A Family That Cooks Together

Cover Story Features

August 9, 2015

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

Diana Paik, Cindy Park, Mike Lee, Yang Ye Park

Diana Paik, Cindy Park, Mike Lee, Yang Ye Park

Though it’s hidden away on Sheridan Street, Million Restaurant has no problem getting scores of patrons to line up for a taste of its authentic Korean cuisine. In addition to its main base of local clientele, the eatery serves many diners from Korea, as well as groups of tourists who have heard that the quaint hole in the wall is a can’t-miss dining spot to visit during their stay. When pinpointing exactly what has made this establishment the staple that it is, it all comes down to the family that owns and operates it, as they extend a piece of their hearts to patrons every day.

From the moment customers enter Million’s doors, they receive a congenial welcome from employees such as Yang Ye Park, who arrives at 7 a.m. every morning to start mixing up kim chee and other fresh banchan. It was Park who first opened the eatery in 1989 with the help of her late husband Sung Yong and her five children: daughters Cindy, Angela and Kyung Sook Park, Diana Paik, and son Chang Hyun Park.

Today, this band of siblings may still be found at the helm of the operation, assisting their mother in preparing sumptuous fare and providing warm service. “The team effort is strong,” says Cindy’s son Mike Lee, who manages the restaurant. “Everybody is involved in the business’ reputation and running, so there’s a lot of care for the business and attention to detail.”

This heartfelt dedication goes into Million’s menu of Park family recipes. The items are rooted in the traditions of Yang Ye’s hometown of Jeonlado, a region of Korea’s countryside known for cooking up delicious cuisine. Building upon this foundation, the Parks make each recipe their own. “They’re traditional dishes, but we have our own spin on the flavor,” explains Lee.

Million specializes in everything from hot stone pots mixed with meat and seafood to plate lunch-style combos featuring some of the best meat jun in town. Then, of course, there’s a variety of yakiniku beef, pork and chicken ready to be fired up on the grill. Without a doubt, the establishment also excels in its selection of healthy yet flavor-packed soups, which are delicious on their own or in combination with other sharable items.

During these hot summer days, nothing satisfies quite like chilled Cucumber Buckwheat Noodle Soup ($7.95 lunch special, $8.95 regular) and Spicy Buckwheat Noodle ($7.95 lunch special, $8.95 regular). The former presents chopped, spicy cucumber with noodles and a half boiled egg, while the latter takes the heat factor up a notch, showcasing beef, radish, cucumber and half-boiled egg, all with the sweet addition of apple. Customers enjoy the tart flavors that permeate both broth-like sauces.

“There are restaurants here that specialize in cold noodles, and people still say they’re better here,” explains Lee.

Patrons may slurp up the chilled noodles on their own or together with a sizzling platter of sweetly marinated L.A.-style Kalbi ($21 for Kalbi combo with cold noodle dish, $28 for Kalbi combo with two cold noodle dishes).

Many of the restaurant’s soups boast health benefits as well. Chicken Soup ($9.95 lunch, $11.95 regular) is the perfect remedy for those feeling under the weather, as it’s simmered with garlic, green onion, radish and half of a small chicken. For all the ladies out there, Mountain Goat Soup ($17.95), prepared with green onion, sesame seed leaf and chili pepper, is said to promote women’s health and restore energy. With a broth comparable to beef stock, each piece of goat meat renders unmatched tenderness.

Since dining at Million is akin to receiving a home-cooked meal from a family member, it’s not surprising that many diners indulge to no end. “When I ask, ‘How was everything?’ the majority of customers say, ‘Can you roll me out of here?'” shares Lee with a smile. When that happens, just sink back into the large, comfy red booths and make yourself at home.

You’ll be welcomed warmly.

Million Restaurant
626 Sheridan St.,
Honolulu
596-0799
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.;
Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-midnight