In the January 2020 Issue of Food & Wine magazine, they published a list of the Best Classic Restaurants in every State. It was not surprising to find Berkeley's Chez Panisse, or San Francisco's Swan Oyster Depot & Tadich's Grill or perhaps the likes of Commanders Palace & K-Paul's in New Orleans, the Union Oyster House in Boston, Chicago's Frontera Grill or the Walnut Room, New York's Le Bernardin or Peter Luger, Seattle's Canlis, Virginia's Greenbrier or The Inn at Little Washington, Miami's Joe's Stone Crab, Denver's Buckhorn Exchange or LA's Musso & Frank. Mouth-watering all.
What was surprising was that a Kauai Restaurant made the list - which one? On Maui Mama's Fish House was hailed and in Honolulu, Alan Wong's was singled out - deserving all. But Kauai...who?
Congratulations to Lihue's own Hamura Saimin - a local favorite since 1952. Ever been? Must go.
If you're not familiar, in simplest terms, saimin is akin to Hawaii's version of ramen. Located in a converted army barracks in a back alley on Kress Street off Rice Street, Hamura Saimin has been a bustling favorite since Charles & Aiko Hamura opened it nearly 78 years ago. Now run by their granddaughter Lori Tanigawa, Hamura Saimin has managed to keep it’s original “charm”, and more importantly it keeps serving steaming bowls of saimin with its homemade noodles. It has expanded from the original 6 stools to the 30 or so there today that snake around the formica counter. You may have to wait in line a bit, well worth it, but if waiting is not your thing, better to go early or go late and avoid the lunch and dinner rushes.
Saimin, for the unfamiliar is a local-style soup that uses egg noodles in a broth that’s festooned with fish cake, char siu (barbeque pork) and green onions. It was borne in the plantation era, when workers cooked the noodles with whatever else they had on hand and it’s been a popular local comfort food since.
Hamura’s saimin regular version is priced from $7.50 per bowl and the Special Saimin (our favorite) is priced from $10.50 per bowl, an extra large is $12.50 – their most expensive item. The menu has expanded slightly over the years to include shrimp saimin, fried noodles, grilled teriyaki chicken and beef skewers, tempura and won tons – the other very popular addition has been the Lilikoi Chiffon pie $4.50 per slice or $22 for the whole pie – and they can sometimes run out– come for the saimin, stay for the pie.
Some things however have not changed – it’s still “cash only”.
Hamura Saimin Stand
2956 Kress St, Lihue, Kauai
10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday
10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
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For more information about local happenings on Kauai, or to inquire specifically about Kauai real estate, you can reach us at:
Sean Ahearn & Jim Karlovsky[email protected]