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Food for Any Palate
Cover Story

Food for Any Palate

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
August 21 - 27, 2011

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Hong Kong is a city-state situated on China’s south coast, enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea. With a population of seven million people and growing, it’s safe to say that Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, renowned for its amazing skyline, deep natural harbor, and impeccable cuisine that features an exotic blend of East meets West.

  • Thai Style Pork Cheek ($6.95)
  • Baked Pork Chop with Fried Rice ($12.95)
  • Shrimp Wonton Noodle in Broth ($8.25)
  • Cindy Wong and son Ryan with Red Bean Shave Ice with Coconut Milk ($3.75)
  • Fresh Clams Spaghettini with white wine sauce ($9.95)
  • Honeydew Snow Ice ($6.50)
  • Shrimp Risotto ($12.95)
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Ken and Cindy Wong, owners of Anytime Cafe in Market City Shopping Center, long ago recognized the culinary benefits of this former British colony and immediately decided to bring the Hong Kong-style cafe concept to the islands. Originally from Hong Kong and having opened the doors to their establishment in February 2010, the Wongs have extensive knowledge and experience in the restaurant business.

“Seven years ago I owned Hong Kong Orchid Cafe, which was known for its more traditional Hong Kong-style cuisine and we brought the traditional style Won Ton Min here,” says Ken, who also previously owned the Banana Leaf Italian Bistro.

Dining Out recently caught up with Ken and Cindy over refreshing sips of Hong Kong-style milk tea inside their cafe, where we bridged the 5,000-mile gap between Hawaii and Hong Kong.

DO: Can you explain how Anytime Cafe is similar to the cafe-style in Hong Kong?

Ken: The Hong Kong-style is East meets West, and we do offer Hong Kong-style cuisine, such as wonton noodles, which is very traditional, along with our Hong Kong-style milk tea. We do serve pasta as well, as do many Hong Kong cafes, but I believe our pasta can be deemed authentic Italian. Hong Kong cafes are open long hours, too.

Cindy: There’s a variety of cuisines at Hong Kong cafes and that’s the concept that we aim for here.

DO: What’s the difference between a “cafe-style cuisine” and “restaurant-style cuisine?”

Cindy: I believe restaurants focus more on a specific type of cuisine, while here at a cafe we offer a bit of everything. Everything on the menu is available to our customers once we open — so they can easily have pizza or pasta for breakfast if they want.

DO: Anytime Cafe specializes in Italian-style and Hong Kong-style cuisine, in addition to local favorites including oxtail soup and loco moco. What is the ultimate goal when it comes to this restaurant?

Ken: Our goal is to offer a casual dining experience at a reasonable price where there’s something for everyone. We work to make this place very family-friendly, serving only the best-quality products.

DO: You folks recently released a new menu. Can you elaborate on your latest culinary lineup?

Ken: Yes, the new menu came out in July, and we added some new items and worked to make it more visually appealing to our customers. The menu also is translated into Chinese and Japanese.

Cindy: The old menu was temporary and we wanted to see what items would sell before going all out on the new menu. Now, after being open for 1 1/2 years, it’s safe to say that we know what our customers like.

DO: Tell us about a few of your signature items.

Ken: Our Baked Pork Chop with Fried Rice ($12.95) is a top item consisting of pork chop and onions with our own homemade tomato sauce over fried rice. Those who enjoy pasta seem to love the Fresh Clams Spaghettini with White Wine Sauce ($9.95), the clams are sauteed fresh in olive oil with an irresistible garlic white wine sauce — you really can’t beat this deal. Then, of course, the Shrimp Risotto ($12.95) is worth mentioning, as shrimp and bay shrimp is simmered in a pink tomato broth over authentic Italian risotto. Chef Sonny Laforteza, who worked with us at Banana Leaf, is now in charge of cooking up all our Italian and local dishes.

DO: Can you tell us about your unique dishes?

Wong: Thai Style Pork Cheek is very special and our Shrimp Won Ton Noodle is very unique. For $6.95, diners receive one of our newest appetizers Thai Style Pork Cheek, marinated and served with a spicy dipping sauce. As for the Shrimp Wonton Noodle in Broth ($8.25), the recipe is traditional Hong Kong-style and the noodles themselves come from Vancouver. The wonton is filled with shrimp and minced pork, and the soup is made fresh everyday. A lot of Chinese people who want traditional Hong Kong noodles come to our restaurant. I’m in charge of cooking all the Chinese food.

DO: You folks work very long hours here, open to midnight on most days. When are you the most busy?

Ken: Dinner and after dinner are the busiest times for us. A lot of our customers work in restaurants and hotels, and after work they come here to enjoy a late dinner. Usually on the weekends people are waiting outside to get a table.

DO: Do you plan to add more items to the menu in the near future?

Cindy: We just came out with this new menu, so once customers get used to it, then we’ll begin to add on more specials. Right now we’re working on perfecting Thai-style curry and stir-fried spaghettini.

Ken: Also, we’d like to add on a Happy Hour from 2 to 5 p.m. later in the year when we feature Hong Kong-style desserts. Afternoon tea is really popular in Hong Kong and we’d like to add that to the menu, too.

DO: What can customers look forward to in the future?

Cindy: We hope to extend our hours, hopefully become a 24-hour establishment one day. But we have to wait until we have the manpower to do so.

DO: Business seems to be doing extremely well, as the restaurant is always bustling with customers. What do you attribute that to?

Ken: We have a lot of loyal customers who tell their friends about us and because of that we are able to bring in more customers. There are also patrons who visit from out of town. We’re very lucky to be doing so well.

Anytime Cafe

  • Where
    • Market City Shopping Center
    • 2919 Kapiolani Boulevard #218
    • Honolulu, HI 96826
  • Call
    • (808) 735-3888
  • Hours
    • Monday – Friday
    • 10 a.m. – midnight
    • Saturdays
    • 8 a.m. – midnight
    • Sundays
    • 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.