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 on Kauai.
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 Jo
sh 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.
Written for The Garden Island Newspaper January 26, 2018.