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Kaka’ako Eats: Yuchun Korean Restaurant

It was hot and muggy yesterday, so our gang decided to cool off for lunch with some cold Black Noodle soup from Yuchun Korean Restaurant.

Yuchun Korean Restaurant is located in a small business plaza, next door on the diamond head side of McKinley Car Wash on Kapiolani Boulevard…

The only other business sharing the parking lot with them is Pro Am Golf Shop…

Black Noodle is Yuchun’s specialty, which is what’s depicted on that road sign above and in big bold letters on the sign in front. In case you’re still not reminded of that, they also have enlarged, framed photos of the dish hanging on the wall inside…


Black Noodle (Naengmyeon)


Spicy Black Noodle

When we arrived around 1:30pm on Saturday, the place was almost filled to capacity, which is a good sign…

Service was quick and friendly, except for the comment one server reminding Diner JO that “We aren’t responsible if your kids get injured”. Wassup wit’ that? All her kids were doing was walking a little and talking to each other next to the table. They weren’t even horsing around. Sheesh. Anyways.

The restaurant dining room and seating are very comfortable, clean, inviting and casual…

Remember that exhausting post I did earlier this year on Chopsticks? Well, being a Korean Restaurant with a focus on soup, sure enough Yuchun provides that unique elongated Stainless Steel Korean Spoon along with disposable bamboo (not stainless steel, shucks) chopsticks…

Imagine trying to pick-up them slippery a Black Noodles (they’re just as slippery as long rice noodles) with the also-slippery slick Korean Stainless Steel Chopsticks. That’d be a nightmare! lol

O.K., let’s check out what’s on the menu…

Notice on the bottom part of the menu in pink where it says SPECIALS there’s “sets”. Set A is for two people and Set B is for one. Those sets include your choice of Black Noodle (regular or spicy) and either Bulgogi or Kalbi. So our table of five (plus two young children) ordered two sets of Set A with the Kalbi (of course), while I ventured out a little and ordered the Black Noodle with Spicy Sauce and Raw Fish as a solo dish (bowl).

The complimentary Banchan (Korean side dishes) served at Yuchun are quite simple and minimal, yet always a nice touch…


Pickled Julliened Daikon and Won Bok Cabbage Banchan


Thinly-slivered Pickled Daikon Banchan


Pickled Won Bok Cabbage Banchan

As a selling point, they really should mention on the menu that the Kalbi is “sizzling”, as that’s how it’s presented on the table: on a sizzling-hot cast iron platter…


Yuchun – Kalbi

Notice the steam wafting off the piping hot, grilled Kalbi Shortribs. Looks, smells and SOUNDS so ono!

Here’s the second platter of sizzlin’ hot Kalbi…


Yuchun – Kalbi (sizzling platter #2)

OMG! And I told myself I wasn’t going to eat red meat on this day, but these platters of sizzlin’ hot Kalbi quickly threw that thought out the door. lol


Yuchun – Kalbi

O.K. I wasn’t going to “eat” red meat on this day, but I did try a piece just for “research purposes” and I must declare, this is one of the best Kalbi I’ve had yet. What I personally liked about it is that it wasn’t over-marinaded and wasn’t too “teriyaki” sweet, while the beef itself – even if the shortrib cut was on the thin side – was very, very tender and of good quality, while those char-grilled edges and the psychological effect of it arriving at the table on a sizzling-hot cast iron platter really hit it out of the park. Yuchun’s take on it is as good as Kalbi gets. A solid 4 SPAM Musubi – if the shortrib cut were thicker (like 1″), easy 5. Looking for not just good, but GREAT Kalbi? Yuchun is your answer!

Moving on to the star of the show (as if the Kalbi didn’t already take that title away from it), we have the cold Black Noodle soup, or Naengmyeon in Korean.

Wait a second, “Black Noodle” you say? Well O.K., not really BLACK, but a very dark brown and similar to Japanese Soba, but unlike Soba which is made from Buckwheat Flour, Naengmyeon is made from the Kudzu root.

Here we have the regular (not spicy) Black Noodle in Iced Soup…


Yuchun – Black Noodle in Iced Soup

Notice how “gritty” the broth appears? That’s finely-crushed ice. When they say cold Black Noodle, they mean COLD!

So the regular (not spicy) cold Black Noodle arrives at the table with the iced beef and vegetable broth already added in it (at least it did on this visit), while the cold Spicy Black Noodle arrives with the broth on the side…


Yuchun – Black Noodle with Spicy Sauce

Here’s the ice cold Beef and Vegetable broth for the Spicy Black Noodle…


Iced Beef & Vegetable Soup Broth for the Black Noodle with Spicy Sauce & Raw Fish

Here’s my Spicy Black Noodle with Raw Fish…


Yuchun – Black Noodle with Spicy Sauce & Raw Fish

Before pouring the broth into the bowl, the server quickly cuts the Black Noodles into fourths (using a Kitchen Scissors) to reduce each noodle’s length for easier eating….


