Three new restaurants: 678 Hawaii, Greens and Vines, HASR Bistro
Carnivores, vegans and wine, oh my!
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1726 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 101, 941-6678
$43.99 to $54.99 for a combo that feeds two to three
Does Honolulu really need another Korean barbecue restaurant? After trying 678 Hawaii, it turns out the answer is the same as whether you should order the pig skin: yes.
The pig skin arrives translucent, already cooked and infused with sugar and chili. After charring it further on the grill, it emerges as pig candy—crisp edged, sweet and chewy from collagen … and yes, fat. Our server, while grilling, threatens to abduct it, such is its addictive lure. It is, however, hard to shake the idea that you are basically chewing fat. I can only handle two pieces, okay, maybe three, okay … four.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 678 Hawaii features more than pseudo pork desserts. The first thing you should know about it is Gangnam Style artist Psy is NOT the guy whose likeness is scattered around the restaurant. It’s another Korean celebrity, comedian Kang Ho Dang, who has Korean restaurants in Korea, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
His Honolulu location across from the convention center is clean, modern, new and technologically advanced—the city of Seoul encapsulated on the corner of Kapiolani and Atkinson. While the convention center stands desolate and lonely, even as conventioneers mill about inside, 678 Hawaii has been perpetually bustling ever since it opened at the end of last year.
The technology is noteworthy. Remarkably efficient hoods drop down over each table like vacuum hoses: This is the first Korean barbecue restaurant I’ve been in where I don’t smell my dinner in my clothes a few hours later. Each table comes with a call button. Push the button, and the servers’ watches buzz with your table number. The servers, who all look like they have side gigs in K-pop boy bands, quickly and cheerfully replenish banchan and swoop in to flip your meats for an even sear.