Ming-Na Wen has played steely Agent Melinda May on ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Marvel Comics-inspired series, for four seasons. But before squaring off against supervillains, she was known for her role in Wayne Wang’s Joy Luck Club, as a cast member of NBC’s E.R., and for giving voice to the animated title character in Disney’s Mulan. In addition to acting and raising two children with her husband, actor Eric Michael Zee, she’s now writing a book about the Asian influences on her health and beauty secrets. Wen, who was born in Macau and raised in New York and Pittsburgh (where family members still run a Cantonese restaurant), describes herself as a diehard East Coast person. After living in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, however, she admits to discovering some of “the wonderful things that L.A. has to offer that New York can’t.”
“It’s a gem of a place – everything from a library to galleries to various gardens for roses and cactus. It’s so massive, it’s incredible. Any time of the year that you go, there’s always something blooming. It’s gorgeous during rose season and, in December, they have camellias. I enjoy walking through the Chinese garden. They just expanded it. It’s also fun to walk through the bonsai trees in the Japanese garden.”
“This little restaurant in the Valley is definitely one of our favorite neighborhood places. It’s got amazing sushi, but you have to time it just right. If you don’t get there by the first seating, you’re going to be waiting an hour. Either we go at 5 or at 6:30 and hopefully get on the shorter list for the second seating. With all four of us having complicated schedules, it’s a treat whenever we can be seated in 10 or 15 minutes. I hate waiting, especially if I’m hungry. That’s the restaurant daughter in me.”
“When the kids are in school, my husband and I occasionally go for a walk along the beach. There’s Zuma Beach, Point Dume, and other areas. The great thing is that they’re only 20 minutes away from us. It’s fantastic to be able to go from living in suburbia and then end up on the beach. Every so often, we’ll bring our Segway or we’ll try biking. We also like rollerblading. The only problem with California beaches is the water. Unless it’s the height of summer, it’s always too cold!”
“Although dumplings like the Shanghai xiaolongbao are really tasty at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, that place is always so crowded. So sometimes we go to the original Chinatown. At Full House, we order clams with black bean and garlic sauce or the steamed fish, which is always good. And there’s an old bakery we love going to. It’s called Long’s Family Pastry, and it sells traditional things like mooncakes.”
5. Malibu and Topanga Canyons
“The trails in these two canyons are great hikes. Just make sure you bring a stick in case you run into bobcats, coyotes, or rattlesnakes. One night in my own neighborhood, I was walking my dog, James, and I saw something approaching. Before I knew it, I was like, “Oh, that’s a big coyote heading our way.” Amazingly, James didn’t bark, and we just walked past each other like friendly neighbors. I didn’t have time to panic, so it worked out.”
I’m a big cook. I have to be – restaurant daughter, right? I like getting everything fresh, from cilantro to tomatoes. All the fruits, from the peaches when they’re in season to the grapes when they’re just plucked from the vines, are delicious. I also buy different kinds of vegetables because I stir-fry. And we’re into juicing, so we’ll get organic kales, spinach, and carrots.
The open-air environment is beautiful. Either you bring your picnic and invite friends to join you in your box, or you just hang out. It’s a fun outdoor venue with great music, from musical theater to classical to Star Wars. When we had season tickets, John Williams conducted one of the performances. We went to see a James Taylor event. Dick Van Dyke and his quartet sang there. The huge variety is what we love about it. And they have fireworks.
8. The Palm
We go to the restaurant downtown whenever we go to concerts at Staples Center. We order anything from the lobster to the steak. I always get their creamed spinach. That’s always yummy. We love the consistency and the service. There’s a picture of me on one of the walls. As soon as you walk in, it’s right by the entry. That’s kinda cool.
We used to take the kids to Legoland, but they’re a little too old for that. These days we love Mickey and the rides at Disneyland. What used to be Space Mountain is now Star Wars; that’s a great one. Pirates of the Caribbean and [California Adventure’s] Cars Land – they’re great, too. In November, I was really surprised my daughter wanted to have her Sweet 16 birthday at Disneyland, but I was like, “OK, Mulan can take you!”