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By Steven Li on 2006-01-04

January 03, 2006


Onjin Kim, the owner and chef at OnJin’s previously operated an upscale restaurant in Hawaii Kai which closed down years ago. She spent time working at different hotels restaurants across the country but eventually returned to Hawaii to open up OnJin’s, a casual lunch and more formal dinner restaurant. A Korean lady with French training, the dishes offered here range from Hamachi with shrimp to Escargot Encroute and even an appetizer of Silk Road Poki: “ahi poke paried with a mediterranean octupus and potato salad”. Prices are extremely reasonable at lunch and I’ve yet to have a bad meal here. This may explain why Kakaako Kitchen with the same prices, no sit down service and mediocre food just a few blocks away is a lot more slow during lunch hour.
The brightly colored menu hangs from a board in front of the open kitchen. Walk in, decide what you want, order and pay up front at the register and then pick a table. I suppose this helps to keep the cost down. Aside from having to order at the register the restaurant operates like any other sit down place.
All lunch entrees are served with the same three sides which changes daily. Today was caesar salad, steamed broccoli and a white bean salad. Mom ordered the Crispy Snapper ($7.50) which came with three good sized pieces of snapper dipped in a tempura batter, deep fried and drizzled with a lemon caper beurre blanc. They were a little heavy on the beurre blanc this time, nearly coating all the fish, but that’s quickly forgiven as the snapper is always of high quality and perfectly done. Mom opted for the brown rice, citing that OnJin makes “the best brown rice in Hawaii.” I think she just likes the soft beans that are cooked with the rice.
The newest item on Onjin’s menus is the Boolgogi and Kimechee Sandwich ($7.25). I highlighted the first time I read about it in the Advertiser’s release of the 2005 edition of Hawaii’s Best Restaurants. And then I highlighted it again the second and third time I read it. I ended up reading over and highlighting it so many times that there’s now a hole in the page. Aside from that point this really is a delicious and simple sandwich. Shreds of spicy and moist boolgogi is piled on a grilled onion bun, then topped with kimchee, lettuce and tomatoes. Tender and moist beef with the tang of the kimchee complementing the crisp grilled bun – it really makes you wonder why people didn’t think of serving kimchee sandwiches earlier!
We never leave without an order of the Bread Pudding ($3.50). Our whole family (with the exception of my younger sister) are suckers for bread pudding. It’s such an easy dessert to make at home, but I always find that sweets taste better when someone else makes it for you. OnJin’s makes an excellent bread pudding, a tall, soft, warm treat on the custardy side dotted with rasins. On top is a nice whollop (it’s a new word I invented for quality whipped cream) of the lightest cream you’ve ever tasted, just barely sweetened. I try to brush cream aside on many desserts in a very weak attempt to save calories but mom and I often fight over the cream in OnJin’s case. Oh dear, it is wonderful indeed. The cream slowly melts into a beautiful white bliss with the heat of the pudding, turning into something akin to creme anglaise, only a million times better.

Finding parking here during peak lunch hours is a challenge, but once you taste the food and realize what a great value you get, OnJin’s will quickly become a favorite.

OnJin’s Cafe
401 Kamakee Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 589-1666

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