While slurping noodles at AGU, you may catch a glimpse of a man with a markedly strong physical appearance, an intense look of determination and a confident attitude to match. That's Hisashi, the founder and owner of the popular ramen bistro. It's no secret that this chef came onto the Honolulu scene to take his place as victor in the "Ramen Wars".
You could say that Hisashi "Teddy" Uehara was born to fulfill this destiny. Having spent his early years in Okinawa, the adventurous boy moved to Honolulu alone when he was 14. There, he attended the St. Louis School for Boys, and later, relocated to Los Angeles to begin his college education. At the age of 19, while still attending college, he apprenticed under a hardcore, old school chef from Japan. For an entire year, Hisashi demonstrated his tenacity and commitment as he tirelessly peeled onions, and sliced negi. Having proved himself, he was promoted and eagerly absorbed the secrets of making sushi, tempura, kaiseki and other delicacies.
In 2007, Hisashi took the plunge and opened a yakitori restaurant in Southern California. The LA Times touted the South Bay location as "Best Yakitori". In 2008, he followed with the first authentic Okinawan Izakaya in LA, as well as a Hawaiian Deli and BBQ. In 2009 he added a Izakaya in Las Vegas. Propelled by this success, he returned to Honolulu to join one of the best Japanese restaurant chains on the Island, Gyotaku, hailed to be Hawaii's Favorite Japanese Restaurant.
When envisioning his signature ramen bistro, Hisashi realized that a restaurant's popularity and success depend not only on the food, but also on the patrons' overall experience. He explains, "I want to bring smiles and happiness to our customers. I wish to enrich their hearts through food and culture. In Japanese, we say 'magokoro,' which means 'sincerity'. This is my joy and driving force." So, like the ancient clan of samurai, the AGU team is also dedicated to maintaining a strict code of excellence.
Since it opened in 2013, AGU has become a tour-de-force amongst Oahu's numerous ramen restaurants. Boasting broths made from the finest pork and Jidori chicken, Hisashi has elevated the level of this traditional fare to something extraordinary. Nevertheless, he is not one to stand still. Spending hours experimenting and creating innovative recipes that keep his menu fresh and intriguing, his mission is to make AGU "Honolulu's best ramen bistro"!
As the world-at-large recognizes Hisashi as an artist, and AGU as a superior eatery, the list of accolades continues to grow!
• 2014 - AGU Ramen named one of the Top Ten "Rave Choice" 'Ilima Award winners by Honolulu Pulse
• 2015 - AGU is runner up for Honolulu Pulse Awards for Best Ramen (now Hisashi is pushing forward even harder!)
• 2014 and 2015 - AGU is honored with the Iichiko Best of the Best Award, two years in a row
• 2015 - Hisashi Uehara was chosen as one of the "Chefs of Aloha" at the 9th Annual Hawaii Restaurant Association Hall of Fame Awards Dinner and Chefs of Aloha Dine-Around • 2015 and 2016 - Hisashi receives Hale Aina Awards two years in a row
• 2016 - AGU's visionary, Hisashi Uehara is chosen as one of Honolulu Magazine's "2016 Faces of Hawaii", as featured in a special black and white photo essay
• 2016 - Hisashi gets a big Texas-style welcome as he serves AGU tonkotsu ramen to over 2,000 at the 2016 Houston Japan Festival
• 2016 - In Spring of 2016, the Houston press eagerly waits to slurp when they get a whiff of Hisashi's plans to open several AGU locations in Texas. Hisashi cites Houston's central location, ethnic and cultural diversity and current culinary renaissance as the reasons he's targeted the city as the site for his first mainland expansion.
• 2016 - October and Piggy lands in Houston! Hisashi opens his first restaurant at the Parkway Village Plaza, quickly followed by one on Westheimer Road and another on Washington Avenue.
• 2016 - Hisashi's newest ramen bistros garner applause from many Houston food critics. ZAGAT places AGU on its "Houston's 10 Most Important Openings of 2016".
• 2016-2017 - Mr. AGU makes numerous television appearances on both Hawaiian and Texan shows to explain his philosophy and the art of making excellent ramen, along with some recipes and demos. Stay tuned!
• 2017 - He did it again! Hisashi receives a Hale Aina award when AGU takes silver in the "Best Japanese Noodles" category.
• 2017 - Two more Texas locations opened: NASA and Sugar Land in May.
• 2017 - ZAGAT touts AGU's ban ban ji kurage as one of the "12 Totally Outrageous Bar Snacks" in all of Houston.
• 2017 – December, AGU Mockingbird opens as the first store in Dallas, TX.
• 2017 – AGU's Hisashi Uehara is once again featured in a special black and white photo essay after being chosen as one of Honolulu Magazine's "Faces of Hawaii" for the second year in a row.
• 2018 – January, AGU Mason, Katy, TX opened. Another location in Katy - La Centerra at Cinco Ranch opened in February 2018.
• 2018 – February, Agu Express opens at the Kalihi central kitchen, making it the seventh location in Hawaii. It serves a local plate lunch menu as well as most of the full Agu Ramen menu.
• 2018 – March, In a ceremony at Ala Moana Center Stage, Hisashi Uehara was honored by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Hawai‘i Governor David Ige for his tremendous contributions to the local economy and food culture through the thousands of ramen bowls enjoyed daily at Agu restaurants. March 6, 2018, was proclaimed Agu Ramen Day in the State of Hawaii.
• 2018 – March, Agu participates in the inaugural Noodle Festival Hawaii at Ward Village with bowls of tonkotsu shio ramen.
A harmony of aroma and complex flavors is affirmation of my love for the art of ramen. Steeped deep within the noodles, is a reverence for life and the Japanese culture. However, these bowls of passion can only reach perfection, if I succeed in passing on their secrets to future generations”