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Restaurant Yamagen

December 19, 2005

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Is this someone’s house or a restaurant? It could work as either, but lucky for us, Restaurant Yamagen happens to be, well you guessed it, a restaurant! King Street is full of ramen shops such as Jimbo’s. Most of them are noticeable from their brightly lit yellow interiors and crowds of people with late night ramen cravings. Yamagen differs from the majority of ramen shops in that it closes earlier and is quiet and dimly lit.
I first noticed Yamagen while working at Alan Wong’s this past summer. I occasionally walked to the bus stop by Long Drug’s and always paused to look at this house-looking-restaurant, never knowing what to make of it. I kept Yamagen on my “to try” list, especially after reading Reid’s post. And so tonight I finally got “to try!”

I had the Tempura Dinner Set ($8.50). It’s hard to tell from the picture but I’ve never been served a bigger bowl of rice in my life. It was HUGE. I could barely finish half of the rice and I’m a pretty hefty starch eater! The tempura was an assortment of shrimp, squid, zucchini, string beans and sweet potatoes. The batter was on the thicker side and grew limp a little quicker than anticipated (my favorite tempura was at the now closed Tatsu’s in Manoa). But the first couple of bites of were satisfying crisp, showcasing the juicy sweet shrimp or warm potatoes if you could ignore the slightly oily residue on your tongue. The quality of the shrimp and squid were above average, large flavorful pieces. The meal also came with a bowl of wakame soup and tsukemono. The tsukemono were actually pieces of pickled Chinese cabbage which I found to be on the bland side. The soup was nicely seasoned and served with seaweed and green onions. My favorite part of the meal was the small unassuming serving of chopped squid, shrimp and green onions topped with miso paste. You can see it on the corner of the tempura plate. I mixed it into my rice, threw on a dash of shicimi togarashi, and oh man, I could have easily made a meal out of that alone!
My sister ordered the Tempura Udon ($7.50). The boiling hot broth was clear and just a bit sweet. Though were slightly overcooked, the noodles still retained the elastic pull quality udon noodles must have. They served just as much tempura in the udon as they did in the dinner set!
Yamagen is an excellent deal for the portions they give. Only two of the five inside tables inside were occupied but I noticed most of their business came from people who stopped by for takeout. It’s a place that sets you in a different mood as you step off the hustle of busy King Street and into a small, hidden Japanese restaurant. It’s almost comforting in an odd way, discovering a calm oasis in a soothing bowl of udon noodles. Everything seems to move at a unhurried pace. The lights are dim, the food, hearty and abundant. Why…I feel like curling up and falling asleep after this lovely meal.

Restaurant Yamagen
2210 South King St.
Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 947-2125



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