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Afterthoughts – Lining up for Fresh Udon at Marukame Udon

When I showed our concierge at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel my foodie list, she exclaimed “wow, you even have Marukame Udon on your list, that’s where our local staff love to eat!” with a mixture of awe and excitement.  Turns out, she is also a foodie and quickly shared with me a few of the Islanders’ favourites, including the amazing red velvet pancake joint called Cinnamon’s (but more on that in a future post!).  

After stuffing myself at the Honolulu Farmers’ Market at Kapiolani Community College, I headed to Marukame for a “taster” bowl.  I arrived at 11:30am, and the line was already 20 people deep.  My tip is to start lining up at 11:15am, as the lunch service opens at 11:30am, and you’ll be sure to get a seat.  The restaurant works like a canteen, where you order your style of udon and then pick up whatever tempura you want on the way to the cashier.  However, seating is limited so go there early!  

(Below) the line at 11:30am opening time!

The udon is freshly kneaded, rolled and cut in-store, and you can see them working on fresh batches from the open kitchen.  

The fresh udon are then boiled and washed repeatedly in running water to remove excess starch.

Down the lunch line you can pick your udon toppings.  I got the one with onsen egg, and it was amazing to see the staff crack what looks like a raw egg and out pops a semi-cooked complete egg!

Pick your poison – massive fried tempura selection.  I’m not a big fan of deep fried foods (I know, gasp!) but was tempted into trying a few items.

As a homage to the local Hawaiian culture, I give you Spam musubi.  And no, I did not eat a piece.  

At check-out, I also grabbed a huge cup of sweetened cold matcha, which was an amazing way to combat all that fried goodies.

My bowl of Marukame udon.  You can choose between several options:  cold, hot, with minced pork, with onsen egg etc.  I chose the cold udon with onsen egg – the broth was light and refreshing, tinged with plenty of sweet umami flavour.  I loved the chewy texture of the thick noodles.

My tempura pickings – sweet potato, asparagus, prawn and soft boiled egg.  

Yes!  Americans and their love of deep-frying!  (Below) A fried soft-boiled egg.  I couldn’t eat all the batter (it was just too gluttonous) so I peeled it all off after this photo.

Verdict:  Is this worth going to?  Yes, but only at opening time when the line is manageable.  Otherwise, why bother standing in line for an hour plus on your vacation?  Isn’t there better things to do in Hawaiian paradise than stand in line for a bowl of udon?  The food is great but nothing outstanding.  I think a lot of people go because it’s the “it” thing to do, and because the food is quite cheap compared to other options on the Waikiki strip.  My bill came to under US$10 for a bowl of udon, tempura and matcha.  

Marukame Udon

2310 Kuhio Ave

Honolulu, Hawaii

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