Saimin Dojo offers twists on traditional Hawaiian fare

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Josh Tamaoka, Josh Planas, Brandon Baptiste of Saimin Dojo show off some of their offerings at Saimin Dojo.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Katsu and Curry plate lunch

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Smoked Meat plate lunch at Saimin Dojo

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Smoke Meat saimin at Saimin Dojo

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Vegan saimin at Saimin Dojo

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Alyssa Launder-Chun serves up a Smoke Meat saimin as Josh Planas works on another order at Saimin Dojo.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Joshua Planas moves cooked saimin noodles to the Smoke Meat bowl which sits next to the Vegan bowl at Saimin Dojo.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Joshua Planas stirs the big pot of soup stock at Saimin Dojo.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Saimin Dojo sits alongside Kuhio Highway in Waipouli, adjacent to the Kapaa fire station.

WAILUA — Heavy wheat noodles, rich broth, smoke meat and fresh veggies come together as unique twists on Hawaii’s plantation era provisions at the Saimin Dojo, now open in Wailua.

Located next to Food Land, the new noodle house’s menu offers saimin, barbecue sticks and plate lunches; all local-style in a sit-down restaurant. Prices range from $2.50 for one shitake barbecure stick to up to $13.50 for saimin.

“We wanted to do local food that we enjoy,” said Josh Tamaoka, who owns the business with Josh Planas and Brandon Baptiste. “Ramen is popular in the state, but we want to do our take with highly local flavors.”

Saimin Dojo is Tamaoka and Baptiste’s second business venture together. Their first is Wailua Shave Ice Kauai, still slinging freshly flavored shave ice from a truck in Kapaa.

“That was a stepping stone,” Tamaoka said. “We always wanted a restaurant.”

The pair pulled Planas into the picture, and with his culinary schooling at Kauai Community College, the trio has developed a menu based off of a soup that takes 12 hours to make and contains zero MSG.

The Smoke Meat Saimin is one of the more popular dishes, Baptiste said. That dish costs $12 and the 12-hour broth is combined with fresh noodles, local style shmoke pork belly, a soft egg and vegetables.

“We get the noodles custom made in Oahu,” Planas said.

The Shmoke Meat plate lunch is also a favorite at the Saimin Dojo and the meat comes with two scoops of rice, potato salad and pickled vegetables.

“We’re bringing back what we grew up on and making it affordable. We get to be able to cook like that,” Planas said.

Affordable dining is a priority for the Saimin Dojo, and while everyone is welcome, Tamaoka, Planas and Baptiste said they’re hoping the restaurant will become a local-style place where families can eat stress-free.

“We’re making sure the price point stays good,” Baptiste said, “where you can come take the family out and where someone could come eat every day.”

And while the kids dive into a keiki bowl — $5 for saimin, spam, kamaboko, and egg, adults will soon be able to sip on a brew or some wine.

“We’re in the process of getting the beer and wine set up, and maybe sake,” Baptiste said. “We’ll grow the menu too, as guys get trained better. We’ll add more veggie dishes, things people can enjoy but they’re slightly different.”

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily.

“We’re taking things in stride. It’s been good fun,” Baptiste said.

Jujitsu is part of life for the owners and the original vision for Saimin Dojo was a school upstairs with the saimin house on the bottom level, and that’s still a possibility as Saimin Dojo grows and expands.

“The goal is to revamp stuff that we grew up with and do things we enjoy,” Baptiste said.

  1. Joe Public January 26, 2018 10:10 am Reply

    Good to see young people making an effort.

    Tried this place out, broth didn’t have too much taste, nor the ramen for that matter, very small portion for the price, and even went so far as only giving a half egg with the order!!

    If this is truly a place for “local food” some improvements are needed.

    Will try back in a few months to see if it did.

    Good luck guys.

  2. Satisfied customer January 26, 2018 9:33 pm Reply

    Food was excellent. The price may not be “cheap”, but what do you expect for a fresh bowl of ramen, or the variety of plate lunches? I’ve been to saimin dojo 4 times this past month and will be a repeat customer as long as they are . open. Great flavors, portions are good, and staff is extremely friendly. Great good serves with Aloha. Shoots!!!

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