Hide-Chan entices with soups, fried meats
By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic
One menu serves for both lunch and dinner no price mark-ups for dinner customers. There's also a blackboard of daily specials touting some of the chef's creative offerings.
The first page of the menu lists the teishoku combinations. Teishoku are complete meals served with kobachi (small dishes), miso soup, mixed green salad, tsukemono (various pickled veggies) and rice. The excellent tempura choice is matched with either grilled salmon or saba (mackerel) for $10.75. The butterfish ($10.75) was a huge boneless fillet draped with flavorful miso, and the soft, sweet and luscious unagi ($14) also was quite a large portion.
Tonkatsu ($10.75 breaded, fried pork cutlets) and chicken katsu ($9.75) leave the kitchen still sizzling. The aroma of freshly fried foods is so enticing. I didn't try the sashimi combinations ($11.75 with tempura or tonkatsu), but I saw a couple at the next table enjoying a variety of fresh fish.
Noodle lovers will have plenty to choose from. My favorite is the nabeyaki ($7.75), fat, slippery udon noodles in a rich broth, topped with shrimp, tempura, scallions, spinach, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, egg and kamaboko (steamed fishcake). This savory broth is clear and naturally sweet with vegetables, with a touch of soy sauce and rice wine for added depth. Typical of the best Japanese broths, it has a very clean and refreshing taste. When topped with a touch of tempura, the soup balances nicely with the minuscule amount of oil from the fried batter. The udon noodle, the heart and soul of this dish, couldn't be better. Each strand displays perfection in details: silky between the lips and resilient between the teeth. Most important of all, it is rich and hearty without being starchy.
Oxtail soup ($7.25) is more popular in Hawai'i than anywhere on the Mainland, it seems. A story on the origin of oxtail soup traces it back to the French Revolution. It is said that slaughterhouses sent hides to tanneries without cleaning them, leaving the tails on. A French nobleman first asked for a tail, which was willingly given to him; he created the first oxtail soup. Soon, the tanners began charging for the tails because of the high demand that had been created for them. French refugees then supposedly introduced the dish to England, and the rest is history.
On the donburi side of the menu, the oyako ($6, chicken sauteed with egg and vegetables, served over rice) and the yakitori ($6) are popular choices, but the ginger pork ($6.25) is superb. Tender slices of juicy pork works so well with sauteed onions and fresh ginger. It's a simple dish with flavorings that I think would work equally well with any meat, fish or even tofu. I wish more places would make this.
The blackboard specials one day offered katsu curry ($7.50); 'ahi ($6.85) prepared nitsuke style (a cooking method similar to braising until the stock is reduced almost entirely), shio style (with salt), or katsu; and fish-head soup ($9), a bold gesture that I'm sure would be quite good. Karei karaage ($7.50, lightly fried flounder), curry udon or soba ($6), and even a hamburger teishoku ($7.50) appeared as a chef's special on this day.
Hide-Chan is another good little mom-and-pop place, serving up honest, healthy and affordable Japanese food.
Reach Matthew Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.