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A Contemporary Edge to Authentic Yakiniku Dining

By Alana Folen Photos by Leah Friel
April 8, 2013

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Sizzling hot, 678 Hawaii brings a new dimension to the traditional Korean yakiniku-style of dining. With more than 250 locations in Korea, this contemporary and chic barbecue franchise has expanded to the U.S. and recently made its mark in the Islands last November. Since then, 678 Hawaii has been enticing patrons with its dedication to excellence.

According to restaurant general manager Steve Song, 678 Hawaii only utilizes meats originating from an exclusive collection of farms in California that use a combination of a superior breed of cattle and animal management techniques.

Dining Out recently caught up with Song over morsels of meaty delicacies, and bowls of soups and noodles, not to mention sides of kimchi, bean sprouts, seaweed and more – ready to delve into a carnivore’s dream turned reality.

DO: With various Korean yakiniku-style restaurants on Oahu’s dining scene, what makes 678 Hawaii stand in a league of its own?

Song: 678 Hawaii is not your typical mom-and-pop Korean restaurant. Instead, we are a new and modern yakiniku-style restaurant with a dynamic, trendy and hip atmosphere – the d├ęcor has an industrial feel – that appeals to a younger crowd. What we offer is a more modern take on traditional Korean yakiniku selections.

DO: Everything here looks delicious. What are some must-trys for first-timers to the restaurant?

Song: Being that 678 Hawaii is a yakiniku restaurant, customers enjoy cooking their meats on the
yakiniku grills, and if it’s your first time here, our servers will gladly assist in
the cooking process. Popular yakiniku sets (main courses) include Premium Combo Yakiniku Set, Mixed Combo Yakiniku Set, Pork Combo Yakiniku Set and 678 Beef Combo Yakiniku Set. My favorite is the Premium set, which is offered all day. Priced at $59.99 (feeds two to three people) and $94.99 (feeds three to four people), this set presents you with thinly sliced brisket, prime rib eye and U.S. Kobe chuck flap tail. A lot of customers also like our Mixed Combo Yakiniku Set ($52.99 feeds two to three, $84.99 feeds three to four) because it includes a little bit of everything, from premium seared pork belly to prime rib eye and U.S. Kobe boneless short rib or outside skirt.

All yakiniku sets come with banchan (side dishes) and steamed egg, corn cheese, onion, kimchi, bean paste stew, kimchi stew or seafood soft tofu stew.

DO: 678 Hawaii only uses top-grade meats. What are some premier characteristics of the yakiniku meats?

Song: The meat that we use is some of the best. We provide American Kobe-style beef that has no added hormones, no antibiotics and no animal byproducts in the feed.

DO: 678 Hawaii also offers traditional Korean fare that is not considered to be yakiniku dining. Please explain.

Song: For lunch, we offer 678 Kalbi Jjim ($25.99). This steamed entree can feed two people and features kalbi (beef short ribs) mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, peppers, onions, ginger juice and a bit of sugar simmered in a large pot. The meat is tender and very tasty. Customers can request Kalbi Jjim to be spicy or mild.

We retrieved this successful recipe from someone who served this dish for more than 100 years at Jiri Mountain in Korea.

If you’re in the mood for soup during lunch hour, try Beef-Rib Soup ($11.99), a beef broth soup complemented with beef short ribs, stewed beef, daikon, onions, dates and ginseng. This is one of our most popular soups and a very healthy option.

Then, we have a dish called Black Cold Noodle, available for lunch, happy hour and dinner if ordered with a yakiniku set. Black Cold Noodle consists of long and thin noodles made from the starch of arrowroot. It’s served in a large stainless-steel bowl with a tangy, iced broth, julienned cucumbers, slices of boiled egg and morsels of cold boiled beef. Traditionally, the long noodles would be eaten without cutting, as they symbolize longevity of life and good health, but our servers will gladly cut your noodles with scissors if you request. Spicy mustard and vinegar also may be added for extra flavor.

DO: Happy Hour runs from 9:30 p.m. to closing. What are some hot deals that patrons can take advantage of?

Song: During happy hour our Happy Pork Combo is priced at $33.99 and Happy 678 Combo is $38.99. You can order soup with these combos for $3.99, as well. 678 Kalbi Jjim is on special for $21.99, Spicy Pork Short Rib is $19.99 and Jumbo Kimchi Stew with Ramen and Mondoo is $19.99. As for drinks, Yogurt Soju costs $7.99 and Soju is $5.99.

DO: Cleanliness is an important aspect here, correct?

Song: Yes, sanitation is a priority at 678 Hawaii. The interior of the restaurant is very modern and clean. We even have a tin can-style chair where you can take the top off and put your belongings in the can, so you don’t have to put your bag on the ground. Also, there is a hose vent over every table’s yakiniku grill to clean the air. The design of the vacuum directly above the grill prevents the smell of meat to get on your clothes. It’s important that we use high-tech, top-of-the-line grilling and vent systems because there is nothing worse than leaving a Korean restaurant smelling like barbecue and smoke.

DO: As general manager, it’s important to you that each patron experiences the ultimate dining venture from the moment they set foot on the premises to the time they leave. Correct?

Song: Absolutely! I worked in the hospitality industry for more than 10 years, and I want to give our customers a great experience where they’ll want to come back again. Parking is convenient and free on Kalauolalani Way. Our servers are very attentive and friendly. They will replace your grill every time you cook meat, and they will always refill your water and replenish your side dishes. There also are call buttons at every table. If you want to place an order, ask for the bill or more water, just press the button and a server will be at your table in less than 20 seconds – a very quick response time.

678 Hawaii

1726 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 101,
Honolulu 941-6678
Monday-Thursday, 11 A.M. TO 1 A.M.
Friday-Saturday, 11 A.M. TO 2 A.M.
Sunday, 11 A.M. TO 1 A.M.