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Inside Feature

Korean Barbecue is in Full Bloom

By Kyle Galdeira Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
April 14, 2013

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After 14 years of running Korean Hibiscus BBQ in Aina Haina, the husband-and-wife team of Raymond and Shirley Kodani decided to take some time off to spend with family, including their young grandchildren.

However, customers are pleased to learn that the co-owners are back in business after reopening their popular Korean food takeout restaurant 4.2 miles away at Kaimuki Shopping Center on Waialae Avenue — conveniently located on the lower level next to Times. The “Head Kim Chees,” as they’re affectionately known opened the eatery’s new location in January of last year, and encourage both loyal patrons and new customers to experience the reincarnation.

The menu features 19 lunch and dinner plates, as well as noodle and soup dishes, and side orders. A total of 50 combination plates also are available based on the various menu items that can be paired, and the restaurant’s menu is clearly marked to denote which items fall into the different combo categories.

Spicy BBQ Chicken and Zucchini Jun ($10.75) is one of the popular “Jun Combo” plates, and includes juicy chicken basted with a special spicy sauce. Customers also rave about the combination of Meat Jun and Fried Man Doo ($10.75), which includes pan-fried, egg-battered marinated beef ribeye coupled with tasty dumplings.

The man doo includes beef and vegetables, not pork, as some diners may be accustomed to. The dumplings are prepared to order, and offer a crispy texture encompassing the scrumptious filling.

Popular Kal Bi short rib plates and combinations also are available, including Kal Bi and BBQ Chicken ($11.50).

Regular plates are served with two scoops of rice and a choice of four Korean-style vegetables, while mini plates include a scoop of rice and two vegetable selections.

In an effort to meet customer demands for healthier plates, Korean Hibiscus BBQ now serves its rice “hapa” style, with a 50-50 mix of white and brown rice. While some customers initially may balk at the healthier option, Kodani explains that the rice is washed twice and prepared in an industrial-strength cooker, which allows for higher, evenly spread heat that makes the rice softer. He jokes that one customer initially had complained to his wife about having to eat brown rice, but after she explained to him that the plate he enjoyed the previous week had contained the hapa rice, too, he ate his words as well as devoured the meal.

Additionally, plates are accompanied by healthy vegetable sides including seasoned bean sprouts, sweetened shoyu potatoes, macaroni salad, corn, seasoned cucumber, kim chee and fresh tofu.

The restaurant also introduces new menu items to complement the existing selections, and as Kodani explains, the “Grandma’s Special” has been very popular with diners. The current special of BBQ Beef Stir-Fry Plate ($10.50) includes marinated beef ribeye stir-fried with sweet potato noodles, carrots, round and green onions, and like the traditional plates, are served on a bed of hapa rice with a choice of four Korean-style vegetable sides.

Korean Hibiscus BBQ also offers local plate lunch selections including Hamburger Steak ($7.50 mini, $8.25 regular) and Garlic Chicken ($7.75 mini, $9.25 regular).

While the hamburger steak and garlic chicken aren’t normally included when one thinks of traditional Korean favorites, Kodani explains that the items were featured because the restaurant’s previous tenants served them, and it allowed the Kodanis to offer some continuity during the transition. However, they improved the recipes, and, for example, now utilize fresh 4-ounce ground beef steak patties that are char-broiled and topped with gravy.

Kodani explains that family plays a big role in the restaurant, including everything from input he received on the menu items and recipes from his late mother-in-law to suggestions for new offerings based on his granddaughter’s preferences— she really enjoys the hamburger steak, by the way.

“You’ve got to try it out. This is what we eat, so we’re making items that we serve to our family,” Kodani says.

Korean Hibiscus BBQ

Kaimuki Shopping Center
3221 Waialae Ave. Honolulu
734-8232
Open daily, 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, closes at 7 p.m.