While on vacation in Hawaii, my travel companion lead me to this little place on Kuhio drive, in the Waikiki (tourist) district. This is a chain of udon noodle shops with multiple locations in the United States, including two in Honolulu (this one, plus a location downtown).
Marukame is noteworthy because they prepare the noodles from scratch, on the premises. I observed one of the kitchen chefs opening up large sacks of japanese wheat and dumping them into a mixing machine. Then later, the machine rolled and cut the noodles into thin strips.
The restaurant operates in a cafeteria format, where the customers place the orders at the kitchen, it’s prepared on the spot. Usually, the noodles are boiled for a few minutes, then placed in a large bowl, along with some soup stock, and other toppings. And it’s served immediately (the whole process takes minutes).
In addition, the kitchen prepares numerous tempura items and stacks them under heat lamps, where the customers help themselves, before paying for their meal at the cash register.
I ordered the sanuki style udon noodles, served with a savory beef curry broth. It was garnished with fresh scallions, and little bits of crunchy tempura batter bits.
I also picked up some tempura, including a shrimp, chicken, zucchini, and a sweet potato
The noodles were excellent, they were tender, with just a little bit of an al dente chew, while the curry sauce was thick, savory and rich (but without much heat). The beef, while it was present, was sparse.
The tempura was very good. The pieces were quite a bit larger than I would normally expect, but they remained crisp and well seasoned. The chicken tempura was breast meat, and I found it a little dry.
The zuchinni and sweet potato tempura were excellent.
The room is characteristic japanese zen minimalist, but it was pretty crowded, and the line ups are long and dense (hello? There’s still covid going on out there. Shouldn’t we be spacing ourselves?)
This is cafeteria service, there is minimal contact with service staff after you pay at the register.
I’m not sure what the deal is with the naming. On the outside signage the place is called Marukame, but online, and inside the establishment it’s Marugame.