Japanese Yakiniku With a Korean Twist
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Take traditional Japanese yakiniku and add some of Korea’s favorite home-cooked dishes, and the result is Heijouen, one of the newest additions to Hawaii’s dining scene. Part of a chain of restaurants, Heijouen is the first one of its kind to open in the United States. Currently, the restaurant-powerhouse has more than 20 locations in and around Tokyo, Japan.
Featuring both Japanese and Korean cuisine, Heijouen by default appeals to Hawaii’s demographic.
“The island is such a melting pot of cultures and appetites,” says Hiroshi Shimada, manager of Heijouen. “It made total sense to have our first American location be in Honolulu.”
In recent years, Japan has welcomed many new restaurants of varying food types and styles.
“You can walk in Japan and see so many Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Indian restaurants,” says Shimada. “Oftentimes, Japanese chefs will study abroad and bring new dishes and cooking techniques back to Japan.”
At Heijouen, residents and tourists alike can expect to receive an effortless fusion of Japanese and Korean dishes.
“Above all, food quality is of utmost importance,” explains Shimada. “We aim to provide the best quality meats and dishes for an affordable price.”
To receive the quintessential Heijouen experience, ordering yakiniku is highly recommended. Diners may choose from a variety of meats including Pork Thigh ($6.80), Pork Ribs ($6.80), Chicken ($6.80) and Grilled Shrimp ($9.80). The meat comes raw on a platter, which customers can cook atop the table’s private grill.
Premium or “fine” meats, as Heijouen refers to them, also are available. Rather than using a meat cutter like most restaurants, the chefs at Heijouen hand cut all meat, which allows for a significantly higher quality and better marbling. Premium meats include Beef Fine Kalbi ($9.80), Beef Fine Loin ($8.80) and Beef Fine Outside Skirt ($9.80).
“Because the chef cuts everything by hand, he can tailor each piece and avoid areas that are not as high grade,” explains Shimada.
One of Heijouen’s most popular menu items, Thick Cut Beef Tongue ($10.80), offers a unique alternative for diners, as most Japanese restaurants only offer thinly sliced beef tongue. To maintain maximum taste, the chef meticulously cuts small slits in the meat to allow it to absorb flavor. Such a cooking technique enables the meat to remain tender and juicy.
In addition, Heijouen uses a variety of sauces designated for each dish. For instance, the “Tare” is a sweet sauce that is made completely from scratch in-house, typically paired with Fine Beef Kalbi. Another popular sauce is the Shio sauce, which carries a hint of salt and sesame seed oil, often meant for seafood dishes.
Those hungering for some Korean comfort food will be happy to see favorites such as Stone Roasted Bibimbap ($9.80), Beef Rib Soup ($7.80) and Korean Style Cold Noodles ($9.80) on the menu.
In order to balance the heavily meat-oriented meal, diners also may choose from a variety of refreshing salads. Heijouen’s unique Choregi Salad ($7.80) incorporates fresh greens with a spicy sweet dressing. Other options include the popular Sesame Salad ($7.80) and simple Salt Salad ($7.80).
Heijouen also features a full bar with a variety of wines, beers and mixed drinks.
949 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu
Daily, 5 to 11 p.m.