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Beyond kalbi & mandoo: Night at Duck Butt

After a lifetime of the usual grinds, Mari Taketa gets curious about what Koreans really love

Posted April 20, 2011 by Mari Taketa

I remember the time I talked Anna, my hairstylist, into telling me what hard-core Korean dishes she orders when she goes out. She didn’t want to tell me.

“Oh come on, Anna, Hawaii people know kalbi and mandoo, meat jun, fish jun, bibimbap, soft tofu chige. Tell me what Korean people like so I can try!”

“Not same, Mari. Local taste different from Korean taste.”

“I know! That’s why I want to know. Don’t worry, I can handle.”

A few days later, sitting in front of her recommended mix of fish skin, backbone and bean sprouts stir-fried with sea squirts, I realized how wise she was. For respite I hit the kimchee, which was the whole-cabbage kind. There were fermenting raw mussels hiding in the leaves.

So I learned to rein it in a little. But since my amazing January eatfest through Seoul, I’m back to wanting more. Culinary Korea, beyond what most locals know. What Koreans really like. With food guides who can help bridge the gap.

Why Cafe Duck Butt? Lots of buzz, especially since new owners took over and introduced Korean tacos and other local-friendly grinds to the karaoke bar’s menu last year. And what better way to go hard-core than with soju and Duck Butt’s flavored sojus?

Besides, I remembered that on the night of Nonstop’s launch party last September, my friend Myong Choi ordered a tableful of food at Duck Butt, remembered our party, ran over to Ka to help us celebrate, then back to Duck Butt for his soju and gizzards.

I wanted that. I wanted his guidance through all the oddly named red dishes on the Korean menu. And I wanted to find out what was on the other side when Michael Chong told me, “When we come here with local people, we order fried chicken and tacos. When we come here with Koreans, we order spicy squid and rabbokki.”

It’s only a start, but it’s a delicious start. Here are my discoveries from two nights at Duck Butt.

Night at Duck Butt (1 of 20)

Night at Duck Butt

Food guide Myong Choi and Nonstop's John Garcia, on board for my beyond-kalbi quest. Myong travels with lists of food quests and knows the K-restaurant scene as vice president of the Korean Chamber of Commerce. John loves kalbi so much, he wants it as his last meal before he dies. No kalbi tonight!

Cafe Duck Butt
901 Kawaiahao St.


  1. harrycovair
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    The Conch and Ika were really great dishes. What was the dish with the whole cooked egg? Disappointed with the Gizzards as the base sauce was way too sweet for me. Maybe a dipping sauce might have been better as the crunchiness of the deep fried Gizzards crust would have been preserved instead of being soaked to nothingness.

    Any Chige will put your stomach at ease for the drive home after a night of chugging Soju. There’s something about a hot/spicy or hot/sour soup that quells the uneasyness of having alcohol in your system.

    Now Mari, in photo #20, was that taken before the sun when down OR was it taken after an all night session in Cafe Duck Butt and you were leaving with the morning traffic? lol

  2. Ynaku
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Whoa you got my tummy growling so early in the morning. I like. I agree with @harrycovair that the gizzard should be served with the sauce on the side. I like mine crunchy. Oh great, only PBJ for breakfast.

  3. Lcuy
    Posted April 19, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Yum…lots of hot, red, and spicy dishes with beer bottles the size of garden gnomes. Duck fart shots. Korean ballads mixed with “Like a Virgin” on the Karaoke screens. A very different Korean experience than at the Yakiniku places. Glad your interest in korean food has been rekindled, Mari!

  4. nonstopmari
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:06 am

    @Ynaku @harrycovair i think the key was the spiciness, which wasn’t there last nite, bc it was the single most memorable dish from my 1st nite at duck butt. btw don’t know how u guys can be hypothesizing re gizzards so early in the a.m., must be a guy thing? :>

  5. nonstopmari
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:07 am

    @Lcuy no wonder ‘like a virgin’ has been running thru my head today!

  6. nonstopmari
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:11 am

    @harrycovair 1. if u loved that ika, i know another korean big-griddle dish u’ll love at korea house. maybe will get together another grp later in the year when it’s cooler.

    2. rabbokki, the one w/ the fishcake and instant ramen.

    3. sry re the gizzards, the seasoning was different from before, tho the texture doesn’t bother me. just korean-style that way.

    4. PLS!!! was taken when i got to duck butt!

  7. Ynaku
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 2:26 am

    @nonstopmari @harrycovair Sorry FUUD at ANY TIME hypnotizes me :)

  8. 808marv
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Looks like Cafe Duck Butt has become a bit of a hot/hip spot as of late, or at least breaking more “mainstream”. I noticed they even reworked their TV ad on KBFD to make it more inviting for all people to come to, not just Koreans. Jeff Chung also wrote about them a few months back in his Star Advertiser K-drama column. That rabbokki looks interesting, also of course the tacos and spicy pork w/kimchee. Maybe one day I’ll go. Oh and Lee Hyori is more of a “singer” than an actress. Yes, I know this. :-P

  9. nonstopmari
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 3:12 am

    @808marv wow, i knew u knew food trucks, but k-dramas and k-pop too? thnx for the lee hyori correction, have fixed it in the blog.

  10. nonstopmari
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 6:41 am

    a friend on fb messages this: nice article, it’s one of my faves. fyi “duck butt” in korean, refers to a a cute girls “apple bottom”, that sticks out like that…so i’m told…

  11. M
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Hello Mari, very interesting Korean food.

  12. eurekagal
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I know what you mean about taking a peek into the hardcore Korean food experience. Ate kimchee once and bit into a slimy fermenting shellfish and KNEW I was unworthy. Could not appreciate the stuff like how I think it should be appreciated. Seems like it should make a person rapturous to get all that kind of extreme stimuli at once, yeah?

  13. Posted April 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    i know interesting, but the kind i can handle! some foods i cannot handle. the one i think abt most is actually the spicy squid

  14. Posted April 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    eurekagal, u need an avatar :) come join me for spicy squid one day

  15. Posted August 31, 2011 at 1:41 am

    We’ll be at Duck Butt on Friday for more spicy goodness! :) Feel free to join us as we talk tech and get our karaoke on!


About Mari Taketa

Mari Taketa is a dedicated eater who's as opinionated as she is hungry. She covered everything from neighborhood mom-and-pop places to ethnic eateries to fine dining restaurants on Honolulu's dining scene for Metromix Honolulu and The Honolulu Advertiser's TGIF. Before that, she ate her way through Vietnam, Scotland and Japan, where she lived, traveled or worked, after recovering from a journalism career that included stints as editor-in-chief of Hawaii Business magazine and reporter and editor at The Associated Press. Her goals are to always be hungry for more, and to always want to know what's around the next corner.

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