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The Suehiro Scale

Today is Kuhio Day, a Hawaii state holiday, so we’re all at home driving each other mad while we argue over who has to clean up the living room and where we want to go once the living room is clean. I plan on putting the post office to pick up a mysterious package from Japan and going to Target on my list. We have these two coupons for free tote bags from Target but Mr. Pikko says they’re expired, which makes me grumpy.

The other day we went to eat dinner at Maru-Hi Restaurant at Mililani Town Center and I tried their nabeyaki udon. I’ve talked in the past about the legendary nabeyaki udon of the now-closed Suehiro Restaurant that used to be on King Street. After they closed several years ago I began comparing all nabeyaki udon dishes I tried at other restaurants to the Suehiro one, which I consider to be the perfect nabeyaki udon. It still rankles my nerves that the replacement restaurant, Gyotaku, still does not even SERVE nabeyaki udon. I mean really, the nerve of them.

Nabeyaki Udon

I had tried the udon at Mari-Hi many years ago after we first decided to buy our townhouse, but I don’t remember it tasting the same as it did this week. They recently renovated their restaurant and I think their food too. The nabeyaki udon came shockingly close to being as good as Suehiro’s. I must inform my foodie soulmate at work. We are both in agreement over the divine taste of Suehiro’s legendary nabeyaki udon.

Since I hadn’t even heard of the dish until I moved to Oahu for college and met Mr. Pikko’s Grandpa Sam, I’ll explain what’s in it. It’s served boiling hot in a cast iron pot and contains udon, shrimp tempura, and assorted extras including things like stewed chicken, a raw egg, green onions, onions, bok choy, fishcake, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms (which I can’t eat, so I ask for it without), and aburaage. It all depends on the restaurant.

Being the divine dish, Suehiro’s will of course be a 10. I’ve decided to call this the Suehiro Scale.

Their version had shrimp tempura, tempura flakes, green onions, bamboo shoots, bok choy, a raw chicken egg, and tender pieces of chicken. It’s been so long that I can’t remember if they gave one or two tempura. Foodie soulmate and I are in agreement that the broth was what made it special. Generally, there seem to be salty broths and sweet broths. Suehiro served their nabeyaki with a perfect blend of salty and sweet, hot enough to burn your mouth, but so good you’d do it anyway. The tempura flakes would float around and jump into your spoon once in a while. The tempura itself was crisp and flaky and when it soggied up in the broth, tasted like perfection. That is, if you hadn’t spit it out in alarm because it was still too hot.

Maru-Hi’s broth was extremely close to what I remember Suehiro’s to taste like, but not quite. Still, it was an excellent hot pot and though I asked for it without shiitake mushrooms thereby probably affecting its original taste, I was very pleased with my dinner. The noodles were perfectly cooked and of good quality. You can tell you’re eating a really asstastic pot of udon if the noodles start to peel. If that happens, just eat it as quick as possible and never go back.

Maru-Hi used a quail egg instead of a chicken egg, which tasted good, but meant I had less egg white to eat, which was one thing I really liked about Suehiro’s. There was no chicken, which was disappointing, and the tempura tasted pasty inside, which I’m guessing meant it was slightly under-fried. With the dish itself getting a 10 to start based on taste alone, I deducted a half point each for my disappointments on the egg, missing chicken, and the tempura texture. I added back on half a point for their tasty aburaage and the green onions being chopped, which was a small detail I kinda liked. Suehiro used to serve their green onions in 3 inch lengths.

That brings Maru-Hi’s version to a 9, which is very high on my scale.

Empty Bowl

My hot pot, all eaten up. A sure sign of a great pot of nabeyaki udon. I had a bite of their tonkatsu too, very good! After I was done, I was stuffed to the brim, but the rice at Maru-Hi was SO good. I ended up going back to an old habit of mine, which violates one of Weight Watchers firmest rules of stopping when you’re full, and finished off everyone’s leftover rice with my hot tea.

I used to do this a lot when Mr. Pikko and I would eat at Suehiro. He’d usually have some rice left and I love the taste of genmai cha and rice, so I poured it into the chawans and slurped it all up. I had a hard time walking around later, which is really bad. I’ve gained 15 pounds in the last year and a half, which means you might be seeing me doing Core bentos again. Either that or it’s exercise. Boy, what a drag that’s going to be.

By the way, I’ve tried to find out where this Suehiro owner is now, but haven’t been able to track him/her down. If you have any info, I’m ready to slurp it up!

Teriyaki Chicken

I did take a photo of Mr. Pikko’s food, steam and all! Looks yummy, doesn’t it?