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A Gardenful of Spicy Cuisine
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A Gardenful of Spicy Cuisine

Story By Kelli Shiroma Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
July 10 - 16, 2011

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For the customer craving authentic Szechuan — Northern Chinese — cuisine, the options are plentiful at Maple Garden Restaurant. Maple Garden Restaurant, the former Yen King Restaurant at Kahala Mall, has been serving locals genuine Northern Chinese cuisine for more than 30 years, according to general manager Richard Lam.

  • Owner Richard Lam with the Braised Pork Thigh in Shoyu
  • Honey Walnut Shrimp ($13.50), Smoked Tea Duck ($15.50 half, $30 whole), Braised Pork Thigh in Shoyu ($30)
  • Maple Garden's interior is exquisite and comfortable for diners.
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“We are the original Szechuan-style Chinese restaurant,” Lam explains. “We have been open from 1975 and we serve Szechuan-style spicy food. Szechuan-style is a little closer to Northern Chinese food. Southern Chinese food is a little sweeter and not that spicy; Northern Chinese food is more spicy.”

Lam, who worked at Yen King for 18 years, took over the business after his boss retired. After Yen King’s lease expired, the restaurant relocated to its current location on Isenberg Street. Since then, Lam renovated the restaurant and created an innovative menu that included customer favorites from the original Yen King restaurant.

One of Maple Garden’s signature dishes is the Eggplant ($10.50). Maple Garden’s two other signature dishes are the Smoked Tea Duck ($15.50, half; $30, whole) and the Braised Pork Thigh in Shoyu ($30).

“The Smoked Tea Duck … I don’t think a lot of restaurants do it,” Lam says. “It has the smoky flavor and it’s crispy inside. For the Braised Pork Thigh, it’s the thigh part, so there’s not much fat. We cook that one for about six hours to make it soft. We also offer a lot of seafood options, like crab and lobster.”

Other menu favorites at Maple Garden include the Honey Walnut Shrimp ($13.50), the Fish with Black Bean Sauce ($13.50) and the Sauteed Crispy String Beans ($9.95).

Besides its authentic Szechuan cuisine, Maple Garden is unique in that it offers its customers two different dine-in options: either ordering a la carte or partaking in a gourmet buffet. The buffet is available from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch ($11.95 for adults, $7.50 for children) and from 5-8 p.m. for dinner ($15.95 for adults, $9 for children). The buffet menu includes many items on the regular menu, such as Kun Pao Chicken and Salt & Pepper Shrimp. Several entrees, however — such as the Smoked Tea Duck, Cold Ginger Chicken and Garlic Shrimp — are only available during dinner.

“Customers are about 50-50 (when choosing between the buffet option and a la carte),” Lam says. “The average price range per customer is about $20 or less. We have a senior discount for the buffet — 10 percent off every day.”

In addition to the senior discount, Maple Garden offers its customers lunch and dinner plate specials. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., customers can get the lunch plate for $8.25, which includes a choice of two entrees — including selections like Crispy Fried Chicken, Chili Garlic Shrimp, Spareribs in Honey Sauce and Sweet & Sour Pork — along with rice, tea and Hot & Sour Soup. Customers have the same option for the dinner plate, which costs $9.25.

Maple Garden is not only a local favorite because of its cuisine and specials, but also because its facilities are accommodating for banquets, meetings and parties, especially during the graduation season. Weekends — Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays — are usually the restaurant’s busiest times, due to the various scheduled parties and meetings, according to Lam.

“We have two private rooms,” he says. “One room holds up to 20 people and the other private room holds up to 70 or 80. We do a lot of meetings — we have a projector, microphone and podium; everything is ready for use.”

Maple Garden’s various banquet specials range from $108 to $398 and include chef specialties, such as the Scallops ala Maple Garden, Winter Melon Soup and Braised Pork Thigh. The restaurant’s banquet specials can be viewed online at maplegardenhawaii.com.

Maple Garden Restaurant

  • Where
    • 909 Isenberg Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96826
  • Call
    • (808) 941-6641
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Website