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サッポロ らい らい sapporo rai rai: for locals only

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Sapporo Rai Rai sits a bit off the beaten path at the far end of Kapahulu Avenue, where Honolulu segues from Waikiki into a hinterland of residential neighborhoods and strip malls pushing hard against Oahu’s inland slopes. If you’re a tourist and you’ve come this far, you’ve already stopped off for an arterial drubbing at Rainbow’s, poki at Ono’s, or even a bowl of kotteri chicken ramen at Tenka Ippin just blocks prior. At the very least, you wouldn’t have made it past Waiola without a cup of their fantastic shaved ice, which boasts a texture finer than falling snow.

In short, one more bowl of ramen at a modest little noodle joint would likely be an afterthought to anything else you’d have already done or consumed on a lazy tropical afternoon. I wish I could say I approached Sapporo Rai Rai with the hunger of a ravenous wolf, but I doubt the fare would have been any more memorable. The place is a neighborhood ramen shop for a neighborhood’s clientele, and hemmed in by the heavyweights of Honolulu eating, locals only is the only way to go.

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Rai Rai’s shoyu ramen had one surprise up its sleeve. It may well have been the bowl from which the Maruchan corporation derived “Oriental” flavored instant noodles, for the soup hints suspiciously at the dorm room favorite in the blue package.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing as I do have quite a nostalgic fondness for the simple, broke-ass pleasures of Top Ramen; their “Oriental” flavor in particular has a mellow oniony sheen to the broth. The question is whether the resemblance is purely concidental. If not, at least they guss things up with a dash of fried garlic and murky, opaque evidence of boiled bones.

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Would I have loved it, had I not slurped on a semi-full stomach? Not exactly. The noodles were a standard bundle of yellow joy, the chashu, a touch mealy. Sapporo Rai Rai’s gyoza were incongruously remarkable, vibrant and plump and full of flavor. Still, one side dish does not a noodle shop make, and I can’t heartily recommend the place with such titans of Honolulu noshing right down the street. Some joints really are for the locals only, and perhaps they should stay that way.

sapporo rai rai's shoyu ramen soup tastes suspiciously like an amped up version of maruchan oriental flavor instant noodle soup. that can't be all bad, can it?5
eggy yellow noodles are just what you'd expect to find in a bowl of this stuff, as generic as they come.4.5
the chashu is tender but has a slightly mealy consistency. the garlic chips are a nice touch. nothing is particularly incongruous, but nothing stands out either.4
surprisingly, the gyoza are plump, juicy, and full-flavored, better than average all around. 7
this little sleepy ramen joint on a sleepy stretch of Kapahulu is very much a hole in the wall, with spartan decor and little attempt at creating a vibe outside of the old' 80s style motif and faded japanese tchotchkes. yay for... air conditioning?0.5
a neighborhood ramen shop for a neighborhood clientele. a good alternative for anyone looking for assari-kei ramen and not particularly feeling in the mood for tenka ippin. but as a tourist, you really have no reason to be here, unless you're specifically craving some oriental flavor in your shoyu broth.1

760 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-3877



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