Chinese Cuisine Gets Fancy
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In 2006, husband-and-wife team Linda and Larry Chan opened the doors to The Mandalay in the heart of downtown Honolulu. Years prior, the couple owned Eastern Garden, and with decades of experience in the restaurant industry, they saw promise in the Alakea Street locale. Following a $1 million renovation, The Mandalay was open for business.
High ceilings and a spacious two-level dining area are complemented by tables covered in red and gold tablecloths, and elegant decor.
Twenty-three-year-old Jessica Chan, daughter of Linda and Larry, serves as bartender, and takes the lead when her parents are away for business.
During the lunch rush, The Mandalay stirs with activity, as a business meeting takes place at one table and, at another, colleagues relieve the stress of work with casual conversation and riveting cuisine.
“We appeal to business professionals, politicians and the downtown crowd. On weekends, families come to dine together or attend a party. We can get really busy,” says Jessica. The main dining room holds 190 people and a mezzanine level seats 130 diners.
Exquisite presentations of Cantonese-inspired fare and Hong Kong-style dim sum electrify the palate. Peking Duck with Buns ($16.50 half, $32 whole) is a coveted dish.
“The skin is served on a small bun and topped with green onion and plum sauce. Everyone loves the sauce,” explains Jessica. As for the roast duck meat, it’s chopped into pieces and smothered with its natural juices and seasoning from roasting.
The Mandalay also is home to an outstanding seafood creation in the form of noodles. House Special Chow Mein ($11.95), a medley of fish fillet, shrimp, squid, scallops, carrots and button mushrooms doused in a special house gravy, beckons the noodle enthusiast who fancies a choice of chow mein or cake noodles.
“In the Chinese culture, family and other social gatherings revolve around food,” states Jessica, adding that it’s not unusual to have a nine- or even 10-course meal, as family-style dining is common practice. And among that spread of cuisine, Honey Garlic Pork Chop and Shrimp with Honey Walnut have proved to be staples.
Priced at $12.95, Honey Garlic Pork Chop is deep-fried a golden hue, and remains crisp and tender, coated in a house-made sauce with accents of sweet honey and freshly minced garlic. Shrimp with Honey Walnut ($17.95) is a locally inspired Chinese favorite, and features de-shelled prawns covered in a blend of lemon juice, mayonnaise and condensed milk. The sweet-and-tangy shrimp is played up by toasted walnuts glazed with honey and a dab of brown sugar.
No matter how big the feast, dessert is a must, and The Mandalay offers Steamed Egg White with Milk ($3.50), a sweet and creamy concoction that has earned positive feedback from customers.
“Our menu has evolved over the years with new dishes and dim sum. Shanghai Dumpling is the most recent addition,” says Jessica, who also recommends Dumpling in Soup ($3.95), a pork-filled dumpling swimming in chicken broth that’s accentuated with bits of dried scallop. This dim sum option is available daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Dim sum is cooked to order, so diners know it’s always fresh.”
You’ll most likely find Jessica behind the bar preparing cranberry vodka and soda, among other drinks. Chinese Tsing Tao beer and red/white wine also are on tap.
What’s coming up for this fine-dining establishment? More of the same stellar service and cuisine.
“Patrons can be on the lookout for new specials in the upcoming months,” reveals Jessica.
1055 Alakea St., Honolulu
Open daily, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.