any alcoholic beverages. Service was good and decor was nice. We left with out tummies fairly satisfied, but not stuffed. The restaurant had a sour smell, which was a put off at first until our noses got used to the scent, which we deduced was from a fellow customer's selection of the tum yum soup base. Another downside, we got headaches afterwards, which in my book means too much sodium or MSG in the food. I was heavy handed with the sauces as they were flavorful. Went back a second time and it was definitely pricer as we added more ala carte items...got another headache using less sauce, so in my opinion, suggestive of the sauce/soup having MSG. This is definitely not a plus in my book, so if you're sensitive to MSG, you might want to refrain from eating here. As for myself, I'm on the fence on whether I'd return....I do enjoy their dipping sauces.... If I had to choose between either of the two restaurants , I'd definitely pick Shabu....
yeah, went to tanaka the other day...it's essentially the same menu from boulevard saimin (now dillingham saimin) and the same people running it (i think a sister from the family runs tanaka)....hey, it is what it is. relatively low-brow humble food in a nicer, new environment. that being said, i feel like humble food could/should be better. i got a wuntun saimin combo with a small salad, teri beef, and "tempura" shrimp. the broth tasted like more of the shrimp shell-based saimin broth, as opposed to the dashi style broth...it was OK. reckon thats a personal preference thing. the toppings in the saimin were skimpy...couple small char siu strips...maybe a slice of kamaboko...dont remember anything else (which is telling). the wontons were, well, boring. the meat inside had virtually no flavor, it was just kind of there. and they fell apart pretty easily. the teri beef was the very thin-sliced style, that was probably sitting around in a bath of sauce for awhile or under a heat lamp - just guessing - this was not good. fatty, not in a good way, in a chewy way. flavor was just kind of off. the little salad was jutst standard iceberg whatever salad with a store bought french dressing (if i remember correctly). the shrimp tempura was my favorite thing, but the name is sort of a misnomer. it was a flat pounded shrimp dipped into some seriously thick breading and fried -- decidedly NOT tempura. but it was kind of sweet, sort of reminded me of a corn dog without being corny (i think i've had this style of fried stuff before at okazuya...specifically st louis deli - home of some super simple delicious chow fun)...came with a standard tartar dipping sauce. i think the fried-stuff lover in me just enjoyed killing this nugget with the tartar....the shrimp was virtually superfluous...didnt really stand up to the breading. but i liked the breading so i didnt care that much!
sometimes i have a serious craving for saimin, and while i often enjoy it, i'm never really super impressed with the bowls i get, and while the quality of noodles and other toppings is important, i think for me it comes down to finding the best broth....i wish i could find broth that would be impressively rich and umami without any additives (or, without extracting most of the flavor from shoyu/mustard dippage) - perhaps i'm missing the point, i dunno.
been to palace saimin a few times, and i like that joint, but the dashi i always feel like should be....better. been to dillingham before and the review for tanaka's in essentially the same (same food more or less).
where should i go for saimin? (this should prob be a whole new thread)
Dillingham Saimin and now Tanaka's, has always been fourth on my saimin list of places. It was always ok, nothing really special but you knew what to expect there food wise.
Palace Saimin is still my favorite place when you can find parking. Shige's in Wahiawa would be second, with a tie between Like Like Drive In and Sekiya's for third. There used to be so many places to choose from like the original Saimin House when it was next to Tamashiro's Fish Market, Washington Saimin on King Street, Hall's Saimin, all long gone now. Hope the one's still in operation stay in business.
my friends have recently recommmended "the old saimin house", just down the street from Palace (they got confused about Palace's hours - who doesn't - and went here instead). I haven't been, but I trust their judgement about these things. Closed Sun/Mon.
1131 North King
i also liked 49er Fountain in Aiea the two times i tried it, but that was a couple of years ago.
(ps: I've heard nothing good about Tanaka's)
auwe, now im ono for saimin