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Do the duck

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  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Co-owner Jin Hong watches bartender Jamie Choe pour the popular strawberry soju for Reo Kim, left, and C.J. Bae at the bar of Cafe Duck Butt.
  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    The house-special flourless fried chicken is served with daikon and a large bottle of Hite beer.

Cafe Duck Butt is a strange bird, but I enjoy the hell out of it. From the goofy name to the electric color scheme to the extensive menu, this karaoke joint is a jolt to the senses.

The main room is bathed in neon colors — lime green, electric blue, ultraviolet. The tables are booth-style, with comfortable bench seats, set up for convivial gatherings. Korean karaoke videos play nonstop on multiple screens. The effect is contempo-budget-Asian, slick, bright and comfortable.

Come early enough during the daily happy hour, and you may be the only party, or see just a few other people. But later in the evening, on weekends particularly, Cafe Duck Butt may fill to capacity with karaoke-room revelers and tables full of in-the-know locals who have the good grinds and reasonable drink prices wired.

The food is good, the service relatively fast and friendly. When I visited with a party of four, the manager dropped by to check on our reaction to the Korean tacos recently added to the menu, of which he was justifiably proud.

CAFE DUCK BUTT

901 Kawaiahao St.

593-1880

Happy hour:
» 5-8 p.m. daily
» $2 draft beers (normally $3)
» $8 Korean beer "pitchers," i.e., 40-oz. bottles of Hite (normally $12)
» $8 soju canisters, approx. 32 oz. (normally $15)
» Extensive happy-hour specials on dozens of items

Pupu picks:
» Korean tacos ($12 for three)
» Kimchee pancakes ($7 during happy hour, $12 after)
» Poke ($7 during happy hour, $12 after)
» Fried chicken ($7 during happy hour, $12 after)

 

While I’m neither young nor Korean — the primary crowd at Duck Butt — I’ve been a few times now, and each time I’ve been greeted quickly, with my questions answered promptly and food served right away.

There is plenty of room, and if you appreciate clean and shiny, you are really going to love the restrooms (the subject of much praise in online forums).

The karaoke rooms, one of which I recently experienced at a friend’s going-away party, are similarly comfortable, and the service (order by wall phone) is just as responsive. Staffers were even good-natured when my big karaoke party’s members insisted on starting beaucoup individual tabs. That’s when you know you’ve got a professional, patient crew. (However, let me note that the Asian melodrama videos that play behind every song can be oddly distracting, as when a kidnap scene accompanied "That’s What Friends Are For" during my friend’s party.)

KIMCHEE or Chive pancakes are the star of the show; $7 during happy hour, and $12 at other times (as are garlic ahi steak, somen, spicy pork and other good-sized dishes). I’m thoroughly in love with the kimchee variety: While packed with spicy fermented cabbage, the pan-frying process mellows the flavor and makes it a, dare I say, "refreshing" complement to ice-cold beer. And the beer is ice-cold here, right down to the chilled mugs; it needs to be, since Cafe Duck Butt prefers the watery lager styles and offers no ales. (There is a full bar, and liquor specials are offered nightly.)

Recently added to the menu, Korean tacos are not discounted, but they are delicious. At $4 each (minimum order of three), they might be one of the more pricey items you can order, but they are an adventure.

Inspired by L.A.-style tacos and the food wagons that sprang up to serve them in ethnic styles, they’re made with small corn tortillas and well-spiced meat. Get them stuffed with pork belly, kalbi or chicken, cucumbers and cabbage, and a house-made Korean chili sauce that gives them a unique zing. It’s your choice as to whether they are garnished generously with cilantro.

The menu is extensive. Mussel soup, oysters, tripe, veggie platter? I’d venture to guess that most are done well, as we were quite happy with our choices.

You can also get "Chrysalis," which one patron described as tasting like "cardboard," but I didn’t try it myself. From frankly Korean fare such as dried squid and peanuts or whole boiled squid, available at discounts during happy hour, to expected goodies like sweet potato french fries and mochiko chicken, you’ve got choices.

If you appreciate variety in a well-executed menu, value in a nice, long happy hour and entertainment value in a slightly eccentric (but uber-competently operated) hideaway, Cafe Duck Butt is your jam.

 

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