Honolulu City Life

By Nadine Kam / Let’s go exploring!

Hi! I’m a journalist and video blogger based in Honolulu. My restaurant column appears in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Crave section every Wednesday, and I regularly post restaurant excursions every Monday on YouTube.

Then there are the random postings of my other passions of life, from shopping to beauty finds, to Kpop dance!

Thanks so much for visiting and following along on my Instagram and YouTube accounts! 💜💜💜

Honolulu City Life

Check out some of Honolulu’s latest dining hot spots on YouTube!

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Pesca brings new seafood concept to Ilikai

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Two masters meet at PAI Honolulu

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Floating World, a return to Pagoda

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Savoring pizza at Little G Cafe

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Digging into the BTS x McDonald’s collab meal + bonus Kpop photobook unboxing!

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / High tea returns to The Moana

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / 100 Sails launches AYCE brunch ‘Indulgence’

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Seafood feasts await at Lobster King

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / A fresh take on Mexican at Tlaxcalli

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Olay’s Chinatown oasis for Thai-Lao cuisine

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Upscale yakiniku at Han No Daidokoro

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Second life for Sakura Terrace

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Food + Fire = Fun at Honolulu Skewer House

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Intro to numbing 🌶 at Simply Sichuan

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / It’s getting steamier at Ichiriki

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / A new kind of nabe at Ichifuji

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / At Farmhouse Cafe

Mukbang: Nadine Eats / Open air at the Hideout

🎧 K-pop listens

StrayKids “No Easy”

9.29.2021
I often rant that HYBE and its artists BTS and TXT will be the death of Kpop because of their obsession with making music palatable (read bland) enough for American ears. BTS’s collab with Coldplay, “My Universe,” hit a new low for me because it took all the distinctiveness and charm of their individual voices and smoothed it out like baby food instead of serving a whole meal.
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So thank goodness for StrayKids. With members Han, Bang Chan and Changbin at the helm doing most of the writing and producing of the group’s music, they remain true to telling their own life stories and those of their generation in their latest release “No Easy.” “Thunderous” is an especially brilliant nod to Korea past and present, with modern rap and bravado combined with Korean folk/farmer instrumentation and rhythms.
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I’ve been playing the album nonstop. StrayKids are really on a roll.

BTS “Butter”

5.24.2021
“Dynamite” was such a monster hit for BTS that last summer I was wondering how they were ever going to top that song.
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Well, they’ve done it again with their followup English-language summer song “Butter,” which is essentially “Dynamite” on steroids, with a more dynamic chorus.
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The premiere of the “Butter” music video set a new all-time 24-hour record of 108.2 million views, breaking the previous record of 101.1 million views for “Dynamite."
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The song also hit 11.042 million global Spotify streams on it’s first day of release, breaking the platform’s opening day record formerly held by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s “I Don’t Care” (10.977 million on May 10, 2019).
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This all means that even if you’re not a K-pop fan, you won’t be able to avoid this megahit over the next 3 months. Let it roll!

Baekhyun “Bambi”

The third solo mini album “Bambi (Night Rain)” by the EXO and Super M vocalist shows he’s untouchable as the king of smooth R&B, becoming the first South Korean soloist in 19 years to sell a million physical copies of an album—with no promotions planned—within its first week of release according to the nation’s Hanteo chart.
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It’s a sultry followup to the more playful, upbeat “Delight,” that produced his hit single “Candy.” His series of mini albums kicked off with the moody, romantic “City Lights” in 2019.
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SM Entertainment has been working him hard over the past 2 years, knowing military duty was looming. Baekhyun is currently working on an EXO song and MV, a followup to 2017’s “Power,” which saw the members battling a robot intent on destroying the world. Following a massive explosion, the members end up scattered, with Baekhyun floating alone in the ocean.
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Sadly, by the time it is released, Baekhyun will have enlisted (he starts his service May 5) and it will be nearly 2 years before we hear from him again. “Bambi” is one of his parting gifts to fans.
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The weird thing is, he was never my fave vocalist within EXO, but I love his solo work. The whole album is worth a listen.

