えぞ菊 ramen ezogiku: sapporo on shore leave
Sadly, there is nothing particularly noteworthy about Ramen Ezogiku, which has held court in Honolulu for some three decades; it’s a mini-chainlet (there’s another one across town) of offshoots from a miso joint in Tokyo. Noodling like this is as standard as they come, with a no-nonsense greasy spoon vibe and simple hearty fare dished up in large enough quantities to up your bang-for-the-buck ratio when taste is surely at a premium.
Not that Ezogiku is bad; it is just, ordinary. Mediocre comfort food for the soup-addled mases content to duck in for a quick bite between infinitely more interesting Hawaiian attractions like, hmm, the balmy weather and Ramen Nakamura directly across the street. Unlike the occasionally charming old-school Stateside assari-kei, Ezogiku has got its formula down to a science and the net result is something akin to a high school cafeteria with a beer menu looming large on the far wall. Harsh industrial lighting dominates a gigantic assembly-line of a counter, and bottles of sriracha and tabasco sauce lurk menacingly on a cart. Sauce it up all you want and have it your way.
If I seem harsh it’s only because complacency is a far greater offense than say, reaching for the stars and failing spectacularly. Maybe Ezogiku was great once upon a time; maybe thirty years of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has worn the sheen off anything memorable about the miso ramen, with noodles generic and formless, a light brown murk of soup, and rote toppings like a humourless chunk of grey chashu. Oh, there is a quaint little karamiso paste you can dollop onto your bowl, something of an additive that ties it all together like an accomplished record producer putting the shine on the songs of an average frat rock bar band.
I wish I could say that every ramen shop boasts something unique or at least tasty to recommend it. If anything, Ezogiku is comfort food pure and simple, the way mom would probably make it if she didn’t know much about ramen, but you like the stuff anyway because well, she’s been doing it that way for as long as you can remember. That must be why this restaurant gets a healthy measure of love from Honolulu locals and Yelpers on the internet (then again, that lot will pretty much rave about anything). Sure the portions are big and cheap,and ok the gyoza are plump and fairly tasty (much better than the ramen, actually) but let’s face it, overall, you could do better.
|a very standard miso soup, neither bland nor strong in the flavor department, earns a very middle-of-the-road rating. it's not bad, there's just nothing distinctive about it at all.||5|
|generic eggy noodles (you already know what they're like) further fuel the ennui.||4.5|
|the chunky, semi-tough slab of chashu is grey and impersonal, and the moyashi bean sprouts adhere to proper miso ramen form, blended with a touch of ground pork. i can't say i really loved it.||4|
|every ramen shop should do one thing well. ezogiku's gyoza are plump and savory, and are a notch above average competency and taste.||6|
|ezogiku has all the ambiance of a bustling high school cafeteria, which is fine if you're just popping in and out for a quick bite on your way to something wholly more entertaining.||1.5|
|this noodler has been around for some thirty years, and was probably one of the first authentically japanese ramen shops to expand stateside. maybe all it needs is a simple makeover and some quality control. then again, ramen in japan back then wasn't nearly what it is today. ezogiku is a relic from a prior era. is that necessarily a good thing?||1.5|
2146 Kalakaua Ave.