Olympic Bites Take The Gold

Ono, You Know

February 25, 2018

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been glued to the TV over the last few weeks, catching every moment I can of the Winter Olympics. In addition to the thrill of watching incredible athletes perform at what can only be described as an out-of-this-world level, the coming together of so many nations, as well as the aspirations that shine in the name of sports, are remarkably uplifting, particularly in today’s world.

Of course, it is also exciting to learn about the host country through the Games, and all eyes are on Korea as Pyeongchang becomes the ultimate stage for competition. Not surprisingly, my thoughts immediately go to food, and I’ve been craving Korean fare ever since the first medals of 2018 were awarded. So clearly, the only thing left to do is to host my very own “Ono-lympics,” right here, right now, in which the most sizzling Korean specialties are about to become gold medalists.

The Games may be winding down in Pyeongchang, but the delicious competition is just getting started over here.


Olympic athletes may be on a strict diet during the races, but their families, spectators and commentators alike are still sharing in cultural experiences while in South Korea, including visiting amazing restaurants. On social media, I saw my favorite athlete, former short-track speed skater and gold medalist Apolo Ohno, showing off a tantalizing yakiniku feast, which left my mouth utterly watering for Korean barbecue.

Seoul Garden’s Beef & Webfoot Octopus Pot Stew ($49.95)

One of my go-to spots is Seoul Garden Yakiniku on Kapiolani Boulevard, where traditional flavors are absolutely mastered. Regulars love to fire up a range of succulent meats and vegetables on tabletop grills, and enjoy them alongside authentic banchan. Some of the most popular meats to throw on the grill include Bulgogi ($25.95), Ribeye ($27.95), Pork Belly ($23.95) and Marinated Short Ribs ($29.95).

An assortment of yakiniku meats from Seoul Garden

One of the winning selections from Seoul Garden is Beef & Webfoot Octopus Pot Stew ($49.95). What pushes this dish into gold-medal territory is the way it’s cooked to perfection with a little help from the eatery’s unique, hybrid grills. Bringing together shabu shabu and yakiniku in one apparatus, the grills feature a classic grill-grate surrounded by a soup pot. That way, you can throw the tender and spicy short-arm octopus, as well as the marinated meat and veggies, on the grate, while the savory broth cooks away simultaneously. It all makes for one melting pot of deliciousness.


For a more contemporary take on Korean dining, go ahead and get swept away in the fusion bliss of Umami-ya Shabu Shabu. The upscale hot-pot destination combines Korean influences with Japanese and local flavors to create one simmering dining experience.

Umami-ya’s Tofu Kimchee ($11.95 regular, $9.95 happy hour)

When ordering up a savory shabu shabu selection, look out for delightful Korean-style mochi, which supplements the sumptuous meat, seafood, vegetable and noodle options that cook to perfection at your table.

Where the record-breaking performances really come into play, however, is on the appetizer menu, which sizzles with Tofu Kimchee ($11.95 regular, $9.95 happy hour) and Kimchee Pancake ($9.50 regular, $6.95 happy hour), among other delectable bites.

Umami-ya’s Kimchee Pancake ($9.50 regular, $6.95 happy hour)

Tofu Kimchee instantaneously attracts diners with the alluring scent of sesame oil. Boiled tofu serves as a blank canvas for the bold, sour goodness of kimchee, which is accented with thinly sliced meat seasoned with garlic, green onion and sesame.

Kimchee Pancake, on the other hand, is a little milder, but still full of flavor thanks to hints of ground beef that are mixed into the classic, eggy Korean pancake batter. Good to note: Large portions make these pupus very sharable, and both of them are available for happy hour pricing from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and again during late night hours from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Also available during those late night hours: the Twilight Shabu Shabu Special, featuring a choice of U.S. Choice ribeye or Kurobuta pork belly for just $19.95 — a deal you can’t miss.

Now it’s your turn to go and try these golden bites.

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