Hoho Sikdang’s salmon and avocado rolls (Photo credit: hohosikdang)
For over four years, Hoho Sikdang has been steadily serving homey Japanese eats, first from a hanok in Seoul’s Daehangno then at another hanok in Ikseon-dong before expanding to two more locations in Seongsu-dong and Sinsa-dong.
At the latest spot, which opened near Dosan Park in November, one will find tonkatsu -- fried pork cutlet -- crafted with pork fillet, as well as various donburi -- rice bowls -- topped with everything from thick slices of salmon sashimi to avocado and natto.
The food is straightforward, hearty, tasty and thoughtfully presented, even when ordered as takeaway or delivery.
Hoho Sikdang first opened in a hanok in Daehangno, Seoul, in 2016. (Photo credit: hohosikdang)
Co-owners Lee Yoon-mi and her husband started in 2016, decided christen their now budding restaurant empire “ho,“ meaning ”good.”
“We wanted to use the character ‘ho’ twice to signify eating good food with good people,” Lee, 46, explained in an email interview.
Good food must have been correct as Lee and her husband opened another location in 2018 and each year thereafter, staying involved in the process instead of franchising their business, until they found themselves juggling a total of four stores.
Hoho Sikdang opened its fourth location near Dosan Park in November 2020. (Photo credit: hohosikdang)
Throughout their expansion, Hoho Sikdang has not relied on newfangled and Insta-worthy riffs off traditional Japanese cuisine to keep diners coming, preferring, instead, to stick to the basics.
Meals often come with a bowl of miso soup, pickled vegetables and a solitary umeboshi, which is considered a digestive aid and is customarily eaten with rice.
The rice is served in generous heaps, each grain chewy and boasting a slight sweetness, and one can order a pork cutlet or an omurice and get just that, not a think-outside-the-box variation.
Instead of spending time trying to reinvent the wheel, Lee and her husband have focused on the basics -- on the ingredients and how to prep them.
“At Hoho Sikdang, we have continuously worked to become a restaurant that uses good ingredients to create clean and natural eats,” Lee elaborated.
Their careful attention shines through.
The rice is incredibly glossy and glutinous and the salmon is unctuous and not in the least bit fishy. The fillet tonkatsu, cradled in the thinnest skin of crisp bread crumbs, is incredibly juicy and tender.
None of this is by accident.
Hoho Sikdang’s pork fillet tonkatsu (Photo credit: hohosikdang)
Lee revealed the pork fillet is aged in “shio koji” -- a type of fermented salt mixture -- before getting breaded and fried.
“We prepare our fillet tonkatsu so one can enjoy the soft and silky texture of the meat itself as well as that pop of juiciness from the pork,” Lee elaborated.
As for the rice, Lee said, “We are using around ten rice pots at a time to make rice so our customers can always enjoy freshly cooked rice.”
Hoho Sikdang‘s salmon sashimi donburi (Photo credit: hohosikdang)
The salmon, Lee said, is brought in daily from Noryangjin Fish Market and undergoes various levels of preparation before being layered in thick slices over a dome of rice or if one is lucky to nab one, embedded into a tasty roll with avocado and topped with wasabi mayo.
“We make our wasabi mayo with fresh wasabi,” Lee said.
The rolls -- both the salmon and avocado and shrimp tempura -- however, prove notoriously difficult to order, as more often than not the rolls are sold out or unavailable.
The secret to getting a taste of these rolls is to avoid peak hours when visiting the Dosan store, which is the only location where the rolls are currently sold.
The pork fillet tonkatsu, at the moment, is also only available at the Dosan Park store, but Lee revealed plans to offer the dish at other locations in the future.
“We plan to keep introducing new menu items,” Lee added.