Three new restaurants: 678 Hawaii, Greens and Vines, HASR Bistro
Carnivores, vegans and wine, oh my!
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The grill is unlike any other Korean barbecue restaurant in town. It’s surrounded by a moat with compartments: one with beaten egg that sets up like a custard as the grill heats up, another with corn and cheese. Different grills are brought out for different meats: a wire grid for bulgolgi and kalbi, one with slats for pork jowl and brisket.
678 in Korean sounds like “quality meat.” For your first time, get either the pork or beef combo to sample the different cuts. I like the thick, tender meats and prefer the pork belly and unseasoned short rib (the seasoned is a little too sweet in its marinade), whereas a dining companion hogs the beef brisket, like thinly sliced beef bacon. But all of us are in awe of the pork skin. Two young, female friends at the table could not have squealed more over it than if Psy himself had come in and done his horse dance.
Food here is not so perfectly seasoned as at other Korean barbecue restaurants, but the whole experience is too fun to dismiss 678 entirely. When the grill really gets going, when it’s covered in various meats on the verge of the perfect char, when the banchan are varied and sweet and salty and spicy and vinegary foils to the rich meat, I think of how much I love Korean barbecue. The flavors smack your tastebuds around, and the multisensory experience is exciting. These days, modernist restaurants around the world, having transformed food into unfoodlike forms, contrive to reintroduce smells with puffs of smoke and interactivity with odd plates and centerpieces. But at a great Korean barbecue place, which 678 is, the interactivity, sights and smells are visceral, natural and effortless.
Greens and Vines
909 Kapiolani Blvd., Unit B, 536-9680
Entrées: $9.25 to $12.25
Sylvia and Pete Thompson never wanted to open a restaurant. The couple preferred dining at restaurants, at only the best, all over the world: New York, Paris, Burgundy. They adored sushi and foie gras. So they probably never imagined that one day, they would open Honolulu’s first raw and vegan restaurant, banishing from the kitchen all meat, dairy, grains, sugar and open flame (in a raw food diet, nothing is heated above 118 degrees). But health has a funny way of changing our minds, of shifting our lives, our priorities, especially when it comes to what we eat.
Ten years ago, Pete had a heart attack. The couple transitioned into a vegan diet. Sylvia put in six weeks at a raw, vegan school and then opened up ’Licious Dishes, a take-home meal service with a base of operations hidden in Dole Cannery. ’Licious Dishes fed the health-minded for five years, and before the holidays last year, Sylvia opened Greens and Vines, on the highly visible corner of Kapi‘olani and Ward, in full, defiant view of Jack-in-the-Box. She was spurred by an ‘Ilima award that she says finally convinced Pete her food was good enough to pair with wines, apparently the only proof he needed to consider a full-service raw and vegan restaurant a viable business.