kruizing with kikukat

Monday, October 3, 2011

Restaurant Chatter: Cham Cham is Back

Today is the first day of Fall Intersession, and unlike this time last year, I am going to try and be a couch potato instead of iron chef.  I've purchased all but season 5 of Criminal Minds (I have a bid on the season 5 dvd set) and my goal is to watch as many episodes of Criminal Minds as possible.  Cooking will likely interfere with my plans so I'll be doing a lot of takeout meals.

I'm really glad that my favorite Korean restaurant in Hilo is open again.  The Cham Cham Restaurant (421 Kalanikoa Street, Suite 102) serves the best Korean food in Hilo.  Some of you might be familiar with it as the old Snappy's Pizza location.  I like that the facilities are clean, there is ample parking for dinner, and the main waiter speaks English.  The little dishes of pickled vegetables are nice too.  But what I love most is the taste of the food.  Everything I have ever eaten at Cham Cham has been delicious.

Hilo almost lost Cham Cham.  In early June, I went to the Cham Cham for dinner and was shocked to see the place dark and a note on the door explaining that they were closed due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control.  I thought perhaps someone was ill (turns out nobody was ill), so I went back the following week.  Same sign, same dark restaurant.  I was devastated.  It was back to XX for my bi bim bap fix.  Don't get me wrong. XX makes a decent bi bim bap, but unlike Cham Cham, XX is not the "total package".

A few weeks ago, I heard a rumor that Cham Cham was going to reopen.  I went to see for myself yesterday, and sure enough, it was open!  I had dinner there Friday night and Saturday night (yes, its THAT good. . . I couldn't stay away).  In case you're wondering, I didn't have dinner there last night; the Cham Cham is closed on Sundays.

I love the assortment of little dishes.
garlic shoots
 My all-time favorite dish there is the bi bim bap.  It comes in a classy brass bowl, and you can select either bbq beef or bbq chicken as a topping.
The Korean chicken is another favorite.  This is NOT the same kind of Korean chicken your mom made (if your mom made Korean chicken).  Homestyle, Hawaii-style Korean chicken is usually some wing part which has been fried then dipped into a slightly-sweet soy, green onion & sesame oil sauce.  I enjoy Mom's Korean chicken, but Cham Cham Korean chicken is an entirely different dish altogether.  Instead of a teriyaki-like sauce, the sauce is clear with a definite vinegar taste.  It is neither overpowering nor cloying, but it takes the crispy chicken to a new level.
 If spice is your passion, try the Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup.  Laden with calamari pieces, shrimp, and a mussel, the hearty broth will definitely warm you to the bone on a cold, wet Hilo night.

This is a dish which competes with bi bim bap as my all-time favorite.  Its a seafood pancake that is as large as the size of a dinner plate.  Its served with a sesame dipping sauce.  Ask for the pancake to be cooked extra crispy.

If you don't mind the heat and are looking for a very filling meal, consider the kim chee fried rice.  You get a choice of meat (bbq chicken or some other kind of bbq meat), and it comes with a nicely fried egg sitting on top.

Cham Cham also does takeout plates and bentos (currently $6 for a combination bento).  Call (808-961-4741) at least 15 minutes in advance.  I took out a kal bi & mean juhn combination.  It came with 2 mandoo, a generous bed of rice and 4 different sides:  taegu, daikon kim chee, won bok kim chee, and namul.
chicken katsu & spicy pork bento
Kal bi & meat juhn combination plate (take out)

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