Korean Restaurants in Hawaii
This was my month to get beyond the Korean plate lunch. Spicy chicken gizzards, anyone?
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Undeterred, I discovered something else: yukkejang, a shredded-beef soup, in a broth fortified with endless bean sprouts, glass noodles and green onion. Everything appears to have been cooked separately with kochujang, then put into the broth. The broth’s not hot, but everything else is. You take one bite, think it’s too much, are back in a minute for more.
All for a dollar more than the soondubu, $5.99. Forget I told you about this place. I still want a table.
Yuchen Korean Restaurant
1159 Kapiolani Blvd., 589-0022
Daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. // Free parking // Major credit cards
Located in the old Angelo Pietro space next to McKinley Carwash, Yuchun is attractive as small Korean restaurants go—clean, well-lighted, a nice collection of Koreana along the walls and window sills. Unfortunately, the pleasures end with the décor.
The restaurant specializes in “black noodles,” chik naengmyon, an iced summer noodle soup. I’d had naengmyon before, at Orine Sarangchae, a version made with buckwheat noodles, found it refreshing, the noodles wonderful in texture.
Chik naengmyon is made with arrowroot instead of buckwheat noodles. That may not be a good idea, as the noodles congeal into a gelatinous mass and are miserable to chew. Jellyfish is more fun to eat.
The noodles I could have coped with. We ordered two versions, one regular and one that came with the soup on the side, topped with raw fish in a spicy sauce. What fish? Hiding in the violently red sauce, I found cartilage and actual chunks of fish backbone. There may have been some fish flesh clinging to the bone, but this was inedible.
As a gesture to my dining companions, I also ordered things I presumed would be innocuous—beef bulgogi and pa-jeon, the green onion-seafood pancake. The beef bulgogi was sweet, but inoffensive. The pa-jeon, in the gloppy tradition of the noodles, was overbattered and undercooked.
This unsatisfying dinner for three was $68 with tip, including one 187ml bottle of Sutter Home chardonnay. What kind of Korean restaurant has no soju, and sells tiny bottles of bad California wine?
Give this one a miss.
Ah Lang, a.k.a. Angry Korean Lady
Imperial Plaza, 725 Kapiolani Blvd., 596-0600
Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. // Street and validated parking // Major credit cards
After four restaurants, I thought I was done. Then some friends called: “We found the perfect Korean hole in the wall, Ah Lang. Nicer than Cho Dang, great food and wait till you meet the Angry Korean Lady. Her name’s Won. She’s the Korean Betty Pang.”
The Angry Korean Lady? How could I resist? Especially since they’d already organized a dinner and said I could come, bring soju. “Be on time,” they said.
Ah Lang, though listed at Imperial Plaza on Kapiolani, is in the retail space along Cooke Street, and shares an exterior door with a nail salon. By the time I found it, I was 10 minutes late. Food was on the table. “Won said that, if we said 6:30, the food was going to be ready at 6:30 whether we were here or not.”
There were six of us and so much food, I had a hard time keeping track of it.
A sizzling oval platter of pork sautéed with onions, in a sauce smoky with peppers and buoyed by garlic.
Kimchee fried rice, chunky with fresh cut vegetables, topped with fried egg.
A vast round of pibimkooksu, noodles with julienne vegetables, in a sauce I think was enriched with egg.
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