Go Away With … Kenneth Choi

CREDIT: Jay Maidment/Marvel Studios

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
July 12, 2011

Kenneth Choi has two high-profile films in the hopper. First, he portrays Jim Morita, one of the Howling Commandos in the action film “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which opens July 22. He has also finished shooting the remake of “Red Dawn.” Currently a resident of Los Angeles, the 39-year-old actor talks about some of his favorite places and also explains why he wants to revisit a destination that holds nothing but bad memories for him.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I traveled to Belize last year and had an amazing vacation. I divided my time between two cities — Placencia and San Pedro. Belize has a tropical climate and is quite affordable and is developing a reputation as an inexpensive Hawaii. It has the second-largest barrier reef in the world, which offers plenty of snorkeling and scuba diving. If you want to hide away someplace that is extremely low-key, Placencia is perfect. San Pedro is more touristy and modernized with more amenities. The country is unbelizeable! (Laughs.) Yeah, I said it.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Portland is the perfect weekend getaway. I studied acting in Portland and lived there for five years. It’s a small city with so much to do. There’s beautiful scenery, a great bar scene and so many fabulous restaurants. Andina, Beast and Paley’s Place are some favorite eateries. If you visit check out Washington Park and its Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. Hit Powell’s bookstore. And you must get a Spanish Coffee at Huber’s. P-town has eight months of rain so if you don’t like getting your shoes wet; plan a summer trip.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?

A. When I was four, the family went on a vacation to Korea. I understand that Korea is now very cosmopolitan and modern, but this was in 1975. And I was four! I remember that it smelled so differently to me — terrible. I hated the food. I hated not being able to understand anybody at all. My brother almost died falling down some mountain. I became terribly sick for what seemed like an eternity. It was my first time on a plane and it scared the bejesus out of me. But I am excited to visit Korea now. Hopefully, I’ll plan a vacation there next year. Thankfully, I’ve cured my fear of flying.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. I’ve worked in Vancouver on a couple of television shows and films. I always stay at the Sutton Place Hotel where most out-of-town actors stay. You can almost always find one or several actors in the hotel bar unwinding from a long day on set. In Portland, I like to stay at the Hotel Monaco, which is a Kimpton Hotel. It’s located downtown, the suites are spacious and Kimpton Hotels are usually kind of funky, which I appreciate.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. I was living in London for four months last year while shooting “Captain America.” I love that city. I’ve always heard that the food there is (expletive deleted). Not true. Many diverse cultures are represented in London, as well as their cuisine. I spent a week in Paris with a great friend who is French and speaks English — thank goodness — and I fell in love with the City of Light, as most people do. Chicago is my hometown and will always have a special place in my heart. It has the most beautiful downtown skyline of any city, the best hot dogs, and the best pizza. I have Aurelio’s Pizza air-shipped to my home twice a year. Portland is definitely in my top five. Gotta include Vegas!

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?

A. A.O.C. Wine Bar and Restaurant in Los Angeles has a menu of delicious small dishes and a great wine list. Leila’s Restaurant in Oak Park, Calif., is about 30 minutes away from Hollywood. Zagat restaurant guide awarded Leila’s, “Most worth the drive.” Now I know why.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. New York. The energy of New York and Chicago are not the same, yet similar, and both obviously have that wonderful big city feel. I was there two weeks ago to eat at some great restaurants and watch my friend on Broadway. Great trip!

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I’d like to visit my friend and his family who live in Australia. That trip is long overdue. I have friends from Spain who have invited me at least five times. It’s ridiculous that I have not gone. A friend of mine co-owns Mango African Safaris out of Portland — that’s definitely on my list.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Ear plugs, an eye pillow and a hat.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?

A. I go on this crazy thing called the World Wide Web and I research restaurants, hotels, museums, top things to do, transportation, etc. I like to set certain things to do or places to go before the trip, but then I also like to explore the territory when I’m there and see where the day takes me.

© 2011 JAE-HA KIM


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