What Is Chinatown’s O’Kims Cooking Up in the Space Next Door?
This stretch of Nu‘uanu Avenue is getting a new grab-and-go spot with sandwiches, desserts and banchan. The question is when will it open?
One of the best reasons for repeat visits to O’Kims Korean Kitchen, aside from the truffle mandoo and confit pork belly brûlée, is chef-owner Hyun Kim’s monthly changing special menu. There have been japchae spring rolls and a cold chicken soba whose topping of a hot mustard popsicle became its broth; this month there’s a jook of abalone and Cornish hen, an upscale play on a Korean staple. Our all-time favorite: Uni bibimbap seasoned not with vegetables and gochujang, but briny Korean nori and sea salt, which turned out to be perfect, crunchy complements to the golden uni crowning the hot rice. As with other talented chefs whose minds simmer with new ideas, Kim’s creativity becomes the draw. So when I heard she was launching a new concept in the space next door, I immediately fired off some questions.
Kim’s response was to invite me for a tasting of much of the upcoming menu at The Box by O’Kims: over-the-top sandwiches, cakes by the slice, and a slew of Korean banchan. If the mix of cucumber kim chee, baby sardines glazed in sweetened soy, matcha roll cakes and egg sandwiches topped with black truffles sounds, well, outside the box, it is—and it’s totally Kim.
Kim says she’ll open The Box when she can find workers. The entire menu will be grab-and-go (in boxes, of course), with banchan priced at $5 to $7 and the rest up to $15. Unlike O’Kims Korean Kitchen next door, whose dine-in options include tables in the dining room and a trellised courtyard in back, The Box won’t have seating. Here’s a glimpse of what’s coming to this stretch of Nu‘uanu Avenue.
Korean cafe sandwich, loaded with egg, ham, cheese and layers of vegetables.
PBJ: pork belly and jam sandwich on grilled bread.
Egg sandwich with shaved black truffles.
Assorted banchan side dishes and house-made salad dressings.
Sweet potato cake, front; black sesame cake in back; basque cheesecake tart at right.