Oh, Happy Day!Ali Carte Columns
October 28, 2012
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Nathalie Walker
For the past 11 years, Happy Day Chinese Restaurant co-owners Yung Sang Chan and Lisa Lum have been putting smiles on countless faces with a mixture of Hong Kong-style cuisine and friendly customer service. The story of their cheery eatery begins decades earlier, though, when Chan opened a Chinatown dining spot called Sea Fortune in 1979. After successfully running it for 22 years, the owner relocated his restaurant —with help from longtime employee Lum — to Kaimuki in 2001.
While the newer location sports an updated name, the same great eats that forged a base of loyal customers in Chinatown can still be gobbled up at Happy Day. According to Lum, Honey Walnut Shrimp ($13.95) has always been a favorite among regulars. The traditional recipe features battered shrimp coated in a creamy sauce and sprinkled with candied walnuts.
Another best-seller is Barbecue Pork ($9.95), or Char Siu, which Lum describes as having a touch of sweetness from the honey that is drizzled on top of the pork. “This one’s very popular, so we make it fresh three times a day.”
If you are looking for something a little lighter, try Choy Sum with Sea Bass ($11.95), which presents the tenderest of filets served with a heap of vegetables such as carrots, green onion and a generous portion of choy sum. “The sea bass is very soft and it’s a healthy option,” says Lum. “We stir fry it in a garlic ginger sauce.”
Perhaps the main type of cuisine Happy Day is known for is its classic dim sum ($2.68 per plate) selection. Every day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., a slew of regulars fill the establishment’s spacious dining room, gathering around large round tables soon to be filled with steaming dumpling delights that have been served fresh from dim sum carts. Ask any of the eatery’s smiling servers and they will advise you to try small plates of Shu Mai and Half Moons, as well as Spinach Gao or a crispy bite of Fried Taro. Lum also suggests biting into golden Baked Manapua buns, as they are filled with the restaurant’s delectable char siu and chicken.
When asked what it is about about Happy Day that makes Lum and her business partner so, well, happy, she enthusiastically replies, “Because we see the customers happy. A lot of customers followed us here from our restaurant in Chinatown, and we love to see them come eat lunch and dinner together with their families time and time again.”
Happy Day Chinese Restaurant
3553 Waialae Ave., Honolulu
Open daily, 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m.