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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Rediscover the Best in Korean Comfort Food

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
February 17, 2013

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The best news I’ve heard recently is that Korean Hibiscus BBQ is back in business. You see, my brothers and I grew up frequenting the homey takeout window in Aina Haina Shopping Center before it closed in 2010. With a wide range of authentic dishes, the best in Korean-style vegetables and kim chee as well as gorgeously succulent meats that are good enough to dream about, this mom-and-pop shop was my family’s go-to spot.

After taking time off to travel and spend time with their grandchildren, husband-and-wife owners Raymond and Shirley Kodani re-emerged on the dining scene a little more than a year ago to re-open their eatery in Kaimuki Shopping Center next to Times Supermarket on the lower level.

Though the new location is somewhat hidden from the main drag, returning regulars — including yours truly — are rediscovering the flavors they missed, while a whole new set of patrons are catching on.

So on that most important of days, when I finally had the chance to eat what I’ve been longing for since 2010, an overwhelmingly vital question came to mind: What was I going to have? With so many classics to choose from, I wondered what would satisfy my craving? Would it taste as good as I remembered?

Given that the weather has been chilly lately, I knew taking solace in an old favorite, one of the eatery’s warm Soup Snacks, was the perfect way to reacquaint myself with Hibiscus.

Each Soup Snack features a 32 ounce bowl of a wonderful homemade, slow-simmered beef bone and brisket broth that’s filled with egg, beef strips and green onion, and served with a side of kim chee. If you choose Mandoo Soup ($8), you’ll also receive 10 pieces of beef and vegetable mandoo in the soup, while Hot Kooksoo Soup ($8) presents a separate bowl of thin kooksoo noodles and bulgogi (marinated beef ribeye), bean sprouts, head cabbage and choi sum.

I settled on Mandoo Kooksoo Soup ($8), which gives you the best of both worlds with five pieces of mandoo and a separate container of kooksoo noodles. Since the establishment is primarily takeout, serving the noodles separately ensures they will not get soggy or absorb too much broth.

With the utmost anticipation, I took my first sip. As soon as the comforting, flavorful and pure blend of ingredients hit my taste buds, I knew everything would be all right. The dish was even better than I remembered!

As Raymond and Shirley do with all their customers, they encouraged me to discover which flavors I like the best in the soup, so I can customize my experience every time I come in. As a result, I added some Korean hot sauce (available upon request) to spice my dish up to perfection.

The owners also suggest sharing Soup Snacks as an accompaniment to any meal.

With a happy belly and my love of Korean food fully reinstated, I hope you’ll soon experience the joy of Korean Hibiscus BBQ, too.

Korean Hibiscus BBQ

Kaimuki Shopping Center, Lower Level (next to Times Supermarket)
3221 Waialae Ave. A4
734-8232
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.