Yakiniku Feasts Take Over at Camellia BuffetCover Story Features
February 25, 2012
Story By: Dining Out Team |
The heavenly aroma of grilled meats, vegetables and an abundance of authentic Korean favorites permeate the air at Camellia Buffet on McCully Street. The dining concept is strictly yakiniku: a cook-it-yourself Korean-style barbecue that is believed to have been founded by Korean immigrants who came to Japan after World War II. What’s most captivating about yakiniku dining is that it stimulates all your senses, as you can observe the cooking process, take in the smells and, of course, savor the delectable flavors. What more can you ask for? Not much. Although here at Camellia Buffet, they take it one step further and offer an all-you-can eat buffet, comprised of just about everything you could ever ask for in Korean cuisine. Open daily for lunch (10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) and dinner (2:30-10 p.m.), Camellia Buffet has earned quite a loyal following of locals and tourists alike who appreciate the DIY (do-it-yourself) dining experience that is best shared by family and friends.
Dining Out most recently paid a visit to this revered establishment and caught up with owner June Ha, who along with her 20 employees keeps the buffet lines full, yakiniku grills going and appetites blissfully content.
DO: Congratulations on 26 years of business! You really have a wonderful thing going on here. What does Camellia Buffet offer its patrons?
Ha: Camellia Buffet is an authentic yakiniku-style restaurant that offers an all-you-can eat buffet. We can seat 200 people in the restaurant, and we’re always busy. There’s individual yakiniku grills at each table, so basically everyone can go up to the buffet line, select what they want and cook their own food on the grill.
DO: It’s a great dining experience that’s fun for the whole family. There’s quite a variety of items offered as part of the buffet, correct?
Ha: Yes. We have more than 50 items featured in our buffet, mostly different raw meats and vegetables, and even desserts. Every six months or so we try to add new things so that our customers don’t get bored.
DO: There’s quite an assortment of cuisine to choose from. What are some of the most coveted items here?
Ha: Kal-bi is always popular, especially with the locals, along with our flap meat (sir-loin steak). Both are high-quality, top-grade meat and extremely tender. Customers also love, pork, bulgogi, fresh sashimi and chop chae and fried mondoo. All of our meats are marinated in a special sauce that is very tasty. We do want our customers to realize that flap meat and sashimi are only available as part of the dinner buffet.
DO: Korean cuisine is known for being very healthy and good for those seeking a well-balanced diet. In addition to a wide variety of meats, what kinds of vegetables and other healthy options are available?
Ha: We have an assortment of vegetables, like seaweed and bean sprouts, cabbage, zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, carrots and more. We even make our own kim chee, seaweed soup and red bean porridge.
DO: Yes, the kim chee is delicious! What are some newer items that diners can look forward to?
Ha: We have a few new items not meant for cooking on the grill — orange chicken, onion rings and spicy poke. Spicy poke is only offered for lunch, however, diners can have orange chicken or onion rings at all times. Orange chicken is really popular with the kids.
DO: Camellia Buffet emphasizes flavor and fresh ingredients. Not only is the cuisine itself delicious, but you folks also make your very own sauces to complement the meats.
Ha: Yes, we have different homemade sauces — Kalbi sauce, bulgogi sauce, chicken sauce, wasabi sauce and yakiniku sauce — and the recipes are kept secret.
DO: Prices are very reasonable here, yes? Do you think that is what keep customers always returning for more?
Ha: Oh definitely. Lunch costs $16.95 and dinner costs $24.95 — it’s all-you-can-eat! Locals love this restaurant. In fact, 95 percent of our clientele are locals, but we also have a tourists who dine here from Korea, China and Japan. We can seat a lot of people, and we cater to a lot of large groups and parties. I would highly suggest people make reservations — we’re always busy from when we open until closing. We’re thankful that business has been doing very well!
- 930 McCully Street
- Honolulu, HI 96826
- (808) 951-0511
- Open daily
- 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.