Happy Days Indeed
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Believe it or not, there are more than 45,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States. That’s why Lisa Ng Lum was so delighted to learn that the restaurant she co-owns, Happy Days Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Kaimuki, has been chosen as one of the country’s very best.
At the recent seventh annual Top 100 Chinese Restaurants Awards Show, held at the Hyatt Hotel in San Francisco, Happy Days received an award for Overall Excellence. Lum traveled to the Mainland for the exciting event, which was hosted by celebrity chef Martin Yan and radio cooking show hostess Theresa Lin, executive food designer of the film Eat Drink Man Woman.
“Happy Days Chinese Seafood Restaurant offers traditional Hong Kong-style Chinese favorites including dim sum, home-style stir-fried dishes and seafood, etc.,” reads the announcement from Chinese Restaurant News, the national publication that presented the awards. “Making sure to integrate traditional recipes with new trends, the restaurant offers menu items that are prepared in a healthy manner using only the finest and freshest ingredients.”
When Lum got home to Hawaii, she took just a little time to celebrate the award with a party for the restaurant’s staff, including her brother, sister-in-law and her 72-year-old mother, Fong Yuan, who makes dim sum for Happy Days. Then she got right back to work.
As owner of a busy restaurant that is open every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., she doesn’t take much time off. (Lum and her partner also own Nice Day Chinese Restaurant on Liliha Street, which opened about three years ago.)
“Every day I work more than 12 hours,” she says, laughing. “But I’m happy! I love it.”
Originally from Guangzhou, the largest city in the Guangdong province of China, Lum worked at Sea Fortune on North King Street for 22 years. She was a waitress and then a manager at the famous Chinatown restaurant. When it closed in 2000, Lum and her former boss from Sea Fortune joined forces to launch a new restaurant. Happy Days opened in August 2001, in the former location of the New Hong Kong Restaurant on Waialae Avenue.
“We’ve been open for 10 years,” Lum says. “9/11 happened right after we opened. We were lucky, though, because our old customers knew we had come here, and they followed us, and then we got new customers. It’s a good location and the people are so nice, like family.”
After just a few minutes at Happy Days, it’s apparent that many of the patrons are regular customers. In this busy dining hall, decorated with fringed crimson lanterns, big chandeliers and grand murals of the Misty Mountains, people greet like old friends, kissing babies and each other. That’s what makes Happy Days different from other Chinese restaurants, Lum claims. “When our customers come here, it’s like coming home,” she says. “They’re very comfortable and happy!”
Customers can definitely find happiness in Happy Days’ dim sum. Between 8 and 11:30 a.m. each day, take-out dim sum orders are discounted 25 percent. For those who prefer to dine in, the carts make their rounds every day until 3 p.m. “We have about 30 different kinds of dum sum,” says Lum.
Most cost $2.68 per plate or basket, including popular selections Siu Mai, Baked Char Siu Bao, Har Gau, Half Moons filled with shrimp and spinach, and creamy Egg Tarts. Plain, Beef and Barbecue Pork Look Fun is available for $2.85, or with Shrimp or Scallops for $3.25. At $3.50 each, the Joong is also a favorite; customers love the sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, and buy it from a tray on a table that also contains almond cookies.
“A lot of regulars like our sweet and sour Pig’s Feet Casserole ($9.95), which is pretty unusual,” says Lum. She also recommends the Roast Duck ($11.95 for a half-duck), Minute Chicken with Cake Noodles ($8.95), and Seafood Casserole ($11.95). “And almost every table orders our Honey Walnut Shrimp ($11.95)!” she adds.
Happy Days offers set dinners for four people for $63, or six for $84. There’s a full bar, and a private room in the front of the restaurant can hold parties of up to 40 guests.
Happy Day Chinese Restaurant
- 3553 Waialae Avenue
- Honolulu, HI 96816
- (808) 738-8666
- Open daily
- 8 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.