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Yakiniku in Liliha a meaty idea


    Owner Victor Kim cooks on a yakiniku table at the Liliha restaurant.


    Among the regular plates at Ono Sushi & Yakiniku is BBQ chicken with vegetables.


    A selection of meats sizzles on the grill at Ono Sushi & Yakiniku in Liliha. The all-you-can-eat yakiniku dinner includes kalbi, beef, chicken, pork belly, spicy pork, rib-eye steak, inner rib and beef tongue.

I drive up Liliha Street en route home a few times a week and the scenery doesn’t change much, so I did a double take two weeks ago when a Korean takeout shop, Ono Sushi &Yaki­niku, started looking a little more like a sit-down restaurant and advertising all-you-can-eat yakiniku, an idea bound to appeal to carnivores.

The site, which had been home to Mama’s Kitchen and Mama’s BBQ, was purchased two years ago by first-time restaurant owners Victor and Stella Kim.

The eatery’s plate lunches, such as kalbi ($13.99), barbecue beef ($11.99), spicy pork ($11.99) and barbecue chicken ($11.99), are still being offered for lunch and dinner, but if you’re hungry for more than the standard two scoops rice, vegetables and single portion of meat, you can opt for the experience of cooking these to-go items yourself at the table.

I have to give the restaurant credit for having the creativity to turn fast food into something a little more elaborate in a bedroom community with few sit-down options, where some may not want to venture far from home for a bite to eat.

If you’re wondering whether you’ll like it, you might want to start with a plate lunch first. The all-you-can-eat yakiniku dinner also includes pork belly, skirt steak and beef tongue, at a cost of $29.99 per person for a minimum of two people (it’s $24.99 for lunch), and $15.99 per child between ages 3 and 10.

For the money, you get all seven kinds of meat, and when you finish, you can start ordering more of what you want. I’m partial to pork, so for me, this would be the pork belly and spicy marinated pork. I also love the kalbi.

Just don’t try to cheat the Kims by ordering more than you can pack away in one sitting. This being a small operation, there are rules that make it worthwhile for them to put out such an offer, the main one being you have to finish your meal on the spot. Don’t try to order a second round, eat a few pieces and ask to take out the rest. Anyone would get a second wind four hours later. The price is for a one-time meal, not two or three.

The meal also comes with a salad of crisp lettuce and slivered carrots topped with a roasted sesame dressing, and ban chan that consists of a handful of takeout-plate veggies, such as bean sprouts and cucumber kim chee. More lettuce is offered for wrapping the meat, which is accompanied by the standard sesame oil and salt blend and miso paste for dipping.

It all adds up to a lot of food, which works best for those with huge appetites. In weighing whether this works for you, consider that an order of one kind of meat at a good yakiniku restaurant runs about $24.99 to $29.99 per order, but it would be a meat of your choice, rather than the restaurant’s choice.

I think what Ono is doing is fair from a business owner’s standpoint, but for customers, it means giving up some freedom of choice. At a larger restaurant, you’d typically have the option of ordering only one meat selection, and filling the rest of your order with side dishes if you just want a taste of, but don’t want to fill up on, meat.

Some of the better sides are the plain and simple fried chicken wings ($6.99) and shrimp shumai ($6.99). Seafood and kim chee pancakes are listed on the menu, but are not being offered at this time. Maybe these will surface once the Kims grow more comfortable with the demands of table service.

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