If you've missed the unique brand of Korean-inspired gourmet cuisine that used to be on Smith Street, O’Kims Korean Kitchen has reopened after a brief shuttering in a larger home on Nuuanu Avenue. And let's face it, O'Kims' old Chinatown hole-in-the-wall was on a stretch that was best ventured during daylight — and still chef-owner Hyun Kim developed a loyal following for dishes like crispy crust poached salmon, confit pork belly and the flavor bomb that was her bibimbap.
So what's different about her new spot? It's the old Kan Zaman space, meaning O'Kims is now a full-service lunch and dinner restaurant with indoor and patio courtyard tables ... and it's BYOB. Kim has also introduced appetizers and mocktails in addition to popular monthly specials showcasing her passion for food and experience in kitchens like Chef Mavro, Vintage Cave and Morimoto.
Did I mention she's also an alum of Kapiolani Community College's culinary arts program?
Start with the truffle mandoo, a showcase of control and balance. The truffle flavor is understated and earthy, with three types of mushrooms and two types of squash making up the bulk of the filling. This dish is vegan but no one will miss the meat. Tiny cubes of shoyu gelee, takuan and pickled jalapenos offer a nice textural complement to a lovely, technically challenging mandoo lattice.
Though I tend to be a traditionalist when it comes to Korean food, I am starting to embrace evolutions of the monolith that is Korean-American food. From my recent visit to David Chang’s Momofuku Las Vegas to O'Kims, I am loving the liberties chefs are taking to push the envelope of cuisine food in America.
For entrees, Kim's classic seaweed salmon is a perfect example of of her haute evolutionary style. Kim blends gim, or roasted seaweed lightly salted and brushed with sesame oil, with panko breadcrumbs to make a crispy, filmy crust around melt-in-your-mouth sous vide salmon. She adds an ingenious Korean remoulade full of chopped takuan, and tops it all with a pickled grape tomato and tosazu (Japanese-style bonito vinegar dressing) gelee that sings.
As for monthly specials, Kim posts them at bottom of the menu page on the O'Kims website each month. For January, the specials include a red wine braised kalbi jim ($17.95), jidori chicken ginseng risotto ($18.95), and a (very) crispy pan fried moi ($15.95). I should mention there are now a couple of dessert options, but then again, if you're like me you'll probably be too full.
O'Kims Korean Kitchen
1028 Nuuanu Avenue
Monday - Saturday 10 a.m - 2 p.m. and 4 - 8 p.m.