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Don e Don: A Korean Restaurant with Unrivaled Pork Dishes

Despite the name change (from Ham Ji Park), you can still find the famous grilled pork spareribs.


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don e don

Grilled pork spareribs with gochujang
Photos: Martha Cheng

 

“Don e Don represents the best of LA-style Korean food in Hawai‘i,” says a friend known to wait hours for kalbijjim and make his own gochujang. Don e Don is the descendant of Ham Ji Park, a Korean restaurant with two locations in LA, famous for its pork ribs and crowds. You won’t find the crowds here, but you will find those same ribs and some serious warming fare for these blustery days.  

 

Ham Ji Park came to Ke‘eaumoku in 2018, and in 2019, changed its ownership (to the owners of 88 Pal Pal, the Korean supermarket nearby) and name to Don e Don (which is a play on “pork” and “money”). True to its name, the restaurant offers an unrivaled menu of pork, from jowl to neck to belly. Stick to these, rather than the non-Ham Ji Park staples; on two separate occasions, the kim chee pancake arrived more limp than crisp, and the kalbi isn’t as good as the pork ribs. 

 

Here are my favorite reasons to return (Though I wouldn’t recommending ordering them all in one sitting. We did, and the six of us—none of us shrinking violets—were thoroughly porked out.): 

 

Grilled pork spareribs ($26.99), either simply seasoned with salt and pepper or with gochujang

These are meaty and firm, like a reassuring handshake, and just lightly charred. I prefer the gochujang version, sweeter and offering up juicy caramelized bits. (“I like that you’re not afraid to get messy,” a friend said, watching me eat. And that’s when I noticed the groups of Korean ladies around us using plastic gloves—available on request—to eat their ribs.)

 


SEE ALSO: Chef Chris Oh’s Chingu Hawai‘i Brings L.A.’s K-Town Vibe to Honolulu


don e don

Braised kim chee pork spareribs (left) and pork neck stew with potato.

 

Braised kim chee pork spareribs ($24.99)

Though the restaurant is known more for its pork neck stew with potato (see below), we preferred this dish, served with a half head of cabbage kim chee, completely intact and laid over soft pork ribs like a lid. The kim chee lends its distinctive sourness, the perfect foil to the meat.

 


SEE ALSO: Your Guide to New Year Dining in 2020 on O‘ahu


 

Pork neck stew with potato ($26.99)

This is the sort of dish you should order when you want to feel like you’re in The Flintstones (this happens to other people, too, right?). Giant hunks of meat on the bone are paired with an entire boiled potato. You can choose your spiciness level; though the mild version borders on bland. 

 

Outdoor seating

There just aren’t enough outdoor dining options in Honolulu, especially outside of Waikīkī, so I never take this for granted. Best enjoyed with soju or Hite. (It’s also fairly well sheltered from rain and wind.)

 

Open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., Friday until 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 4 to 10 p.m., 919 Ke‘eaumoku St., Suite 101, (808) 379-1993

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MARTHA CHENG

 

 

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