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Mini Garden Sprouts Up Savory Cuisine

Digest Foodie Fare

July 2, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Mini Garden is offering customers a major deal this summer — 20 percent off all takeout orders (excluding vegetarian dishes, which will be offered at 10 percent off), as well as 10 percent off all dine-in meals.

  • Char Siu ($8.95)
  • Best Quality Roast Duck ($14.95, half duck)
  • Chef De Hui Liang and owner Yinnie Chiu
  • Braised Brisket and Tendon with Bean Curd Casserole ($12.95)
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“We are doing this because the economy is really bad right now,” explains owner Yinnie Chiu. “The portions are big, and it’s cheaper than if you were to cook (these meals) at home, and there’s more variety for you to choose.”

There are around 250 items on the menu, but Chiu says a few of the restaurant’s top sellers are the Chef Special Crispy Shrimp Balls ($14.50), Braised Brisket and Tendon with Bean Curd ($12.95), and Mini Garden’s Best Quality Roast Duck ($8.95) and Char Siu ($8.95).

Perfect as a light summer meal or savory treat-to-share before the main course arrives, the Crispy Shrimp Balls are eight whole shrimps that have been battered and deep-fried until golden and slightly crunchy on the outside yet still sweet and juicy on the inside.

For the Braised Brisket and Tendon with Bean Curd casserole, Chiu says they slow-cook the brisket and tendon for more than five hours, leaving the meat extremely soft and tender. They also use fresh bean curd, which lends a richer flavor not achieved from using the dried variety.

But possibly the best-kept secret of Mini Garden is the Roast Duck and Char Siu, which are both prepared fresh every day with a special blend of seasonings and roasted so that the meat comes out hot, crispy and full of flavor.

“Our duck is real famous because not too many places roast their own duck,” Chiu says.

Since dining is family-style at Mini Garden, the portions are generous and meant to be shared. Even then, Chiu says sometimes diners will be unable to finish their meals and take home the leftovers for another day.

On the Side

Mini Garden has a long-standing reputation among local foodie circles as being one of the best Chinese restaurants on the island. Since opening in Chinatown in 1973, the family-style eatery has supplied hungry diners with a range of authentic Chinese and vegetarian cuisine, from Crispy Spring Rolls and Gau Gee ($7.50 each), to Ong Choy with Bean Curd Sauce ($8.95), Ma Po Tofu ($9.50), Shrimp Fu Yung ($9.95), Gon Lo Mein ($8.95) and a smattering of congee, fried rice and noodle dishes.

“It’s healthy Chinese food,” says owner Yinnie Chiu, who, along with her sister, has been in charge of operations since 1997.

“We use very little sodium and no MSG upon request.”

In 2005 Mini Garden moved to a space at 2065 S. Beretania St., which left some customers wary that the food they had grown to love may have been left behind.

“We carried all our original recipes with us,” Chui assures. “The won ton, the roast duck and the char siu are the same recipes that have been around forever.”

However, there are a few new items not to be dismissed. For example, they recently started offering customers a complimentary dessert with each meal.

“In Hong Kong, every Chinese restaurant will offer dessert,” says Chiu, who moved from the city-state to Hawaii in 1978.

Called a “float,” the free after-meal treat is similar to a sorbet and comes topped with choice of fresh strawberries, mango, lychee or guava.

“This will complete your meal,” says Chiu. “Something sweet to clear your palate and cool you off … A lot of customers come back just for the dessert!”

Mini Garden Orient & Vegetarian Cuisine

  • Where
    • 2065 South Beretania Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96826
    •  
    • 1151 Mapunapuna Street
    • Honolulu, HI 96819
  • Call
    • (808) 946-3828
    • (808) 833-3828
  • Hours
    • Open daily
    • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. (Beretania)
    • 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. (Mapunapuna)
  • Notes
    • Limited free parking in adjacent lot; street parking also available (for Beretania location).