Kei Yoshida

Jo McGarry photo

Jo McGarry photo



903 Keeaumoku St.

Where were you born and raised? I was born in Japan and came to Hawaii when I was about 2 years old. Graduated from Kaimuki High School.

Did you grow up in a restaurant family? Not really, but for a long time my mom worked at Menchanko-Tei in Waikiki. They were recognized already for having some of the best noodles. When the owners decided to move the restaurant out of Waikiki and open here, we were able to help.

The restaurant moved from Waikiki and opened here in April. How’s it been without all those tourists? (laughs) It’s starting to get a little more normal. When we first opened, we had lines out of the front and the back door. Within the three-hour lunch period we were seeing 50 or 60 groups of people coming in and out. As we can only seat about 45 people, it was a little crazy for the first few months.

The noodles are ranked No. 1 in Japan, and people rave about them in New York. How do you help people choose what to eat when they first come? I always ask what they want to eat first, rice or noodles. That way we can direct them to different dishes. And then, if they haven’t been before, I’d suggest the Menchanko-Tei noodle. It’s not a typical ramen; it’s a mixture of two types of noodle, a hybrid of regular skinny noodle and udon.

I’d just tell people to go straight for the tonkatsu, actually. It’s incredibly good. Oh yes. (laughs) People get cravings for the tonkatsu. Even I get cravings for it. There’s certainly a rumor starting about our tonkatsu being the best …

Where do you like to eat when you’re done working? Even though I work at a ramen shop, I have been a ramen-crazed person since I was little. I look forward to going to Goma Ichi each week. I like their uniqueness.

With whom would you most like to have dinner? B.B. King. I’m a huge fan.

Menchanko-Tei 903 Keeaumoku St. 946-1888

-Jo McGarry