Sisters keep mother’s legacy alive with new Korean Seoul 2 Soul eatery

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sisters Suzy Johnson and Iris Erickson have their mother’s picture, Kun Cha, in a prominent position at the Seoul 2 Soul restaurant Tuesday in the Kalaheo Rainbow Plaza.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Suzy Johnson creates the babimbap plate Tuesday at the Seoul 2 Soul restaurant in Rainbow Plaza in Kalaheo.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The bibimbap plate waits for the egg topping on Tuesday at the Seoul 2 Soul restaurant in Rainbow Plaza in Kalaheo.

KALAHEO — Steeped in the experience of growing up in their mother’s kitchen and young enough to be able to adapt the traditional dishes to modern tastebuds, sisters Iris Erickson, Kim Foster and Suzy Johnson could not let the window of opportunity slip by.

“Mom always said we never work in a dirty kitchen,” Johnson said. “That was the first thing we did when we came in — clean, clean and clean. And, it’s still not done. We need to have a more-professional cleaning done, but that comes after we start making some money.”

The sisters took over the spot left following the retirement of the Macklin’s Kitchen owners in Rainbow Plaza in Kalaheo to open Seoul 2 Soul, a small eatery, open primarily for lunch and dinner on a take-out-only basis.

Richard Fukushima said the three girls want to continue the legacy of their mother, Kun Cha, who operated a restaurant in the location currently occupied by the Garden Island Barbecue &Chinese Restaurant in Lihu‘e.

“Kun Cha opened the first Korean restaurant on Kaua‘i,” said Erickson, who remembers the experience of growing up in the restaurant and kitchen. “This was back in 1988, and she ran it until we closed in 2000. Today, we’re just offering another dining option for people on the Westside. There are two Korean restaurants in Lihu‘e and one in Kapa‘a. There is nothing for the Westside.”

Seoul 2 Soul is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Orders may be called in at 808-332-0900 and a name and phone number left with the order. A complete menu is posted on Instagram @seoul2souleatery_6.

“We’re still working on setting up the computers,” Erickson said. “For now, everything is cash only. Eventually, we should be able to do online ordering with credit cards, but for now, this is only the first few days, so we’re asking people to be patient with us.”

Menu offerings are limited to plate lunches, including barbecue chicken, bulgogi, chop chae (long rice with a soy-based sauce similar to chicken long rice), meat jun (thinly sliced beef coated with flour, eggs and pan-fried), chicken katsu, Korean fried chicken, bibimbap (rice, local vegetables, chicken and egg), mandu (dumplings or potstickers), mandu kook soo (soup with mandu), kook soo, stir-fried squid, kimchi fried rice and kimchi soup.

Ala carte options are available by asking.

“Kimchi is good for you,” Erickson said. “Kimchi is a probiotic. Garlic and cayenne are spicy and hot, and we use a lot of garlic and cayenne.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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