by joel martens –
It may not be the homemade you know well, but the food at HōM Korean Kitchen is healthy, refined, comfort food at its finest for sure. When you cross the threshold of Konan Pi’s latest venture and Hillcrest’s newest import, you are in for a sublime treat both in taste and service. The name says it all according to Konan, “We call it HōM because I want customers to feel like you’re in my home and in my kitchen and I’m cooking you a freshly made meal from scratch. The idea was inspired by the game nights I’d host for my friends where I would cook everyone Korean barbecue.”
Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, Konan Pi’s early life experiences were framed by restaurants and food, “My parents emigrated from Korea and worked in restaurants until they were finally able to open their own. Eventually, their single restaurant grew into a short-lived chain of Chinese restaurants in the Midwest.”
Though his initial leanings were outside the kitchen, the pull to return was as strong as his family ties. “I felt alive cooking in the kitchen, timing everything perfectly so that customers are never waiting for food, while not cooking too much and the food just sits there. I got a rush of adrenaline every time customers start lining up and it’s super slammed. I genuinely had a lot of fun, and when our customers were satisfied; it made it all worthwhile.”
“Korean BBQ means the meats are thinly sliced, marinated with Korean seasonings like soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pepper, and then grilled on a charbroiler. All the veggies are made fresh daily and are either steamed, pickled, fermented or grilled. We make everything here from scratch, using no preservatives or artificial ingredients.”
His sister asked for his help to create a healthier concept for one of the family’s restaurants, creating a healthy, locally-inspired Chinese menu. “I was strongly against fast food, but, after working there I realized there is something noble to quick, affordable service, especially if you support the values of quality, fresh food and make everything from scratch.”
He returned to the Bay area and brought some of the things he learned to his first HōM Korean Kitchen in San Jose. “I decided to open HōM in downtown San Jose, because I felt that Korean food was an under appreciated cuisine.” He continued, “I wanted to create a concept that made Korean food more approachable; where anyone can walk in and see the food being prepared, hear the sizzle of the grill and smell the Korean seasonings.”
The setup is a simple build-your-own-rice bowl concept. You begin with a rice or salad base, then choose one protein and three veggies. Konan explained further, “Korean BBQ means the meats are thinly sliced, marinated with Korean seasonings like soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pepper, and then grilled on a charbroiler. All the veggies are made fresh daily and are either steamed, pickled, fermented or grilled. We make everything here from scratch, using no preservatives or artificial ingredients. We also have vegan and gluten free options. Our Korean chili paste (Gochujang) is made in house and it is the ‘bomb…’ I’ve been told it might even be better than Sriracha.”
We asked him why he chose San Diego and Hillcrest in particular, “I have always loved the Hillcrest community and when a location opened up I thought HōM would thrive in the mix of potential tenants. The landlord really loved my concept and decided to offer me a lease.”
As to his other reasons, he had this to say, “I love the abundance of fresh produce that is available locally. I believe that sourcing locally is better for the environment and better for our dishes. I think the quality and freshness of the ingredients compared to the low price point…It’s a good value and there’s really nothing else like it.”
All the more reason to stop by 5th Avenue and enjoy a new taste of HōM.
HōM Korean Kitchen is at 3825 5th Avenue. For more information on menu offerings, group parties and catering options, or to order, go to: homkoreankitchen.com.