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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 9, 2001

Lunch Break: Where Korean 'cue is the star attraction

By Debra Yuen
Advertiser TGIF Editor

Kalbi — marinated, thin-cut barbecued beef ribs — are a perennial local favorite, and In Sam Cafe does them wonderfully.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

This town cannot have enough Korean barbeque places. No, really, especially if they're all like In Sam Cafe, which opened just a few weeks ago.

Keep your eyes wide open as you cruise along Cooke Street, because if you blink, you might miss the restaurant that sits at the farthest makai end of a row of little retail ventures that includes a convenience store, a flower/gift shop and a bunch of eateries. It's not very easy to spot from the street, but once you find it you might feel the urge to go back again and again.

Especially for the kalbi. Those thin strips of short ribs are just right — tender, not too sweet. The lunch special — barbequed chicken, meat jun and mandoo, with the accompanying rice and veggie side dishes — is a true bargain at $5.50. Then there's the hefty combo plate — kalbi, chicken and mandoo, etc. — at $6.50 that's more than enough food for lunch and probably will stuff you silly (but happily!) for dinner.

Note for spice heads: The kim chee is explosive — less sweet than some, more heated than others.

The folks at In Sam Cafe are friendly and accommodating. The day's special is listed on a board near the kitchen. Of course, the restaurant offers all the local yummies we've come to love, from butterfish to tonkatsu, from spicy pork to mandoo kook soo (dumpling noodle soup) to bi bim bap (rice with veggies, beef and fried egg).

In Sam Cafe has maintained the comfortable, almost elegant furnishings of the previous occupants, the duck-specializing Chosun Korean Restaurant. More than a few dozen diners can be accommodated comfortably; their takeout business appears to be pretty brisk.

In Sam Cafe, at 725 Kapi'olani Blvd. (Imperial Plaza), suite C-126, is open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. 593-9036.