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Ali Carte
Ali Carte

Finding Comfort in New Mui Kwai

By Ali Resich Photos By Nathalie Walker
September 29, 2013

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One of the best feelings a restaurant can give you is a sense of hominess from the moment you walk through its door. Whether it’s the enticing aroma of freshly made eats that draws you in, or a friendly atmosphere created by both staffers and regulars, a cozy eatery can certainly put the “comfort” into comfort food.

Here in the Islands, there’s no doubt that Chinese food has been a comfort to local diners for countless generations. New Mui Kwai III Restaurant on Liliha Street, with its mouthwatering mix of traditional and local-style Chinese fare, presents the perfect place to fill up on a warm helping of familiar favorites.

While it has only been open for five years, the quaint Kalihi dining spot has had no problem acquiring a steady stream of loyal patrons, lending to the eatery’s comfortable, inviting feel.

“We see local people and Chinese people come in all the time,” says co-owner Mei Lam, while skillfully crafting dumplings to make Crispy Gau Gee ($7.50, 10 pieces) at one of the tables. “It’s a lot of people and families from the neighborhood.”

Lam runs the business alongside her husband, Peter, and together they present diners with a slew of Hong Kong-style menu items, which tend to be lighter and less spicy than other Chinese cooking approaches.

A prime example of this is Seafood Fried Rice ($9.95), a popular dish prepared with egg, green onion and fresh treasures of the sea such as shrimp, scallop and squid. The dish’s key flavor component is its scrumptious crispy garlic, which is so addicting that you’ll be unable to leave even one grain of rice on the plate.

A trip to this charming hole-in-the-wall also calls for Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings ($9.50), a sharable creation that exemplifies the appeal of deep-fried food. Not only is it topped with garlic and a hint of chili peppers, but the golden wings also are seasoned and fried to perfection, giving them a quintessential crunch on the outside and tenderness on the inside.

Or try Fish Filet with Ginger and Green Onion (9.95), an authentic dish that presents steamed sea bass brought to life in an aromatic ginger sauce. Though this item is on the lighter side, it’s by no means lacking in beautiful flavor.

“We sell a lot of fish, and the chicken wings, too. And we sell a lot of the fried rice because it has the crispy garlic inside,” describes Mei.

New Mui Kwai III Restaurant is a great spot for the whole family, as diners may eat in, take out or enjoy its catering services. With such a yummy slew of Chinese classics, it’s time to satisfy your comfort food cravings.

New Mui Kwai III Restaurant

1632 Liliha St., Honolulu
537-3210
Open daily, Monday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.