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Alina Kim – K-House Karaoke Lounge and Suites

Alina Kim is the Cornell alumna behind the recently-opened K-House Karaoke Lounge and Suites. Drawn back to Ithaca for family (her siblings are all either alumni, students or prospects) and community, Kim wanted to bring the intimate kind of karaoke experience she grew up on to Ithaca.

Along with the common American style open stage karaoke, the K-House offers a more traditionally Asian style of karaoke – with themed and beautifully appointed private rooms. On top of that, the K-House offers a fantastic menu of what Kim calls “Asian-American comfort food.”

In the interview, Kim talks about the inspiration for bringing this type of karaoke to Ithaca, the challenges and victories she faced along the way and her plans for the future, along with many other topics.

Below are 5 interesting snippets from the interview:

1 – What was the inspiration for bringing this style of Karaoke to Ithaca? 

Kim explains that the spark of inspiration came from an idle conversation with her younger sister, who is currently studying hospitality at Cornell as Alina did before her. She was complaining of the lack of things for college kids to do around the area. Kim relates: “So my sister said, ‘Oh, eonni (Korean for ‘older sister’) you should open a karaoke place in Ithaca. Everyone would love it!’ And that’s really just how it started.”

Of course, it was about more than just business. Karaoke is a passion that runs in the family. Kim says, “It’s also a crazy childhood pastime of mine. My brother and I grew up sleeping on these types of couches, listening to our parents sing karaoke until 4 or 5 in the morning.”

2 – We all know what karaoke is now, but what are its roots?

In most towns in America, you can find a bar with or two with a karaoke night. Most people know that karaoke is a japanese word but not much more. “If you broke it down it means ‘symphony without the lyrics’ or something along those lines – basically it means ‘empty track.’ It originated in Japan but right now it seems biggest in South Korea in the Philippines. From what I’ve heard and seen, every other family has their own professional system in their garage or basement, and they break it out for all the holidays.”

3 – What makes the menu at K-House stand out?

The K-House offers a unique Asian-inspired menu with influences from across that continent. Many of them are ideas cooked up by Kim herself. “For awhile I wanted to call it ‘truck food,’ or… I don’t want to call it junk food either, so what I’m saying now is ‘Asian-American comfort food’ or ‘lunch box food.” A lot of our menu items are things that my mom would make in our lunch boxes.” 

Among Kim’s personal favorites are her Crabby Sliders, which combine elements from several different Asian cuisines. They feature a Japanese crab stick topped with Sriracha mayo (which originated in Thailand) on a sweet hawaiian bun.

4 – How is the K-House connected with the local art scene?

Along with being a businesswoman and musician, Kim also has an artist’s eye. Each of the 11 rooms in the K-House has a unique theme which was dreamed up by Kim and many were executed with the help of local artists.

Some highlights include the “American Room” which houses a portrait George Washington dressed up in designer style, and the hip-hop room which features an impressive graffiti piece by Jay Potter, whose style you may recognize from the Ithaca Skate Park. The biggest hit is the “Emoji Room,” a wild and colorful room featuring several emoji painted by local artist Jay Stooks, who will be adding some pieces to some other rooms in the near future.

5 – What is Kim’s personal favorite karaoke song to bust out?

“There is one go-to that I sing a lot: ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley. It’s an upbeat song – I think that in general I do power ballads better but I don’t always want to do a sad Adele song and put everyone to sleep.” 

We heard Kim sing this one first hand and can attest that, power ballad or not, she knocks it out of the park.

Next week on the Ithacast: Jeff Stein, founder of this very website!

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.