When I [met Martin Wong](/journal/2010/04/17/kozyndan-giant-robots-and-editorial-directors/) a few days ago and told him I was headed to Kauai, he asked if I was going to check out "that saimin place that everyone goes to." I replied that I had no idea what he was talking about, but that if there was a famous saimin place in Kauai, I'd find it. Today, Jennifer Penner happened to write to me on Facebook to ask if I had been to [Hamura Saimin Stand](http://www.yelp.com/biz/hamura-saimin-stand-lihue-2) in Lihue, which apparently won a James Beard award despite its official status as a hole-in-the-wall.
Hamura Saimin Stand in Lihue
Pam and I ventured out to Lihue tonight to find Hamura's. When we arrived and walked in, we stood around for awhile before we realized that we were supposed to seat ourselves. The old women who run the place were in motion continuously, taking to-go orders, accepting money, and delivering food to hungry patrons. They were EXPERTS at avoiding eye contact -- quite impressive, actually. It took us quite some time before we were able to get one of them to come take our order, and when she finally came over, Pam asked, "What's in the special?"
She immediately walked away, grabbed a menu from behind the cash register, and plopped it down in front of us. We had missed our opportunity to order, and we were unsure when we'd get another chance to do so.
Eventually, we flagged another woman down and was able to place an order. Nothing was written down, so I assumed that she had an incredible memory... but I was wrong again. I figured out that if we asked for something and it wasn't brought to us immediately, it was probably never going to arrive. Just keep on asking until it arrives.
the "Special" saimin at Hamura's
The saimin at Hamura's had been written about so much that I was expecting something magical, but as someone whose bar of noodle excellence is a good Japanese ramen place, I wasn't totally blown away. I was, however, satisfied; it is a solid noodle house, and is fast and cheap. We wanted to try the lilikoi chiffon pie, but they were out of it (took 10 minutes to figure that out).
saimin craziness -- they are *fast*
The service at Hamura's is what you'd expect, which is to say that everything is optimized for speed. I'm used to going to Asian establishments with good food and functional service, so I felt at home.
At some point, this Swiss guy walked in and started asking questions like, "Is that saimin?" He tried to place a complicated order that involved tempura (fail).
Swiss guy takes a seat
A few of us tried to help him, but he wasn't reacting in a way that was productive, so we left him to fend for himself. He eventually managed to get some food, but it was not a pretty scene.
Anyway, if you find yourself in Kauai and want to check out a local eatery, I recommend going! I'll probably return, but not until I explore the rest of the island.