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Veg'n Out

The Garden of Eatin’

By Andy Beth Miller Photos By Nathalie Walker
December 29, 2013

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Calling all veggie lovers. Join me on a voyage as we travel to the Far East — in search of the ultimate plant-lover’s paradise. We will journey to a garden filled with choice vegetables, earthy herbs and savory spices. Come along as we uncover this urban utopia — so impressive it was given the name The Royal Garden. (Cue motion picture music …)

OK, so maybe this intro was a tad dramatic, but nonetheless I stick to my storyline and give this Chinese restaurant an enthusiastic two-thumbs up. Located on the third floor of Ala Moana Hotel, Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant is an Oahu oasis offering an abundance of meat-alternatives. Featured are just a few of its earth-inspired entrees ready for the picking, and let me assure you — all things are good in this garden of eatin’.

• Mixed Vegetables Wrapped with Lotus Leaf ($34.88 for 10 people, $13.95 individual order): this jai dish presents a bounty of ingredients, such as mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, black fungus, white fungus and Chinese green peas — a concoction believed to bring good fortune, luck and to possess purifying qualities. The vegetables are stir-fried and then topped with special seaweed only found in China (“hair seaweed” I am told, as it resembles human hair in shape).

“We cater to a lot of the temples here in Hawaii,” explains restaurant owner Calvin Wong. “They (temples) have very specific guidelines about what they can and cannot eat and we pride ourselves in being able to accommodate their — as well as many others’ — dietary needs.”

• Bamboo Mushroom with Baby Cabbage ($14.95): This simple recipe pairs rare, bamboo mushrooms with baby cabbage and stews them in a savory, flavorful broth — the product of which is purely classic, leaving your palate feeling clean rather than overwhelmed by strong spices or excessive sauces.

“Bamboo mushrooms are hard to find, and it’s a higher class of mushroom,” states Wong. “They contribute a perfect, crunchy consistency that really completes the dish versus the softness of more common types of mushrooms.”

With so many options for vegetarians to enjoy, choosing what to order is the only bump in the road here. So be bold, buckle up and enjoy this satisfying food safari — you’ll be royally rewarded.

No animals were harmed in the making of this feature.

Contact Andy Beth Miller at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ala Moana Hotel, Third Floor
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
942-7788
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m.