Growing up in Hawaii, and for the most part a mile outside of Waikiki, there are certain absolute truths about the cuisine in that area.
#1- Food is always more expensive in Waikiki
#2- There are no good places to eat in Waikiki
Recently Marukame Udon, a Japan chain, opened up in the center of Waikiki forcing me to change my perception of those first 2 truths. While most people who visit from the mainland US have a perception that Waikiki is for the Japanese, there really aren't many Japanese restaurants in this area so Marukame is a welcome addition. Honestly, who needs yet another Cheesecake Factory or Margaritaville?
Marukame Udon is what could be best described as "Fast Food" noodles. Set up to be served in a cafeteria style setting, they only sell a few things on their menu, udon and assorted tempura.
To order, a customer tells the counter worker which of the 5 different udon bowls he wants, then moves on down the line to receive their noodles from another counter attendant. After receiving your noodles, you can choose from about 8 different tempura dishes to accompany your bowl.
It's worth noting that in the front of the store, there is a dedicated worker who's only job is to make the noodles during his entire shift. This is not to different from the workers I've seen in Old Town, San Diego who spend all day making tortillas in front of their respective restaurants.
Today, I shared my dinner with my son and we went with a bowl of Onatama Udon (noodles in broth with soft poached egg). As my side dish, I order some tempura asparagus, fried chicken, and a musubi (rice ball) with dried fish. Total cost with a soft drink, $7+.
The taste of the food itself was passable. The broth was a little on the tepid side, since they go through such high volume, but still very enjoyable. I ended up only having one bite of the noodles as my son pretty much finished the whole bowl by himself. The tempura was crisp and the musubi packed a lot of flavor, but he rice was a little too wet. Still for the price I paid, it was certainly a very good meal that I would go back for, provided I can find free parking in Waikiki.
With Waikiki having gone through a face-lift over the last 10 years, Marukame is certainly a welcome addition for the budget traveler. Definitely recommended for visitors who want a filling satisfying lunch but don't want to pay too much in Waikiki.
Thanks for reading