Royal Garden Takes Diners Over the Moon(cake)
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Cultural celebrations are often synonymous with not only rich historical context, but also the distinct dishes that generations come to love and cherish year after year.
The Moon Festival, noted in the Chinese culture as the lunar harvest festival, is one such celebration that features a signature dish: mooncake, which symbolize the gathering of friends and family. Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant in Ala Moana Hotel is home to some of Hawaii’s freshest and tastiest mooncake varieties, and will continue serving the rich, flavorful morsels through this year’s festival celebration Sept. 30.
According to Royal Garden owner Calvin Wong, one would be hard-pressed to find a better mooncake. In contrast to some other establishments that ship in the cakes from China, Royal Garden makes batches of fresh cakes daily in the eatery’s kitchen. Wong explains that the secret behind the cakes involves “Top, A-grade lotus seed paste made special for us in Hong Kong, not too much sugar and cottonseed oil. No preservatives added!”
Royal Garden offers the moist mooncake in artistic gift sets, which feature eight different varieties of the sweet treat.
Ranging in price from $16.95 to $33.95, the gift sets include four cakes apiece, and incorporate flavors such as White Lotus Seed Paste with Double Egg Yolk; Red Bean Paste with Single Egg Yolk; and the Mixed Nuts Mooncake. Wong estimates that Royal Garden sells around 7,000 gift sets every year — a sign that customers appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into creating each cake from scratch in continuation of the restaurant’s tradition that dates back 10 years.
“Our mooncake is made fresh daily, fresh from the oven,” Wong says. “We like to offer the best. Other places have to add preservatives because they ship the cakes in from Hong Kong. Sometimes it takes several months for those to get here.”
Before stocking up on the mouth-watering mooncake, diners also can look forward to enjoying some of Royal Garden’s excellent dim sum selections available daily for lunch only. Shrimp Gau, Pork Hash and Seafood Gau ($3.50 each for most of the dim sum selections that usually include three to four pieces) are just a few of the most-requested choices from the dim sum carts brought directly to tables by the restaurant’s friendly and helpful staff. Egg Tart ($3.10) is one of the numerous sweet delights also available on the dim sum menu that features more than 50 items.
Royal Garden also serves up stellar entrees at daily lunch and dinner services. The “Live” Dungeness Crab and Maine Lobster (market price) are prepared fresh on the spot as the crustaceans make their way from the in-house tank to the kitchen, where they are prepared in what Wong calls “Royal Garden style.” Wong explained that the crab or lobster is cooked in minced garlic, shallots, butter and chicken broth in order to bring out a wide range of flavors and aromas.
“I travel all the way from here to Hong Kong, and nobody cooks it the same way,” says Wong with a smile. “It may have the same name, but you can’t touch our recipe!”
Wong also recommends the Big Rock Salt Chicken ($39.95 for a whole, four-pound chicken) that features a ranch-raised bird flown in from the Mainland. Diners are advised to call ahead at least one day in advance when ordering this dish.
Shrimp with Honey Glazed Walnuts ($17.95) still serves as one of the restaurant’s top-sellers, as the traditional dish combines the two unique flavors and envelopes them in a sweet, creamy sauce. Stop in for lunch or dinner daily, and see what other culinary creations are sprouting up at Royal Garden.
Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant
Ala Moana Hotel (3rd Floor)
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Monday through Friday) and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Dinner served daily from 5:30 to 10 p.m.