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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

The Best of Both Worlds at Heijouen

By Ali Resich Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
May 12, 2013

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As any fan of yakiniku cuisine will tell you, both Japan and Korea have strong traditions in the distinct style of dining in which customers grill their own meats and vegetables at the table. Luckily for Hawaii’s hungry consumers, Heijouen has combined the two savory traditions into one ultimate yakiniku experience.

Located on Kapahulu Avenue, the eatery is the first American venture for Heijouen, a popular chain of restaurants in Japan, which offers a unique blend of Japanese and Korean dishes.

“Yakiniku’s already a popular thing in Japan … so (the owners) wanted to find a way to make it their own,” says manager Hiroshi Shimada.

Diners may sizzle things up with a slew of grilling options, not the least of which is a sumptuous selection of meat. Beef Fine Kalbi ($9.80) and Beef Fine Outside Skirt ($9.80), for example, present premium cuts of short rib and skirt steak, respectively. Each portion is hand-selected by head chefs Toukairin Masamoto and Junya Yamamoto, who pay attention to details such as marbleization and freshness for a flavorful and juicy piece — every time.

Thick Cut Beef Tongue ($10.80) also is a must, as it’s marinated in a shio sauce with salt, pepper and sesame oil. Unlike other yakiniku establishments, Heijouen is known for its substantial slices of meat, and beef tongue is no exception. Shimada suggests savoring the chewy, yet tender, dish with lemon dipping sauce, a perfect complement to the salt-based seasoning.

Masamoto and Yamamoto, who have both worked at Heijouen locations in Japan, are masters at finding subtle ingredients to pair excellently with the meat’s natural flavors. A sweeter, soy-based tare marinade or spicy miso sauce bring each fillet to life on the grill, while lemon and tare dipping sauces are mandatory for dunking before each bite.

In addition to grill-able grinds, the menu is full of a la carte items to round out your meal. Among the most popular are Assorted Kimchi ($7.80), made with cabbage cucumber and daikon, or Choregi Salad ($7.80), topped with a slightly spicy, Korean-style dressing.

Heijouen Chige ($9.80) — a Korean stew made with tofu, kimchi, shishito (sweet pepper), shrimp, egg and more — is a traditional way to end your meal.

“With the Japanese style, how it normally works is you have your appetizers, then the tongue and other meats. Then you usually end with either a soup, or a noodle dish such as ramen,” explains Shimada. “So this is something that would come out toward the end.”

In true Heijouen form, you’ll salivate over the best of both Japanese and Korean eats.

Heijouen

949 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu
737-5015
Daily, 5-11 p.m.
Note: A parking lot is located behind the restaurant