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Cover Story

Opulicious Fl”air” at its Finest

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
March 18 - 24, 2012

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Kelli Kay Chun, owner and chef of Opulicious Restaurant, is twisting things up when it comes to your typical plate lunch hot spot — and when we say “twisting,” we mean literally. Chun has an avid love for balloon twisting and is a renowned balloon artist at that. She recently turned her lifelong dream into reality with the opening of Opulicious Restaurant on Coolidge Street.

  • Owner Kelli Chun (left) and cashier Gina Cabacungan
  • Lau Lau and Hawaiian Stew ($8.25, Friday special)
  • Fried Chicken ($7.25, Tuesday special)
  • Salmon Tofu Salad ($10.25)
  • Kelli Chun. Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Changg Photos/Hawaii
  • Even the balloon animals love Opulicious' delicious local grinds.
  • Hamburger Steak with Grilled Onions ($5.50/$7.75)
  • Kal Bi with Kim Chee Relish ($5.25/$10.25)
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“I’ve always wanted to bring an ‘air’larious dining experience to Hawaii,” she says. “Ono local food and balloons are what we’re all about! Opulicious is based on the belief that the customers are the most important part of the equation for success — our goal is to make people happy!”

Dining Out met up with Chun and a bunch of her balloon buddies as we were eager for the opportunity to immerse ourselves in food, fun, family and friendships here at this new and improved establishment. It’s an inviting breath of fresh air at Opulicious!

DO: Opulicious offers something very unique. What is the concept of the restaurant?

Chun: Yes, Opulicious is very different and we’re the first balloon-themed restaurant in the nation. There are two things that I’m really passionate about: Good food and balloons, and that’s how Opulicious came to be. I’ve been a balloon artist/twister for 10 years and have a separate balloon business on the side. I can make more than 300 balloon creations, ranging from dogs, to flowers, sushi, lobster and more. Just incorporating balloons and food into one business is something that I really enjoy.

The theme of the restaurant is creating an “air”larious dining experience. We have many balloon creations scattered around the restaurant, so when people come here to eat they can take balloon creations home with them! When there are kids here, I’ll even take the time to make balloon creations on the spot. Opulicious is a great place for kids. We have a keiki fun day the last Saturday of each month where kids especially can come and enjoy the many balloon creations.

DO: Balloon creations are always fun, yet foodies are always eager to learn about the food. What does Opulicious specialize in in terms of cuisine?

Chun: We specialize in homemade local food from recipes derived from my mother and me. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we also have great daily specials. Everything is made fresh to order, and people seem to love our food.

DO: What has been flying off the menu here?

Chun: Our No. 1 hit is Chicken Katsu ($5.50 mini plate, $7.75 opu). We serve two huge pieces of chicken katsu (which equates to more than a pound of chicken) with white rice or brown rice, tossed salad or mac salad. Our next best seller is Hamburger Steak with Grilled Onions ($5.50 mini plate, $7.75 opu). And if you love these two dishes Hamburger Steak Plate and Chicken Katsu is our special this month and it’s reasonably priced at $9.95. I also recommend Kilauea, Kauai Apricot Baby Back Ribs ($12). My mom is from Kauai and this is her recipe, it’s so tasty. All of our local plates come with choice of rice and tossed or macaroni salad.

For those who want healthier options, we have a wonderful Salmon Tofu Salad ($10.25). We also offer your choice of mahi, furikake-crusted ahi or salmon served over linguine ($10.25) with garlic shoyu butter sauce or a lemon butter pesto sauce. This is a great choice for Lent, and it always seems to sell out. What’s even better is that it comes with tossed salad on the side. All of our sauces and dressings are homemade.

DO: Very appetizing. You’re making mouths water! Many customers have been stopping by to try the daily specials as well, correct?

Chun: For sure! We have a variety of daily specials including Baked Spaghetti with Garlic Bread or Kal Bi with Kim Chee Relish on Mondays. On Tuesdays we offer Meat Loaf ‘n Gravy with Smashed Potato or Fried Chicken. Wednesdays we have Pork Tofu or Cold Ginger Chicken, Thursdays Roast Turkey or Grilled Pork Chops and Fridays Kilauea, Kauai Style Apricot Baby Back Ribs or Lau Lau. Although everything is delicious, our Grilled Pork Chops usually sell out by lunch time. It’s very tender and is topped with sauteed mushrooms, onions and smothered in gravy. And many rave about our Lau Lau special, which is paired with Hawaiian Stew, two scoops of rice, a side of macaroni salad and lomi salmon.

DO: Your menu also features burgers and sandwiches, and there’s a new burger that’s been recently unveiled. Tell us about it.

Chun: Aunty Tita’s Burger ($6.75, $1 more for fries and a drink) is our famous burger that features two 1/3-pound homemade patties with your choice of melted pepper jack cheese or sharp Cheddar smashed between the two patties on a hamburger bun and topped with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. This is actually a newer item on our menu and we sold 30 burgers in a week and a half. We couldn’t believe it. It turned out to be a hit — when you bite into it, it just melts in your mouth. The meal comes complete with french fries or sweet potato fries with our famous Opulicious sauce.

DO: How did your interest in the culinary world come about?

Chun: Food has always been of great interest to me. I went to culinary school at Kapiolani Community College and I also studied Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Hawaii. Having that nutritional background, I find it very important to provide my customers with healthier options, so even though we have a lot of local food here with macaroni salad and white rice, there’s always that option of brown rice or tossed salad. We also like to do our part within the community, so Opulicious also caters to preschools as well as Meals on Wheels.

DO: Does Opulicious provide catering for special occasions?

Chun: Yes, we do! We have a separate catering menu with a whole bunch of options such as Lemon Chicken, BBQ Honey Wings, Chinese Chicken Salad, Coconut Shrimp and more. However, our signature dish is Lup Cheong Fried Rice. We want people to know that we’ll also deliver in town, free of charge. People can visit opulicious.com to view our entire catering menu.

Opulicious Restaurant

  • Where
    • 946 Coolidge Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96826
  • Call
    • (808) 943-8885
  • Hours
    • Monday – Friday
    • 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Saturdays
    • 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
    • Closed Sundays
  • Website