If you drive along Waialae Avenue near the Kaimuki City Mill area on a regular basis, you've probably been wondering about the restaurant spot that used to be an all black building, Momomo Restaurant. About a month ago I noticed there was activity around the building again after several months of being vacant. The building slowly transformed from the plain black building to a white and black building with a little more greenery here and there. It looked like it was open for business a couple weeks ago, but there wasn't any sign with a name of the restaurant. I was wondering if it was going to be another one of those Japanese restaurants with no sign, then what appears to be a stenciled name of their restaurant in black spray paint appeared above their main entry. It reads, "Korean Cuisine Richo".
We went there last night around 630p to give it a try. I don't believe they have done a "grand opening" yet. The layout inside is pretty similar to how it was when it was Momomo with the tatami room style seating areas on the sides. This is a Japanese Korean style restaurant so you are greeted by a bunch of workers shouting, "irasshaimase!" as you enter.
Since they have just opened and are probably still "practicing" for a grand opening (I hope), I will start by mentioning a few concerns and finish with what was good. I'll be straight forward about this.
The concerns I have after last night's dinner are: no paper or cloth napkins provided at the table (you need to hope you are a very neat and clean eater), a cold oshibori is provided after seating (cold is ok, but...), the oshibori is wrapped in plastic, but the server opens it up, removes it and hands it to you using bare hands (kind of weird and yucky), when guests are seated in the tatami section they remove their footwear (which is normal), but the servers rearrange the shoes then get drinks/oshibori without any obviously visible hand washing going on, no check up on drinks or water after initial delivery, rather disorganized and slow service because the servers aren't assigned to any specific section and it seems everyone is helping anyone. Alright, I realize that was like one super long run-on sentence that might not make any sense, but I know it had to be said and just wanted it buried in here and not standing out like it was the main point of this. On with the food...
A Wakame Salad was brought out first. I think this is the only item that is provided "free". Unlike normal Korean restaurants the bring out all the kim chee, bean sprouts, etc., those items are all available if purchased as appetizers. The Wakame Salad is seasoned with a sweet vinegar dressing and tastes fine. It does have some clam in it and I don't like clams, but I ate it anyway.
We then had a Sangchu Salad ($6). It is romaine lettuce with a special shoyu house dressing. It tasted fine, but again, this is usually something provided at a Korean restaurant at no extra cost.
Next out was the Cheese Kim Chee Chijimi ($12?). It is a Korean style pancake. While I am not a chijimi expert or anything, this was the best thing we had there. It was delicious! I am familiar with Japan's okonomiyaki and this seems like an okonomiyaki prepared with kim chee and cheese, served with a shoyu based dipping sauce rather than the thicker sweet okonomiyaki style sauce. It is brought out resembling a pizza and the server cuts it up into pieces using a scissors at table side.
I also ordered the Bulkogi (described as stir fry beef in special home made sauce $16) with table side service. This was disappointing. The portion was expected because it is a Japanese restaurant. The stone cookware was brought out to the table a few minutes earlier and was being preheated. The server then brought out the bulkogi to begin "stir frying". I could tell the stone was not nearly hot enough to "fry" anything, but on went the beef and vegetables. As you can see in the photos, it looks like a beef sukiyaki boiling away. In fact, the flavor actually tastes like sukiyaki and doesn't resemble Korean bulkogi flavoring at all. The flavor was a little light, but ok. I will probably try it again to see if the table side cooking improves.
The Hot Stone Bowl Bibimbap was next. We were asked if we wanted mild, medium or spicy before it was mixed into the hot stone pot beside the table. We went with medium to keep it "medium". The heat/spiciness was ok, I prefer spicier, but Kelli doesn't. The seasoning was not quite there and over all it was a little bland other than the spice. I could have fixed it up and it would have been fine, but they do not leave any condiments or sauces at the table. This means you have to just eat the food the way it is prepared and if that's the case, everything needs to be seasoned to perfection for every individuals preference. (Rather impossible.) They also left the stone pot there, but do not leave us any spoons or utensils to serve the rice out of the pot. Which leaves us with just an interesting pair of metal flat chopsticks (picture dull scissors). These unconventional chopsticks are the only utensils provided and you need to use it to eat/serve everything since everything is shared. If you can't use normal chopsticks well, you better ask for a fork! They look neat, but I would be much happier with conventional wooden chopsticks.
The servers are friendly and welcoming! The menu looks interesting and there is a lot more to explore. They are still working out their bugs and getting the practice so I will try them out again in the next month or two and see how it is. I hope it's good. Although, I have to admit, I don't think I would regularly go there because it was a $60 dinner for two last night for "Korean" food. If I was going out for Korean food or going to give a recommendation, and $60 was the budget for two, there are several other places I would choose before this. It is a Japanese style Korean restaurant and that is not something many people are specifically looking for when they ask for a restaurant recommendation. I think dinner with a larger group would be much better here so that a wider variety of food can be ordered and tried. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
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Rick Nakama (R) GRI SFR SRES
Rick Nakama (R) GRI SFR SRES