Yuchun – Black Noodle with Spicy Sauce & Raw Fish (noodles cut)

You can see here where it gets its “spicy” name from the addition of Gojujang sauce. But it wasn’t as spicy as I expected it to be. I thought it’d be scorching in Scoville units, but it turned out quite mild and more sweet and quite pleasant.

Here it is now with the crushed ice, beef & vegetable broth added…


Yuchun – Black Noodle with Spicy Sauce & Raw Fish, iced beef & vegetable soup broth added

The server also cuts the noodles in the non-spicy Black Noodle…


Black Noodle in Iced Soup (noodles cut)

So how is it? Winnah, winnah, Black Noodle dinnah! Err, lunch that is. I haven’t had cold soba for a long time now, so this was a refreshing re-introduction to the genre of cold noodles. The noodles itself are like a combination of Japanese Soba and Chinese Long Rice Noodles. At least that’s the best way I can describe it. Here’s a closer look at the noodles itself…

Notice in the broth surrounding it that there’s bead of oil floating at the surface, which as you might expect at a Korean Restaurant is Sesame Oil. It’s not overpowering, but enough there in a very pleasant way, really enhancing the flavor of the vegetable and beef broth. Also blending into the broth is the Gojujang sauce, providing a slightly sweet, acidic and spicy twang to it. While the vegetable and beef broth is very subtle, yet you know it’s there, giving the overall dish (bowl) a pleasant and satisfyingly savory appeal.The texture of the crushed ice is very interesting in a savory dish like this and unlike anything I’ve ever had before.

So what about the raw fish, you ask? I asked myself the same question when the dish arrived in front of me. Do you see any raw fish? I don’t. I was expecting this beautiful arrangement of sliced sashimi-grade Ahi arranged on top, but nope. You know what the raw fish was? It’s this….

Guess what that is? If I didn’t tell you, I bet you wouldn’t have a clue. Well, it’s raw Skate, a.k.a. Stingray. Holy Batman! When I asked the server what it was and she told me Skate Fish, I nearly fell out of my chair. lol

Well, Skate is something new for me anyway, as that’s not something commonly found in our supermarkets. They must have gotten it from Chinatown. It had this weird, cartilage-like texture, with cells of raw fish flesh between it, and was chewy and tough, although flavor-wise, it was pretty good. It tasted mildly like Bonito. I’m not sure if Skate is what they normally use, but that’s what I got. So if you’re not sure about that and also might have been expecting something more like raw Ahi, ask them what the “Raw Fish” is before ordering this one.

The other garnishes in my Spicy Black Noodle with Raw (Skate) Fish was Julliened Cucumbers and thinly-sliced Daikon, which added a zesty, refreshing crunch to the slippery-soft black noodles.

The boiled egg on top was a nice touch as well, which of course makes for a great presentation topping the bowl….

I also got to try some of the sliced beef that comes with the other Black Noodle dishes (bowls)….

The thinly-sliced cold beef was just OK, but flavorless in comparison to that STELLAR Kalbi sitting on the same table.

Other than that weird part of eating Skate, I really, really enjoyed my Spicy Black noodle. Enough to give it a solid 3 SPAM Musubi rating.

The stainless steel bowls the cold Black Noodle is served in are huge too, with the portion being so much that I couldn’t even finish the entire thing, leaving behind a little of the broth and noodles.

I tried the non-spicy black noodle and thought it was bland in comparison to the spicy version. That mildly spicy, sweet and acidic Gojujang sauce and touch of sesame oil in the spicy version really enhanced the flavor of the crushed ice, beef and vegetable soup broth, and with that I highly recommend you order the Spicy version if you try this dish. Don’t worry, it’s not as spicy-hot as it sounds. Just really, really good!

Ah, what a fantastic lunch at Yuchun!…

So if you’re looking for a refreshing dish to cool you off on a hot Hawaiian day, dig into some cold Black Noodles at Yuchun. Don’t forget to order their most excellent Kalbi too!

Yuchun Korean Restaurant
1139 Kapiolani Blvd. (next to McKinley Car Wash)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Tel. 589-0022

Business Hours:
11am to 10pm daily

The Tasty Island SPAM Musubi Rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Related links:
Yuchun, a closer look – Aku Eats
Yuchun Korean Restaurant – Yelp user reviews

http://www.tastyislandhawaii.com/images/yuchun_soup_broth.jpg

4 thoughts on “Kaka’ako Eats: Yuchun Korean Restaurant

  • October 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm
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    I never really got into soba in Japan or HI… now I know why: never tried Korean!

    Reply
  • October 11, 2009 at 3:11 pm
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    I’ll go just for the kalbi if nothing else. Cold black noodles sounds very interesting and since I like soba noodles, I probably would like this version. (mmm–kalbi—drooling)

    Reply
  • October 13, 2009 at 8:38 am
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    have been wanting to try korean cold noodles but been a little apprehensive. now at least i know where to go! thanks!

    Reply
  • March 6, 2010 at 3:34 pm
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    thanks for the review. seen the place driving on Kapiolani… never checked it out. now I will.

    Reply

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