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Korean Eats Abound At Local Restaurant

Inside Feature

January 7, 2018

Story By: Caroline Wright |

All-You-Can-Eat Yakiniku Course B ($29.95) PHOTO BY T. GRILLO

The mouthwatering aroma of beef brisket sizzling on a hot yakiniku grill at New Shilawon Korean Restaurant is an irresistible greeting for guests craving authentic Korean fare.

This friendly Amana Street eatery offers a sweet taste of home to those who pine after the culinary delights of their native country. “We’re known for unique banchan that many Korean restaurants don’t have — really traditional banchan you’d find at your grandparents’ house out in the country,” explains manager Jandy Lee.

Shabu Shabu For Two ($35.95; available 11 a.m.-3 p.m.) PHOTO BY E. KAKAZU

She’s referring, of course, to the small side dishes that accompany almost every Korean meal, like New Shilawon’s All-You-Can-Eat Yakiniku Course (course A, $34.95; course B, $29.95). Course B includes sliced pork belly, beef brisket, bulgogi, spicy pork and seasoned chicken, while course A includes all of these, plus ribeye, beef tongue, seasoned beef flank, kalbi, bulgogi, spicy pork and banchan.

“We don’t use any MSG; everything is made fresh to order in small batches,” says Lee. “My mom takes great pride in our banchan!”

Kalbi Soup ($13.95 lunch; $10.95 Wednesday lunch special; $15.95 dinner) PHOTO BY A. CONSILLIO

There’s a lot here to attract diners who are driven as much by nostalgia as hunger. “People come in and tell us stories: ‘I had your acorn jelly soup and it reminded me of my grandma,'” Lee comments. Acorn jelly soup isn’t typically available at most Korean restaurants, but here, it’s a favorite for Korean immigrants.

New Shilawon is strictly a family affair. Lee’s father, Jae Keun, selects and cuts the meat for yakiniku, and her mother, Young Sun, prepares the banchan and other traditional Korean dishes. Lee herself often helps out as a server during lunch. “Our daytime customers like to see our family working,” she explains. “Customers say they feel like they’re coming home from a long trip to their own mom’s house!”

Nutritious Stone Pot Rice Set with yellow corvina ($15.95 lunch; $20.95 dinner) PHOTO BY A. CONSILLIO

Though spacious, New Shilawon seems intimate and cozy, with cheerful decor and dozens of plants arranged and tended by Lee’s mother. The foyer is hung with autographs of Korean actors, singers and athletes who have visited the eatery.

Thanks to weeks of chillier-than-usual weather on Oahu, three of New Shilawon’s featured menu items have been tremendously popular. Shabu Shabu For Two ($35.95; available 11 a.m.-3 p.m.), is a hearty meal that includes bok choy, udon, cabbage, enoki mushrooms and sliced ribeye. The Nutritious Stone Pot Rice Set ($15.95 lunch; $20.95 dinner) combines purple and red rice, kabocha and beans, and either yellow corvina (fish) or bulgogi. And Kalbi Soup ($13.95 lunch; $10.95 Wednesday lunch special; $15.95 dinner) includes bone-in kalbi, long rice and a clear broth that is as warming as it is delectable.

There’s convenient parking on the restaurant’s basement level, down the ramp, and reservations are recommended.

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