I thought the EXO in Hawaii chapter was over when the group’s photobook “PRESENT; gift” was released in April.
Now a second 204-page Hawaii photobook, “PRESENT; the moment” is set to be released on Sept. 10.
SM has already teased a handful of photos. The last outing featured picturesque destinations. The teased photos showed the more mundane, with Chen and Suho pictured inside humble Kaimuki Laundromat, and D.O., Sehun, Kai and Baekhyun standing prettily in silk lei on a residential street. Shades of “EXO Next Door!” If I knew they were on my street I would run out of the house.
I did get a friend’s shared picture when we just so happened to make ourselves useful by hand-delivering bento lunches to EXO while they were at Kualoa Ranch. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hang around because they were headed to Secret Island Beach, and as soon as we got there a staffer grabbed the lunches from us to load onto their boat.
There was only room for a small crew, so they left about 30 other crew members behind. As they were heading out, my friend took a few photos, and below is one of them. I like to say this was the first time my future husband Chen saw me waving him off. LOL!
It’s not like I’m a stalker; I just wanted to see what they look like, how tall they are IRL. D.O., Baekhyun and Chen are pretty short. I think they heighten in their bios. Otherwise they look the same as their photos. The only surprise was D.O. I don’t care much for his looks in 2D—of this group Chen is my bias; if you include Lay it would be Lay—but in 3D D.O.’s features just pop and he is really good-looking.
That said, the second book comes along just at the time EXO-Ls may be missing our EXO members in the military Xiumin and D.O., and this keeps them at the top of our thoughts.
I’m not one who needs a pop-culture reference to spark a culinary expedition, but I understand the impulse. Films like “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and “Eat Drink Man Woman” each left me hungry for nigiri sushi and Chinese food, respectively. Alas, in those cases, similar cuisine was nowhere to be found on Oahu at that time. (Great sushi bars have since materialized.)
When traveling, K-pop stars inevitably start missing a taste of home, and that’s how I ended up following in their footsteps to a couple of restaurants in town for some “When Harry Met Sally”-style, “I’ll have what he’s having moment.”
That’s how I ended up at Seoul Jung restaurant, not exactly a top-of-mind Korean restaurant for locals because of its hidden status, tucked away on the second floor of the Waikiki Resort Hotel, and at New Shilawon Korean restaurant, where I was also eager to try a holiday special of $9.99 samgyetang, kalbi soup or kalbi and vegetable soup.
BTS was here on the Big Island and Oahu in spring 2017 for the season 2 filming of their annual summer vacation package “Bon Voyage.” Some places they showed up included Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo, and Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Haleiwa.
They split up three ways for dinner one night, but two of the groups including R.M. (Kim Nam-joon), J-Hope (Jung Ho-seok), Park Jimin, Jeon Jung-kook and Jin (Kim Seok-jin) ended up at Mikawon, where one wall has become a shrine to BTS, with guests adding their artwork memorializing their visit to the restaurant.
Meanwhile, Sugar (Min Yoon-gi) and V (Kim Tae-hyung) ended up at Seoul Jung, where I was able to sample the mul naengmyeon (cold noodle soup) and doenjang jigae (soy bean paste stew) that nearly drove them to tears after being away from Korean food for two weeks.
As soon as I was seated at Seoul Jung, I asked the wait staff if they remembered BTS, and they did! From there I had 100 questions like, “Were they cute? Were they funny? Did you talk to them?” Only to find Suga and V left no strong impression. I was told they were quiet and polite, sitting in the very back of the restaurant in a room with more privacy than in the main dining room.
People are not usually seated there unless the main dining room is full. That’s when I was told about Japanese visitors who show up with screenshots in hand and, matching up the artwork on the walls, beg to sit in the same seats Suga and V occupied. I was fine with sitting in one of the booths outside that room.
The restaurant caters to the Korean palate, with flavors lighter and more refined than local-style Korean. In fact, throughout their visit and sampling local food, the BTS members’ reaction to most local food was that it is extremely salty.
In contrast, Suga said Seoul Jung’s food “hit the spot,” and the soy bean stew ($16.95) reminded him of his mom’s cooking. Their smiles, tears and quiet reverie as they emptied their bowls said a lot.
The mul naengmyeon ($15.50), or cold noodle soup, was refreshing. The buckwheat noodles were topped with slices of apple and half a boiled egg, in a broth of beef and vegetables, brightened with vinegar and clear soda. It’s served with extra vinegar for those who crave more of the sourness associated with authentic Korean fare.
I could taste why Suga appreciated the doenjang jigae ($16.95). It had the flavor of home, mild and comforting, a simple soybean paste, tofu, beef and vegetable stew that one could eat every day without tiring of it.
Because no Korean meal feels complete without meat, I added on the L.A.-style grilled, sliced kalbi ($28.95), so succulent and tender it was easily the highlight of the meal. Wang-style kalbi on the bone ($28.95) is also available, but I was in a lazy, no-fuss mood, so having the shortribs finished and cut in the kitchen was fine with me. Both arrive on a sizzling platter. If you’re the grill-it-yourself type, you can always order assorted meats for a customized yakiniku experience. Selections range from kalbi and sirloin ($26.75 each), to black pork belly ($23.95), beef tongue ($24.75) and beef tripe ($25.95).
EXO also showed up Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2018 for filming and photo shoots, and in addition to being spotted at Champs Sports Bar in Kaimuki and the Haleiwa McDonald’s, showed up for dinner their last night in town at New Shilawon restaurant, where they enjoyed kalbi jjim ($26.95), kim chee jeon ($16.99), fish roe stew ($19.95) and yakiniku.
