Two new Korean barbecue restaurants landed in Honolulu this year. If we ever wondered whether this town needed another Korean barbecue restaurant, voters told us, yes, we do. They voted both newcomers—678 Hawaii (Gold) and Budnamujip (Top Write-In Vote) as deserving of Hale Aina Awards. It’s easy to see why. 678 Hawaii, part of Korean star Kang Ho Dang’s chain of restaurants in Korea, Los Angeles and Atlanta, offers a range of high-quality pork and beef cuts. Its signature table-side grill provides a moat of egg custard and corn cheese—the egg sets and the cheese melts as the grill heats up. Banchan come fast and furious, a barrage of spicy, sweet, salty, sour.
Budnamujip also hails from Korea—part of a revered, high-end Korean barbecue chain. Here, the experience is more refined: the seasoning and portions more restrained, aprons so you don’t muss up your clothes (instead of glasses marked for soju bombs, as at 678). The menu is all beef, all prime grade and grilled tableside over charcoal grills.
Even before Budnamujip, though, Honolulu was no stranger to high-quality meats for Korean barbecue. Yakiniku Hiroshi (Silver) offers a selection of Japanese Wagyu beef, though in extremely limited qualities per day. But diners can always fall back on prime-grade beef cuts, such as kalbi and tongue, with or without Hiroshi’s signature marinade.
Over in the Koreamoku (Keeaumoku south of King Street) region, Shillawon (Bronze) has been a Honolulu staple for its all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, with a selection of beef brisket, beef tongue, kalbi and bulgolgi. Not far away, open-air spot Yakiniku Don-Day (Finalist) specializes in fresh slabs of pork belly—unseasoned Kurobota pork, spicy Korean-style, or rosemary and wine marinated.
As the letters stuck to the wall and all the way up to the ceiling can attest: Locals and visitors seek out Mikawon (Finalist) in Waikiki for its yakiniku.