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Foodie Fare
Foodie Fare

Ringing in the Chinese New Year

By Christina O Connor Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
January 27, 2013

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One recent afternoon when Dining Out dropped into Panya Bistro in Ala Moana Center, a woman at a nearby table approached us. Looking at one of the dishes on our table, she says, “I have never seen that one. It must be new.” This scenario is a perfect example of two truths about Panya — that it often is coming up with new dishes, and that it has cultivated a dedicated following of regular customers.

The restaurant, after all, does have something for everyone.

“It is a fusion style where East meets West,” explains operations manager Kiana Huang. “The menu has a lot of variety and a lot of different choices. We are trying to satisfy all of our customers, no matter what background you come from.”

A good place to start is with appetizer Grilled Steak with Ginger Green Onion Sauce ($15.95).

“We grill the steak until it is medium rare and we serve it with our homemade green onion sauce. It is very juicy,” she says.

One great thing about Panya is that many of ingredients are homemade, including its breads. For a taste of one of its homemade sauces, try the White Wine Seafood Spaghetti ($19.95), which features tiger shrimp and clams sauteed with bacon, onion and garlic in homemade white wine sauce.

In honor of Chinese New Year, Panya is offering a special dish for customers to take home to celebrate the occasion. Jai ($22 for a small, which serves four to six people; $45 for a large, which serves eight to 10) features mushroom, bean curd, chestnuts, seaweed and ginkgo, and will be available for pre-ordered take-out.

“We custom made this for the new year,” Huang explains. “For the Chinese tradition, during the new year, we only eat Jai. We only eat vegetables, we don’t eat meat. The idea is to cleanse your body to start the new year.”

Customers must pre-order the Jai. Pickup will take place Feb. 8–10.

In addition to Jai, customers can also check out some special desserts for the new year. These include the Gau Mochi Dessert with Brown Sugar ($6), Red Bean ($6.50) or Coconut Cream ($6.50). “They are very sweet,” Huang says. “And you can just eat them cold as a dessert, or you can pan-fry them a little bit to serve it hot.”

Another dessert special is the Deep Fried Sesame Red Bean Ball ($1.50).

Finally, for some good luck in the new year, don’t miss the Panya Fortune Shortbread Cookie ($3.95), which is modeled after the red paper that is typically distributed for the holiday. The cookies feature Chinese writing that say things like “Happy New Year” or “Good Luck.”

“They can buy that to give to their family and friends for good luck,” Huang says.

As Panya Bistro approaches another year, Huang says that they are reminded to thank the people who have helped them garner success throughout the years — their customers.

“We want to thank our customers for their support and their loyalty throughout the years,” Huang adds. “We could not do it without them.”

On the Side

Now an elegant restaurant with a varied menu, Panya Bistro first started as a bakery in McCully.

“We started from just making only the pastries. We were more into just desserts, sliced cake and birthday cakes,” explains operations manager Kiana Huang.

Customers liked the food so much that they started requesting other things from Panya.

“They started asking, ‘What about some coffee, soup and salad?’ As we built up our clientele, the customers started having more requests,” Huang recalls.

The restaurant soon opened a second location and expanded its menu to include light meals. Over the years, it continued to expand menu selections based on customer feedback, as well as what the staff wanted to eat.

“Once in a while, it will pop up in your head, ‘What if this goes with that?’ Or, ‘What if we use this with that sauce?’” Huang says. “We kind of create our own menu from our own dining experience here.

“We always eat here, too,” she adds, “so we have to make sure that we are eating healthy. And we want to serve healthy food to our customers, too.”

Panya Bistro

711 Queen St.
597.8880
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
946.6388
Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Royal Hawaiian Center Building B, Ground Level
791.2969
Open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m.