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Cover Story

Party On, Panya!

Story By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
May 27 - June 2, 2012

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It’s another birthday bash for the chic bistro, bakery and bar known as Panya, where food, drinks and desserts are incomparably prepared and always worth toasting.

Celebrate good times with Panya Bistro & Bakery, as this one-of-a-kind eatery that’s trendy and modern, while still comfortable and casual, is getting a head start on its birthday festivities. Come June 14, this favorite hot spot of kamaaina and visitors alike will turn a fabulous 15 years old. Still looking as good as ever, with its lush d├ęcor and inviting atmosphere, Panya has not skipped a beat when it comes to serving immaculate cuisine that lures in the appetites of just about everyone.

Dining Out recently caught up with sisters and owners of Panya, Annie and Alice Yeung, who took us on an exciting journey through time. Looking back on Panya’s initial opening in 1997 in McCully Shopping Center to where it’s at today with three thriving locations islandwide, there’s just one thing left to say: “Oh baby, look how you’ve grown!”

DO: Happy early birthday to a wonderful establishment! How has Panya progressed over a span of 15 years?

Annie: I think we’ve been through many stages, and we’ve been able to expand our services from primarily being just a bakery to transitioning into a full-service restaurant and eventually offering a variety of catering services. We now have three locations island-wide. Our Ala Moana location is the only place where we have a full bar, full restaurant service and bakery in the front of the store. Our Queen Street location is where we have our central kitchen, and we serve breakfast and lunch here from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday only. Royal Hawaiian Center is a smaller location and centers mostly around our baked goods and desserts. But we also serve light meals, such as salads, sandwiches, soups and bentos.

DO: Is owning a restaurant something you two always dreamed of?

Annie: No way. We never thought of having a restaurant of our own (laughs). But, I guess we took baby steps, from opening just a bakery, to a cafe, and the biggest move was finally opening a restaurant in Ala Moana Center.

DO: Fifteen years ago when you founded Panya, did you ever imagine it would be as successful as it is today?

Annie: No. Honestly, at first we were very skeptical if we were doing the right thing, but we must have done something right, and we’re fortunate that the majority of the feedback from our customers has been positive. Of course, we’re also grateful that we have a lot of loyal customers.

DO: Does Panya have anything special planned for its upcoming birthday celebration?

Annie: Yes, we’ll be treating our Ala Moana Center customers to a complimentary slice of birthday cake on June 14 (dine-in only), while supplies last. We’ll also be having a special promotion at all three locations featuring special Panya iPhone neck strips. Inquire within.

DO: Panya offers a fusion of cuisines. What was the inspiration behind the varied menu selection?

Annie: We basically came up with the menu by incorporating all the foods that we like or the foods that we missed having in Hong Kong (where we’re from). For example, we had to put won ton on the menu because I love won ton noodles.

Alice: We also have a lot of friends from Southeast Asia who miss things like Thai Beef Salad, so they taught me how to make it and then we had to include it on the menu. Most importantly though, we always cater to our customers’ wants and needs, and food trends as well. We try our best to use the freshest ingredients.

DO: What are some menu headliners here?

Annie: Our Philly Cheese Steak with a cup of Clam Chowder ($13.94) has a lot of fans. When it comes to this sandwich, it’s very hearty, but not greasy. Here at Panya, we make our own bread for all of our sandwiches and burgers, and that really stands out. Then we have our Indonesian Fried Rice ($14.95), which is a relatively new item on the menu that’s received a great response from customers. Alice and I both like spicy food, so we wanted to add some spice to the menu. Panya’s Baked Mixed Seafood ($15.95) is growing in popularity as well, which features shrimp, scallops and calamari over fried rice smothered in a homemade light cream sauce.

Alice: When it comes to signature items, that would most certainly be our Panya Burger ($13.95) and Laksa ($13.95), an authentic Malaysian-Singapore-style noodle dish. It’s like a spicy seafood noodle. Customers can’t deviate away from it even if they want to try something new.

DO: When people think of Panya, what is the first thing you want to come to mind?

Alice: I want them to think happy thoughts and feel very welcomed here.

There’s always something you’ll find that you’ll like on our menu because we’re not limited to a certain style of cuisine – we offer a wide variety of items and Panya is the perfect place to celebrate all occasions.

Annie: Also, I want people to think of Panya as offering high-quality food at very reasonable prices. It’s like five-star cuisine in a very casual atmosphere. You can relax, and even enjoy a martini or a glass of wine. Where else can you have a lychee martini with won ton noodle? And especially here at our Ala Moana location parking is easy to come by as well.

DO: What do you have to say to your loyal patrons who have been avid fans of Panya for the last 15 years?

Alice: First of all, thank you for supporting us, especially since we’re a small business in Hawaii.

Annie: We’re very lucky. A lot of our customers have become friends over the years because they come quite frequently. We’re very appreciative of our customers and we try to get to know all of them on a personal level. However, we do want people to know that we’re not perfect, we’re still learning and improving every day. We only hope to get better.

DO: What is something people would be surprised to know about the Panya operation?

Annie: We have 70 employees in the Panya family. Alice and I work so closely with the entire operation and we definitely believe in involvement. We both cook and all the managers cook. We don’t have a literal “head chef.”

Panya Bakery, Bistro and Bar

  • Where
    • Ala Moana Shopping Center
    • 1450 Ala Moana Boulevard Suite 2054
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
  • Call
    • (808) 946-6388
  • Hours
    • 7:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Monday – Saturday
    • 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
    • Sundays
    •  
    • Happy Hour
    • All Day Sunday – Monday
    • 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., 9 p.m. – closing Tuesday – Saturday
  • Website
  • Other Locations
    • 711 Queen St. (597-8880)
    • Remington College Building
    • 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.- Open Monday – Friday
    • 1111 Bishop St. (536-8363)
    • Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki
    • Building B, Ground Level (791-2969)
    • 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.- Open daily