WayV “Kick Back”

3.25.2021
When I was growing up, I was subject to listening to my mom’s favorite Chinese music whenever she was driving.
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True to many an American next-gen immigration story, the language of “her” country grated on me so listening to that music was torture.
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Flash forward to the present and we have come full circle. While following NCT and in the course of taking Kpop dance classes, I became aware of NCT’s Chinese sub-unit WayV in fall 2019 when “Moonwalk” was released. I’ve been following their Mandarin-language releases ever since and they keep getting better and better with each recording, the latest being “Kick Back,” the name of their title track and album, which I’ve been playing nearly nonstop since its release March 10.
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Now that I play Kpop’s Chinese acts for my mom, including former EXO member Luhan, she doesn’t like it. Payback! Though WayV members are Chinese, Macanese, Thai and Taiwanese singing in Mandarin, she said the overall vibe still sounds Korean. To my ears, they sound more Western than Kpop, in song structure and ambience. There’s a lush, epic and cinematic quality to some of WayV’s songs, which I like because—also through my mom—I was weaned on Broadway soundtracks!

Shinee’s back!

3.9.2021
After I picked my lower jaw up off the floor, I got caught up in the power of Shinee and the group’s new album, comeback song and mv, “Don’t Call Me.”
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The group has been on hiatus since late 2018 when three of it’s now four members left for military duty. Minho was the last to return to civilian life Nov. 15, and three months later Shinee’s back!
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The Feb. 22 release was so unexpected because they are largely considered to be a strong vocal group, and their last group release before entering military service was a lush, romantic and beautiful homage to late member Kim Jonghyun.
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I can only imagine they really aimed to shock people and announce their return with this dynamic hip hop/EDM release. It signals their viability—not just as part of the old guard of Kpop’s second gen—but as challengers to groups much younger than themselves. After all, being in ones 30s is considered middle aged in South Korea, and virtually retirement age for Kpop stars.
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Shinee is proving they’re back in top form. Sadly, by the end of year maknae Taemin will have to leave for military duty.

IU “Celebrity”

1.30.2021
Part 2 - The women killed it this month. Hyuna and IU both came out with their own very different takes on the same empowering message: being your authentic self is the best thing you can be. Embrace your unique color! IU’s video is so sumptuous and beautiful, with a sentiment to match.

Hyuna “I’m Not Cool”

1.30.2021
Part 1 - The women killed it this month. Hyuna and IU both came out with their own very different takes on the same empowering message: being your authentic self is the best thing you can be. Embrace your unique color! At first, the title of Hyuna’s song gives pause because she is the definition of cool ... but yes, it’s because she follows her own muse.

2020 faves playlist

1.2.2021
We’ve finally reached the end of a bleak year, and I made a playlist of songs that got me through the year. In trying to maintain some restraint, I ended up with 12 songs. In no particular order they were:

BDC: Shoot the Moon
Irene & Seulgi: Naughty
TXT: Blue Hour
NCT: ‘90s Love
(G)-Idle: Dumdi Dumdi
Baekhyun: Candy
NCT Dream: Ridin’
Lee Eun-sang: Beautiful Scar
SuperM: One (Monster & Infinity)
Stray Kids: Back Door (pictured group)
TXT: Wishlist
Lee Eun-sang: Mirage

If you want to give a listen, click playlist on my YouTube channel linked below.

NCT “December 24”

I’ve always said one path to riches is to write a successful Christmas song that earns you royalties when it gets played year after year.
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D.ear released this song in 2013 and just about every year it gets covered by bigtime celebs like Park Bogum or IU. This year, it’s been covered by NCT’s Chenle, Renjun, Doyoung and Jungwoo.
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Merry Christmas! 🎁🎄

Kai “Mmmh”

Kai is getting a lot of attention with the lead track and video for his eponymous solo debt album. EXO’s main dancer, center and visual is able to showcase his R&B vocals for the first time, beyond just a few lines in EXO and SuperM songs. If you thought he brought the sexy in dance before, wait til you give a listen to this!

TXT “Blue Hour”

A happy, bouyant song that captures all the exuberance and giddiness of first love and powerful friendships, but ends on a melancholy, bittersweet note when you discover the joy reflected is mere fragments of imagination mixed with memories of times past. It’s a reminder that everything beautiful comes to an end, so it’s important to savor each precious moment in life.

TXT “We Lost the Summer”

This song about COVID-19 puts you in the shoes of youths losing what should be the best time of their lives to the pandemic. In the end they will have lost much more than one summer. The song echoes part of label mate BTS’s fight song “Not Today,” but today’s battle is against a different kind of enemy.