A few weeks later I was there to try the restaurant’s lunch special (through Dec. 22) of ginseng chicken soup, but yakiniku sounds good to me, so as a meat eater, I’ll probably revisit soon. The banchan and food are great here, and so is the staff.
The yakiniku is $29.95 or $34.95 per person (minimum two people) for all-you-can-eat, lunch or dinner. For $29.95 15.99 for children ages 5 to 10), meat options are pork belly, beef brisket, BBQ chicken, bulgogi and spicy pork. For $34.95 the selectors is greater: ribeye, beef tongue, beef brisket, cubed beef flank, pork belly, kalbi, bulgogi, BBQ chicken and spicy pork. Typical all-you-can eat rules are in effect, like a two-hour time limit, $3 per plate fee for leftovers and no take-out.
IF YOU WANT TO GO:
Mikawon Korean Restaurant: 2310 Kuhio Ave. Call 808.924.3277 New Shilawon Korean Restaurant: 747 Amana St. Call 808.944.8700 Seoul Jung: Waikiki Resort Hotel, 2460 Koa Ave. Call 808.921.8620
By Nadine Kam I The arrival of EXO in Hawaii for filming and photo shoots Nov. 27 through Dec. 1 had local EXO-Ls scouring social media to find them, but they were a moving target showing up in some unlikely places, like filming at a gas station, a sports bar and McDonald’s.
It was funny how other international EXO-Ls warned Hawaii fans to lay off the boys and give them space. Haha. If they appeared in their towns, they would probably be the ones giving chase. And besides, they don’t know Hawaii very well. Like anybody else, we like to gawk at celebs, but we’re laidback enough to give them their space and not get in their face. That would be rude in our dominant Asian culture.
Anyway, here’s how their week took shape:
Tuesday, Nov. 27: Arrived at Daniel K. Inouye airport. Appeared at Safeway Kapahulu and in the evening at Champs Sports Bar & Grill on Waialae Avenue.
Wednesday, Nov. 28: Three Tables Beach and Haleiwa McDonalds.
Chanyeol’s version of the butterfly stroke while in Hawaii.
Thursday, Nov. 28: Shell Gas station McCully, Wet N’ Wild Hawaii water park Kapolei, Ka Makana Ali’i shopping center.
Friday, Nov. 30: Kualoa Ranch. Dinner at New Shilawon Korean Restaurant.
Saturday, Dec. 1: Fly back to South Korea.
While sleuthing around, trying to find their whereabouts, I wondered whether their Instagram feeds would be of any help. They were fun to look at, but I got the best leads from people with ties to the Korean community.
Here’s a look at their IG styles. Note that missing in action are Chen and D.O. Chen is one of my biases, so I wish he would get with the program, but I know he’s just not the type because he probably doesn’t deem it useful or worth the effort. I was hopeful when his so-called “wife”f Xiumin came online in September, and again when Suho joined on Dec. 5. One by one, they’re coming ’round!
Kai (Kim Jong-in) On location, Kai is your best bet for giving away their whereabouts because he seems to love a view, including finding beauty in the manmade environment of Wet N’ Wild Hawaii water park, left. The shy one of the group, you could expect him to connect more with nature than with people. On IG since June 5, 2018, @zkdlin. Follows no one.
Baekhyun (Byun Baek-hyun) He tends to shoot lonely solo photos, but while in Hawaii posted the image at the top of this page, plus a square of perfect blue sky. Somehow I thought he would be the least likely in EXO to be on IG, but he seems to crave attention. On IG since May 7, 2014, @baekhyunee_exo.
Chanyeol (Park Chanyeol) By the look of his IG feed, Chanyeol’s life can be summed up as work and promotion, interspersed with a few moody street shots. In Hawaii, he gave away the group’s location while hanging off this street sign on Kapahulu Avenue. On IG since May 6, 2014, @real_pcy. He is fairly active on IG.
Sehun (Oh Se-hun) The maknae of the group has an interesting feed, most notably because it’s full of selfies sans his handsome face. He’s often hiding it behind a camera flash or some other object, giving us only a partial view. He also shows himself from a distance, or as a blur or shadow. He also gave us the image from Kualoa Ranch at the bottom of this page. On IG since May 6, 2014, @oohsehun. He doesn’t follow anyone, not even his fellow EXO members!
Xiumin (Kim Min-seok) A relative newcomer to IG, he has posted a handful of selfies and portraits. The only time he branched out was when he posted a couple of photos of his cat, Tan. He hasn’t posted since Nov. 2 because he has been rumored to have lost his password. It will be moot when he joins the military soon, when he won’t be able to post anything. On IG since Sept. 9, 2018, @e_xiu_min.
Suho (Kim Jun-myeon) Having only recently joined IG, it’s too early to tell how his feed will shape up. Even so, it seems like he has found an outlet and has been prolific at posting selfies and other self images, as well as live stories. His first images were candid shots, but he’s started to add on glossy studio portraits. On IG since Dec. 5, 2018, @kimjuncotton. Hasn’t started following anyone.
Lay (Zhang Yixing) EXO’s last remaining Chinese member rarely appears with the rest of the group while promoting solo projects in China and abroad. He didn’t come to Hawaii, but during a recent Billboard interview said he would love to come to the islands. He’s another of my biases so of course I follow his IG account. Like Chanyeol, he is all about work and promoting. He shows a lot of studio work shots and often posts videos addressing fans with gratitude and in hope that we might take a look at his recent work. Although most of EXO are men of few words or just a single word in their posts, Lay tends to be the most verbally inclined. The image from Paris on the right was accompanied by the caption, “Sometimes you need to take a moment and appreciate the view.” The one on the left read, “Only by going through the forest can I see the light. #nature #thought” On IG since May 8, 2014, @zyxzjs.