The Chicken Katsu Curry Files: Taishoken
It had been awhile. We were ravenous, randomly strolling down Keeaumoku. My fella knew what I was craving, and said he knew of this really good hole-in-the-wall nearby that was perfect for us. Only when we got there, something else was in its place, and it didn't look appetizing. Of course, it had been several years since he worked in that area, so all the hidden eating spots he once relied upon were long gone, replaced by other random eats, dive bars, karaoke clubs. Undeterred, we kept on walking. It was hot and we were getting grumpy.
Then in the distance, a lit sign: Taishoken. My fella knew nothing about it. The exterior was nondescript and the fluorescent lights didn't exactly make it look that appealing. But it looked somehow... authentic. And whatever it was that was wafting out of the kitchen sure smelled good.
One look at the menu and it was clear what they specialized in: ramen. Their noodles and broth homemade. Reviews posted on the wall raved about their noodles: shoyu ramen, pirikara (spicy) ramen, even their tsukemen. But ramen wasn't what caught our eye. It was the curry. Remembering the recent meal we had together back on Maui, we asked if they could make chicken katsu curry for us. No problem, they said. So we waited. And it came. Twice.
Just the photo alone doesn't do the dish justice. The curry was meaty, with tender, shredded beef chunks mixed in the sweet curry sauce. There were sliced onions and carrots, along with potatoes--cut into perfect bite-sized pieces (I can't stand it when curry is full of huge potato and carrot chunks). The curry alone was quite hearty, and the addition of katsu certainly sent it over the top--in a very good way. My fella and I didn't even speak--we were too busy eating, no, devouring the yumminess. The katsu was perfect--the right amount of crisp panko crust, and the meat flavorful and not dry (they used chicken thighs instead of breast). It was the best chicken katsu curry I've had on the island... so far (oh there've been a lot of bad bad bad ones, most not even worth writing or remembering...)
There was the right amount of sauce and chicken to rice, and the pickled red ginger was fresh and nicely tart (though I wished there was more of it). We licked our plates clean. Afterwards, we wanted more. More... more? It was quite an evening. Restaurant Matsu certainly has a competitor now in this katsu curry quest of mine. At least, if I ever move to O'ahu, I probably won't be missing Matsu all that much, not when there's a place like Taishoken to fulfill my cravings. Hell, perhaps my search for the best chicken katsu curry in the world may even be over? A near-perfect score? Is this journey simply plate lunch decadence?
All I can say is I'm gonna go back. We were too full to try any of the famed ramen, but there's always a next time, another planned visit. I can't wait for the next island hop. These trips simply end way too soon.
Taishoken, 903 Keeaumoku St, Honolulu. T: 808-955-8860.
Ratings (out of five stars)
Curry: * * * * *
Katsu: * * * * *
Rice: * * * * *
Sides: * * * *
Total (avg): * * * * *