Kauai Ramen is a welcome soup shop

If you’ve ever had those moments where you don’t know where you want to eat and you keep driving around aimlessly — then write down Kauai Ramen as the place to go when that happens.

There aren’t many places that can beat the variety of noodles, soups, rice and gyoza dishes. The soup prices range from $6.95 to $8.50, making it enjoyable and affordable.

Kauai Ramen is inside the former Ichiban Sushi at the Eleele Shopping Center. Its owner, Jimmy Lin, also operates the adjoining Chinese BBQ that is under renovation, along with another Lihue restaurant.

Kauai Ramen is a refreshing change from the buffet-style dinner. It’s served hot and heaping, making your wallet and tummy happy but be careful of the calories piling up.

The shopping center is a bustling place with a steady flow of customers. The modest dining room has plenty of booths and large tables.

The menu includes the Sapporo Ramen, which is a pork stock soup. The sapporo ramen variety includes the misu, curry, shoyu, shio, gomoku, chicken katsu, spicy seafood and vegetable.

The Chuka Ramen menu is a chicken and port stock soup. They include the same varieties in addition to a cold noodle and seafood crispy noodle.

The menu lists the “Friend” menu with “Noodle/Rice/Udon.” From there, I ordered the chicken katsu curry rice, which is a plate and not a soup, along with pork gyoza that came browned and tender.

The chicken was breaded and I worried that with just a fork it might be a tough lunch. I was relieved to see the chicken broke apart easily.

Combo sets allow you to try a variety of items. Mini orders are for the lighter appetites or for wanting to try more than one item.

There was some anxiety while waiting for the seafood ramen at dinner that same evening. Would I enjoy ramen noodles? Would I enjoy ramen broth?

I was raised on pho and udon. So my first experience with saimin was good but it still had to become an acquired taste.

I enjoyed the ramen from the first bites into the fresh pea pods, tender fish, and large shrimp. The noodles were solid and real. It was not like the instant ramen that is so often starchy and full of sodium.

Finally, when I had picked up everything I could with my chopsticks, I went to the broth with my spoon. How would it taste on its own?

A minute later I was lifting the bowl up and drinking the last drops.

There are separate udon bowls of chicken katsu, curry, miso and shoyu. There are side orders soups with groza, wonton, miso, egg drop and seaweed. Other side dishes include mochiko chicken, shrimp or spam katsu.

Side toppings for the soups include seaweed, corn, egg, mema, and char siu.

There are other restaurants on island with most of these items but not many offer them all under one roof, so affordably, and without the wait or the drive.

Kauai Ramen is open daily from 10 to 10. Call 335-9888.

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