A Bit of ‘Seoul’
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Sikdorak offers the finest in Korean cuisine to both expatriates and kamaaina. Koreamoku is neither an anime character nor a new game show on cable TV.
In Honolulu, it’s the affectionate nickname for lower Keeaumoku Street, often called “Koreamoku” by those who love the Honolulu neighborhood for its intriguing little Seoul-flavored eateries.
And the buzz in the street is all about Sikdorak, a fairly new Korean restaurant tucked into the back of the Samsung Plaza.
“Local people know,” said a guest on a recent late-afternoon visit, as he paid the bill for his party of six. A longtime Honolulu resident, the man said he would be dining at Sikdorak at least three times that week. “I bring all my friends, and I’ve met new friends here, too. The prices are great, but we come here because of the good food!”
Open for just three months, Sikdorak, which means “epicure,” has quickly become popular with Honolulu’s Korean expat community. It’s very possible to spend several hours in this busy little plaza without hearing a single word of English.
“Ninety-five percent of our customers are (expatriate) Korean; only 5 percent are local people,” says Patrick Choi, co-owner of Sikdorak. “But when local people come, they’re very happy and appreciate it, and they come back with friends.”
Open every day of the week from 11 a.m. to 4 the following morning, Sikdorak is a new favorite with both the late-lunch and late-night crowds. Choi, who worked as a chef for 10 years at Yakiniku Seoul, the popular eatery at the intersection of King and Kalakaua, covers the restaurant’s long hours with his partner, Andy Chang, previously a chef at Choi’s Garden on Rycroft Street. “I’m a yakiniku chef; my partner is Korean-style chef who does the soup and pan-frying,” Choi explains.
Sikdorak’s main entrance, an elegant wooden arched door, is almost as wide as the restaurant itself, which cozily seats 50. Art consists of a series of photographs of sensuous, dramatically lit entrees. And although several hours have passed since lunchtime, several large parties are busy cooking and eating and chattering happily away.
“It’s 4 p.m., but a lot of customers are here because we have a lunch special till 5 p.m.,” says Choi. Most other restaurants, he explains, end their lunch specials at 2 or 3 o’clock. “Our customers say it’s very important to have longer lunch hours, so we (offer the special) till 5 p.m.”
This week, the special at Sikdorak is Shabu Shabu ($19.95 for two), available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “On cold days like this, people like shabu shabu at lunchtime!” Choi says. Customers who order two yakiniku meat items (chicken, seasoned pork butt or pork belly, $15.95; beef ribeye, short rib, seasoned short rib, brisket, tripe or tongue, $19.95) also have been enjoying free miso soup and a Korean pancake with a coupon.
Banchan, the little plates of pickled and fermented vegetables and pancakes and other delicious things, can be ordered in sets of six or eight here. “We are famous for our own daikon and won bok kim chee,” says Choi. “We have two different kinds, and we alternate. One day we make 100 pounds of daikon, the next day 100 pounds of won bok. Customers want us to sell it, but we don’t sell it.”
The place gets mobbed at lunchtime, he reports. Recently, customers lined up for specials like naengmyeon (both mul naengmyon, cold noodles, and bibim naengmyon, cold noodles with spicy gochujang pepper paste, on special at $3.95; regularly $8.95) and seolleongtang, beef bone soup ($3.95; regular $7.95). “When customers like the special, they come in,” he adds with a chuckle.
As of Monday, Sikdorak introduced a new special that is sure to bring in the late-night crowd: all-you-can-eat yakiniku, with a selection of the finest choice meats available, at $19.95 per person, every night until 4 a.m. Kids 12 and under may eat for $16.95.
Sikdorak has no liquor license, but perhaps even better, the restaurant allows patrons to BYOB, and there’s no corkage fee. “For local people, BYOB is very important,” Choi says. “The food is very, very spicy — Koreans like it very spicy. They bring their own beers or soju or liquors, and we give them ice and cups, and it makes them happy!”
As the restaurant develops a following, it’s becoming well-known as a caterer. “Last Christmas, we hosted a family party with 50 people,” Choi says. “They used the whole place. They were very happy.”
Sikdorak Korean Restaurant
- 655 Keeaumoku Street #108
- Honolulu, HI 96814
- (808) 949-2890