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Maple Garden Heats Things Up
Cover Story

Maple Garden Heats Things Up

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
September 11 - 17, 2011

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With a dining room that comfortably seats 80 guests and a pair of banquet rooms that accommodate another 100, Maple Garden Restaurant is the perfect destination for diners seeking the best in Szechuan-style, Northern Chinese cuisine.

  • Owner Richard Lam prepares to feast on a handful of Maple Garden favorites.
  • Chinaman's Hat ($10.50)
  • Crispy String Beans ($9.95)
  • Chicken Five Spices ($9.95)
  • Mongolian Beef ($9.95)
  • Seafood Combination Sizzling Platter ($13.50)
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This 3,300-square-foot establishment first opened its doors to the public in 1975, and following a change in ownership three years ago, this family-owned restaurant now kicks it up a notch, bringing a hint of spice to all of its remarkable creations – mild or hot.

Dining Out recently sat down with owner Richard Lam, who quickly proved to us that whether you’re in the mood for a plate full of tantalizing delicacies from the eatery’s all-youcan-eat buffet or choose to take part in conversation over a table full of family-style Chinese delights, Maple Garden sprouts up a feast for all. The heat is definitely on!

DO: How did Maple Garden come to be? Lam: Maple Garden has been around for decades actually. Robert Siu was the previous owner of the restaurant before he passed away, and we took over three years ago.

Prior to that, we owned Yen King in Kahala Mall and then the lease expired there. I was at Yen King for more than 20 years. I wanted to reopen a restaurant, so that’s when we landed here. We present an all-you-can-eat buffet and many menu options.

DO: Since then, you folks brought over a lot of loyal customers from Yen King to Maple Garden. When is the restaurant the busiest and what do you think creates such a loyal following?

Lam: Usually during the lunch hour is when we get a great increase in customers who order from the buffet. Business really picks up on the weekends, and if our customers order off the menu, it’s usually family style, where everyone shares a little bit of everything. As for our loyal following, we really make it a point to develop a good relationship with our customers and get to know them.

DO: Maple Garden most recently celebrated its third anniversary in May, and in honor of this you folks are offering a special, correct?

Lam: Yes. We’re currently celebrating our third anniversary by offering a special deal to our customers. If they buy two items off the menu or two people choose to eat from the buffet, then they get the third entree or third buffet price half off.

DO: What type of Chinese cuisine does Maple Garden specialize in?

Lam: We specialize in Northern Chinese cuisine (Szechuan-style).

DO: Many of Maple Garden Chef’s Specialties remain on the menu as originals. What are some new items you’ve brought to the menu?

Lam: Well, our menu is almost the same as it was at Yen King, but we’ve been able to upgrade the food and its quality with time. Our menu seems to be doing very well, but as far as the Maple Garden Chef’s Specialties, many people can’t seem to get enough of the Braised Pork Thigh in Shoyu ($30) and Eight Treasures ($11.50), among others.

DO: The majority of the food here is priced below $10. What are some signature a la carte items on the Maple Garden menu that customers can look forward to?

Lam: Definitely the Mongolian Beef ($9.95), Chinaman’s Hat ($10.50), Chicken Five Spices ($9.95), Seafood Combination Sizzling Platter ($13.50) and Crispy String Beans ($9.95). The Mongolian Beef consists of tender beef with a medley of bell peppers, carrots, garlic and chili flakes. It’s a spicy dish, but we can always cater the spiciness to the customer’s liking. When it comes to Chinaman’s Hat, it’s similar to a Chinese burrito with pork, vegetables and long rice. People can fill the tortilla with this filling and add hoisin sauce for a bit of extra flavor. Drumettes are used in our Chicken Five Spices dish, it’s cooked in the old Maple Garden-style (Szechuan-style) and seasoned with five spice. One of our most popular items is the Seafood Combination Sizzling Platter, featuring shrimp, fish, calamari and scallops mixed with snow peas, onions and carrots, sauteed with a white gravy. Lots of loyal customers also enjoy the Crispy String Beans, paired with ground pork, Chinese pickles and dried shrimp, topped with a flavorful shoyu seasoning, in addition to Live Maine Lobster for $11.99.

DO: The buffet is available to patrons daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. What can hungry diners expect from this gourmet buffet where more than 20 mouthwatering items are at their fingertips?

Lam: Our lunch buffet is priced at $11.95 for adults and $7.50 for children (ages 5-12), dinner is priced at $15.95 for adults and $9 for children. We offer soup and appetizers such as Hot & Sour Soup, Chicken Salad, Pickled Vegetables, Deep Fried Gau Gee and Vegetable Spring Roll. In terms of entrees, the buffet features Smoky Tea Duck, Cold Ginger Chicken, Garlic Shrimp (dinner only), Dry Fried Chicken, Honey Spareribs, Kun Pao Chicken, Spicy Eggplant, Beef Broccoli, Steamed Fish Fillet and more. Along with the entrees we also have Vegetarian Fried Rice, Vegetarian Chow Fun, Vegetable Chow Mein and Steamed Rice. For dessert we offer Almond Float and Jell-O, as well. For seniors over the age of 60 we also give a 10 percent discount.

DO: What makes Maple Garden stand out among other Chinese restaurants around town?

Lam: Well, for one thing we use no MSG in our food, which a lot of people appreciate. Our food also is on the spicy side, whereas many other restaurants offer a more mild cuisine. Being that our food is spicy is a good example of our traditional Szechuan-style. Keep in mind though that people can cater the spice to what they can handle, whether it be mild or very hot.

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