Agu announces new Ward Village location
BY ERIKA ENGLE / firstname.lastname@example.org
Agu Ramen will open a second location at Ward Village in May — and its owners are looking to expand even further.
“We’re looking at three or four, or as many as the island will tolerate,” said Tom Jones, partner in REI Food Service LLC, which in turn is a partner in Agu parent company Buzinkus LLC.
REI is the parent company of Oahu’s four Gyotaku Japanese Restaurants, one of which is in Kailua, another likely expansion target for the restaurant also known as Agu: A Ramen Bistro.
The second Agu location will open “after some light face-lifts and renovation, nothing heavy-duty,” he said. The completed restaurant at Ward Centre will have the same format and same ambience as the original spot at 925 Isenberg St. in the St. Louis Alumni Association clubhouse.
The new ramen bistro will occupy the former Pearl’s Korean BBQ space, vacated in March.
“While Pearl’s will be missed, we are excited to add a new restaurant to our offerings at Ward Village,” said Katie Ka‘anapu, director of community and retail marketing. “We are always looking to expand our great mix of small businesses at Ward Village, and the partnership with Agu Ramen was born out of a mutual interest.”
THe new Agu will employ about 18 people and seat from 44 to 46 diners, roughly the same as the original.
The Ward Centre Agu Ramen “may have some different dishes from time to time,” Jones said, though the main menu will be identical to the original.
The popular and diverse menu was created by chef and Buzinkus partner Hisashi Uehara, whose kitchen operates 24 hours a day to create the long-cooked broths that are the foundation for the Jidori and tonkotsu ramen dishes.
Uehara was born in Okinawa, hence the Okinawan dishes available at Agu, but he was raised in Honolulu and attended Saint Louis School, Jones said.
That connection makes the alumni association clubhouse location a touch-point for Uehara and his schoolmates from back in the day. However, one need not be a Saint Louis alumnus to grab a table or belly up to the counter for a steaming bowl of ramen, fried chicken skin with citrusy dipping sauce, pork cheek croquettes or any of a legion of dishes.
The ramen restaurant opened in late 2013 and was part of a spate of new ramen restaurants at the time, each offering its own take on the Japanese comfort food. Agu opened to mostly rave reviews, with Honolulu Star-Advertiser restaurant critic Nadine Kam giving them a rarefied four of four possible stars in every category she reviews: food, service, ambience and value.