Seoul Mix 2.0, the last and final spot at Ala Moana's Lanai food court, opened last week with a welcome dose of Korean-Mexican fusion. Right off the bat, the menu reads like a list of everything you want in life. I order one KFC stick, one bibimbap with wagyu bulgogi, one Hawaiian chicken taco plate and one Soul Fries with spicy pork. I still want the super cheesy donkatsu and the kimchi Spam fried rice, but one must institute a limit, right?
Start off with the KFC sticks — Korean fried chicken on skewers dunked in your choice of a sweet soy honey glaze or a spicy pepper sauce they refer to as "Volcano." You could say I have a penchant for chicken on sticks. I'm also obsessed with chimek (Korean fried chicken and beer), so I'm not about to let these slip through my grasp.
Although I can't have one of each flavor (why, Seoul Mix, why?!) I think a mixed option would outsell either flavor alone. The chicken has ample crunchy skin (this is good) and holds onto the sauces well. Two sticks with three pieces each make this $6 item reasonable, and they're fried fresh to order. I can see getting some beer from Agave and Vine bar (where it's BYOFood) to enjoy with these for pau hana.
California has to be the only place where two cuisines can fuse over a bed of fries. Case in point: the loaded Soul Fries, another one of the chef's specialties. With your choice of wagyu bulgogi (a $1.50 upgrade), Hawaiian chicken (local-style bbq chicken), gochujang chicken (the spicy chicken offering) and gochujang pork (AKA spicy pork), these run $8 to $9.50 and are seriously loaded. Toppings include cheese, kimchi, corn, queso fresco, white sauce, spicy aioli, onion and cilantro along with your protein cooked up on the flat top.
I opt for the gochujang pork and it fit the fries well. The only complaint is that the pork isn't chopped up, so it makes for unwieldy eating. Pick up one of the loaded strips of pork on your first bite and there's not much left to go around. The fries are skinny so they cool fast but remain relatively crisp. I recommend eating this one as soon as possible.
For entrees, the build-your-own bibimbap is the way to go; it comes with fried egg, your choice of protein, rice (white or brown) and banchan in a wide bowl with a lid. Cover it up good and shake away to mix rice, pickles, meat and egg. The Stacked Bowl replaces the fried egg with japchae glass noodles and includes six sides for $12.25. Brown rice and wagyu bulgogi are upgrade options for $1 and $1.50, respectively.
Tacos (two to an order) range from $8 to $9 and plate the proteins on doubled-up flour tortillas with kimchi, lettuce, cabbage, spicy aioli, cheese, black sesame, onion and cilantro. It comes with a smattering of fries so it's no slouch of a meal. Of the four choices, I opt for Hawaiian chicken out of curiosity.
Hawaiian chicken turns out to be Seoul Mix's take on the soy-honey marinated barbecue chicken you find at Korean plate lunch spots around town. It's too sweet for my liking, but for a protein option it does the job. The soft tortilla with a few pieces of chicken under a mound of toppings might have filled me up, but I would have enjoyed the taco with crispy KFC instead — you know, for texture and every other reason why fried is better than grilled.
Having missed Korean-Mexican food for a while (Roy Choi's Kogi and Chego, I'm looking at you) it's good to see that it's now an option in town. The lighter fare in the bibimbap bowls and pau hana friendly specialties like KFC sticks and kimchi Spam fried rice are a nice fit for the Grand Lanai. You'll do well to put this in your rotation, for lunch or dinner.
Seoul Mix 2.0
Ala Moana Lanai food court
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Mall Level
10 a.m. - 9 p.m.