Where Yakiniku Options Blossom
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For a variety of tasty meats, Korean style-prepared cold vegetables and raw vegetables ready for grilling, one need look no further than Camellia Buffet. The restaurant, which first opened 26 years ago, offers an abundance of options for an authentic yakiniku — “grilled meat” in Japanese — experience, during which customers select different meats and vegetables and cook it themselves on individual grills. In genuine yakiniku style, a propane gas grill is located atop each table in Camellia’s, which is popular among locals, according to Kenji, the restaurant’s owner.
“This restaurant features Korean cuisine,” he explains. “More families come here, and 95 percent of all the customers are locals.”
Ever since assuming ownership of Camellia Buffet last August, Kenji has wasted no time in changing the restaurant’s decor and making a few menu additions.
“I upgraded everything,” he says. “I did renovations and I changed the menu a bit.”
At Camellia’s, customers can select a variety of meat and vegetables from two buffet counters before returning to their individual tables to grill their food. On the left buffet counter, one will find an assortment of cold vegetables, including bean sprouts and seaweed. Above the prepared chilled vegetables is a shelf containing raw, cut vegetables, such as cabbage and lettuce. Beyond this counter lie large pots of soup, such as miso soup and red bean soup. The right buffet counter provides a variety of meats for grilling — including kal-bi, bulgogi (marinated barbecued beef), marinated chicken and marinated pork — along with other traditional Korean cuisine, like fried chicken and mandoo.
The same types of meat are available during both lunch and dinner, with the exception of one, according to Kenji.
“Everything (the meat) for lunch and dinner is the same — like kal-bi and barbecue beef — but during dinner time only, we put out flap meat,” he says. “Flap meat is the equivalent of sirloin steak, in English.”
In addition to the flap meat, several other special items are featured only during dinner at Camellia’s.
“For dinner, we have flap meat and we have sashimi,” Kenji says. “We also have fresh oysters from Korea — it’s the sweet, half-a-shell kind. Our dessert — vanilla yogurt — is only offered at dinner. Sometimes we have chocolate and strawberry; it changes.”
Regardless if one stops by Camellia’s for lunch or dinner, though, Kenji emphasizes the freshness and quality of all the ingredients.
“We use A-quality meat (for our kalbi and other meats),” he affirms. “Also, our Korean pancake is popular because it contains all-natural ingredients. It’s made from watercress, sesame seed leaves and many vegetables, with miso … very healthy, no chemicals; only natural ingredients.”
When it comes to Camellia’s specialties, Kenji is quick to point out the restaurant’s most popular items, such as the mandoo, kal-bi, somen noodles (with a special sauce), seaweed soup, Jab-Chae (Korean long rice) and orange chicken. The Korean Sweet Tea — a sweetened Korean rice beverage — is also extremely popular. Kenji explains, though, that the eatery’s sauces truly make it one-of-a-kind.
“We have different sauces that we make and they are all secret — kal-bi sauce, bulgogi sauce, chicken sauce, wasabi sauce and yakiniku sauce,” he says.
Lunch is served at Camellia’s from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; adults cost $15.95 while children (4- to 8-years-old) cost $11. Dinner runs from 2:30 to 10 p.m.; adults cost $22.95 while children cost $12. Kenji recommends that customers make reservations, because of Camellia’s dinner crowds.
“(The restaurant is) more packed for dinner,” he says. “Weekends — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — are the busiest days and 5-8:30 p.m. are our busiest hours.”
- 930 McCully Street
- Honolulu, HI 96826
- (808) 951-0511
- Open daily
- 10:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.