What’s in stores —

Be an Earth Month hero

4.15.2021
As more people embrace the philosophy that less is more, the Kaimuki zero-waste boutique Keep It Simple is making it easier to take baby steps toward sustainable shopping.
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Now that plastics are banned from the Hawaii retail experience, those weaning themselves from drinking with plastic straws will find them here in glass, aluminum and bamboo. They also have the cleaning brushes & cloth carrying bags to help take care of them.
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Other items carried at the shop include bulk shampoo, hair conditioner and home cleaning products that can be dispensed into containers you bring from home or jars and bottles you can purchase on site; beeswax wrap lids for containers; sustainable beauty products; and jewelry crafted from found objects.
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If you have unwanted glassware at home, you can also donate it and they will sterilize it and make it available to those who need it.
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The shop is at 3571 Waialae Ave. Call 808.744.3115.

Custom streetwear

4.13.2021
You’ve admired the murals in Kakaako; now you can wear an original piece of art by Pow Wow artist Melon James who will be at Neiman Marcus Ala Moana 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 17 to personalize your NM shoe, denim or handbag purchase. Purchases made between 4/5 and 4/17 qualify. Check out some of his small-scale work!

Saturday shopping

1.23.2021
Cozy dressing defines the Covid age. A round of shopping turns up tons of hoodies and sweats for at-home vibe whether you’re bingeing on Netflix or picking up food.

👀 Watch the video

Kira x Miffy

12.1.2020
For little ones, this charming boutique features exclusive Hawaii designs featuring Miffy, the popular bunny character created by Dutch artist and author Dick Bruna. Items include clothing, tote bags, plush toys and more. Thankfully there are a few things moms can claim for themselves as well.

Located at Royal Hawaiian Center Building B, Level 1, actoss from Dean & Deluca.

Just smile

12.1.2020
These crocheted wire handbags are bound to bring a 😃 to both user and anyone who sees them. About $500.

Available at Anteprima Wirebags at Royal Hawaiian Center, Building B, Level 1. Across from Dean & Deluca.

Tasty!

Montreal bagels find way to Kailua

4.27.2021
If you’ve never tried Montreal-style bagels you’re in for a treat at Empty Elle Bagels in Kailua, where owner Tim Veling brings his childhood passion to life.
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The texture of his hand-rolled honey-boiled 🥯s is incredible with its soft interior and crisp toasted exterior, and upgraded toppings include fresh Waimanalo greens, Big Island lemon butter, Maui black Kula raspberry jam, Big Island dark chocolate coffee butter, and the “Spicy,” a combo of housemade hummus with Andy’s Bueno Salsa’s ghost pepper pickles and loads of fresh ground pepper.
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Look for the bagel retro-style camper inside Grace in Growler’s (also owned by Veling) craft beer tasting room. Loved the room’s shabby chic style!
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At 143 Hekili St., Kailua. Call 808.975.9317.

Rediscover Mexican at Tlaxcalli

4.15.2021
Don’t want to hear anyone say there’s no good Mexican food in Hawaii again coz Tlaxcalli is offering the real deal in Chinatown.
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There’s no Tex-Mex burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas or Spanish rice (which the colonizers brought from the Philippines), and don’t you dare bring those aberrations up or it might get you thrown out!
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Just dig into homemade tortillas that can be wrapped around tasty morsels of:
🍄: Big Island Ali’i mushrooms in a 20+ ingredient mole. Sublime!
🐂: Oxtails braised in chile pasilla sauce.
🐖: Cochinita pibil, pork shoulder marinated in achiote, spices and citrus wrapped in banana leaf and served with pickled red onions.
🐟: And don’t miss chef-owner Juilio Gutierrez’s ceviche de atun, a k a “pokeviche” with squid ink salsa and exquisite citrus and chipotle flavor. The black ahi may look a little scary but it’s so delish and different from any poke out there.
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At 1158 Smith St. Call 808.888.5200.

Olay’s Chinatown oasis

4.12.2021
Open-air dining is in demand due to COVID-era safety needs, and Olay’s Thai-Lao Cuisine’s combination of good food and courtyard oasis has made it a Chinatown hotspot.
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Sit next to the manmade waterfall to enjoy the likes basa fillets with sweet chili cilantro-lime sauce (pictured), Laotian kapoon (coconut curry noodles), spicy nam khao (crispy rice salad), and a full range of Thai curries.
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At 66 N. Hotel St. Call 808.536.5300.

Seafood charcuterie

12.8.2020
12th Ave Grill has reopened as 12th Ave Grill & DeliCafe with a casual to-go or dine-in component to give diners more options going forward in addressing pandemic era wants and needs.

Charcuterie boards have been big throughout the year but 12th Ave Grill’s inspired option focuses on seafood, from ahi prosciutto to ono bresaola to broadbill “ham,” all cured in house by new chef Mauro Gramuglia. Only limited quantities will be available for the holidays, beginning Dec. 18. Cost is $49. House meat & cheese boards will also be available for the same price.

The restaurant is at 1120 12th Ave. Call 732.9469.

Saimin’s next stand

11.24.2020
In the place that gave birth to saimin, there’s no reason the plantation-born noodle soup should have to take a back seat to ramen which now dominates the local food scene. I always wondered why no one ever tried to upgrade the thin, dry teriyaki sticks or other sides to bring the saimin experience up to 21st century standards.

Well Chris Kajioka and Mark “Gooch” Noguchi have taken up the task with the opening of Papa Kurt’s, named after their mentor, the late Hirabara Farms founder Kurt Hirabara.

The menu is simple: nostalgic large saimin or won ton min with local sides such as a mac tuna salad, pulehu shortribs, charcoal-grilled venison or chicken meat sticks. There are also retro drive-in style burgers Coke floats & Green River ice cakes.

In the Saint Louis Alumni Clubhouse, 925 Isenberg St.

Wasabi Bistro is back!

11.26.2020
After 8 months of being closed, this longtime Waikiki landmark restaurant in The Breakers hotel has reopened its doors with a new sushi bar manned by sushi chefs displaced by Nobu’s closure. It’s a score for this longtime Waikiki landmark restaurant in The Breakers hotel.

A recent deluxe sushi platter included rare offerings of kimizu, amaebi with egg yolk, Nagasaki otoro and Kawashima unagi. Beyond sushi there is a range of dishes such as Wasabi’s signature No. 1 special of crab, avocado and whitefish dynamite; mixed tempura; miso butterfish; wafu ribeye; sashimi salad; hamachi carpaccio; and seared salmon tataki with ikura and truffle powder. Glad they’re back!

$mart money

Where I’m invested now

You don’t have to be rich to start investing, but you do have to start today and be diligent and consistent for a better tomorrow. I have always believed in pushing my 💰 to work as hard as I do.

LVMH

4.25.2021
Tiffany & Co. has signed Blackpink’s Rosé (Chae-Young Park) its new global ambassador. She’s now appearing in a digital campaign for the jeweler’s Hardwear collection.

She’s the latest big-ticket ambassador for Tiffany as the jeweler undergoes a global positioning overhaul under LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
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Both stocks were doing well before LVMH’s acquisition of Tiffany, and this latest news can only be good for my bottom line because this increases Tiffany’s exposure to 50 million aspirational Blinks (BP’s fandom) around the globe.
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The 4-member group is known as fashion’s ultimate luxury brand ambassadors. Also representing LVMH across the French multinational corporation are Jisoo Kim (Dior Beauty ambassador), Lisa Mandoban (Celine global ambassador) and Rosé also serves as the global face of Saint Laurent.
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Jennie Kim also is Chanel’s regional ambassador for South Korea.

Apple

1.5.2021
I’m not old, I’m just an investment prodigy 🤣 because my dad put me to work picking stocks for him since I was 8. One of my first investments in the mid-1980s was in upstart Apple.

Back then the company didn’t have a lot of market share, but it was the computer of choice for young creatives and in spite of all the odds against its success against the Dells and Microsofts of the world, it has survived and flourished. I made a lot of money quickly so sold at $60 to jump into other stocks.

That was a big mistake. Apple kept climbing and when I wanted back in, the cost was about $225 a share. I could only afford 20 shares but over time that small stake has grown exponentially with each split. I still believe in the products and the company. Let your winners run.

Tesla

1.8.2021
I owe this one to chef Ken Lee of XO Restaurant, who was bullish on this stock before its 5-way split last August. He was urging everyone to buy in and said he didn’t want to tell me “I told you so” at some point in the future.

Well, those are words I’d never want to hear. There’s nothing worse than regret, so I jumped in, again with a puny stake because it was a pretty whooping $485 per share when I bought in last fall. Today it’s $880, so ...

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