Royal Palace Has It AllCover Story Features
August 25, 2015
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: NATHALIE WALKER
When taking over a restaurant that has been part of a community for more than two decades, it’s quite a tall order to keep the patronage of longtime customers yet also draw in new diners with a fresh set of offerings. As Jin He Wu comes up on his first year of assuming ownership of Royal Palace Chinese Restaurant, he’s proving he’s up to the challenge, rising to the occasion with just the right combination of tradition, originality and versatility to leave a great first impression on the surrounding Aiea neighborhood.
With a passion for cooking that sparked in his hometown of Zhong Shan, China, and has lasted more than 20 years — including during a move to Hawaii along the way in 1997 — Wu enthusiastically cooks up Hong Kong Cantonese fare for guests at his Stadium Mall eatery on Salt Lake Boulevard. With the help of his friendly sister Maybo Wu and other family members, the close-knit team presents a la carte classics, popular lunch and dinner buffets and a select assortment of dim sum in an inviting atmosphere.
“I want to make the best food for all my customers,” says Wu, adding that he hopes to be able to pass on the joy he receives from cooking to customers through delivering delicious cuisine.
Maybo chimes in with her bright personality, expressing that the family business strives to offer everything patrons could hope for in a single dining experience. “Some people like to do the buffet, some like to order off the menu and some like to order only dim sum. That’s OK because we can do everything here, all in one restaurant,” she says.
With affordable prices to boot, Royal Palace offers up a number of standouts, from health-promoting Bitter Melon with Chicken ($8.95) to Steamed Fish (market price), featuring tilapia with ginger, onions and soy sauce. The kitchen takes the time to remove all the bones from its heaping serving of Stuffed Duck ($12 per order), and is willing to customize offerings like Steamed Pork Hash with Salted Duck Egg ($9.50).
Wu emphasizes that his dishes are cooked with healthy techniques and ingredients that won’t weigh patrons down, especially as the summer sun continues to scorch Oahu.
Since the Wu family took over last October, Royal Palace has seen a return of many longtime customers, in part because of its traditional menu items that are less common in other Chinese restaurants. Steamed Birthday Buns ($3.50 for three pieces) with red bean, or Shou Bao, for instance, are a time-honored treat enjoyed on birthdays. As Maybo explains, “Even some Chinese restaurants don’t make them because they take a long time to prepare, but if people are looking for birthday buns, they can come here — we have them.”
For an extra dose of luck and good health, Royal Palace also presents complimentary mango-jello “Lucky Fish” cake to patrons celebrating a birthday when they show valid identification.
One of the eatery’s newest offerings is traditional Marinated Pig Feet with House Special Sauce ($8.75). The dish exemplifies one of the most unique aspects of the eatery — made-from-scratch sauces diners won’t find anywhere else. “We add something different to make the house sauce special. We cannot tell because it’s a secret, but it’s only at our Royal Palace Chinese Restaurant,” reveals Maybo.
Whether patrons are enjoying classic slatherings or Wu’s creative sauces, they may rest assured that they are made with minimal MSG, and if customers prefer, they may request dishes without MSG altogether when ordering.
Daily buffet offerings continue to grow in popularity, with more than 50 fresh items served up — including salt and pepper pork chop and steamed fish fillet. Dive into the buffet Monday through Friday for lunch ($12.95; 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and dinner ($15.95; 4:30 to 9 p.m.), and all day during weekends and holidays for $16.95. On weekdays, diners also may choose twoand three-choice lunch specials priced at $6.95 and $8.75, respectively, and during weekends and at dinner, the specials are available for just $1 more.
The restaurant accommodates up to 160 people in a clean and spacious interior that boasts a number of beautifully painted murals. This makes the venue an ideal location for hosting large gatherings; just call the eatery in advance if you are planning an event. A plethora of party trays may be ordered for any off-site caterings needs as well.
Royal Palace offers 10-percent senior discounts for guests age 65 and older; 10-percent keiki discounts for children ages 5 to 7; and 50-percent discounts for youngsters ages 3 to 4. Delivery through Room Service in Paradise Inc. is another convenient option available (with additional fee; call restaurant for more information).
As Wu and his family continue to develop the restaurant, they aim to broaden their customer base, drawing in patrons from across the island to try their unique brand of Cantonese food. Considering Maybo sees “a lot of customers come again and again,” it’s safe to say they’re off to a great start.
Royal Palace Chinese Restaurant
4510 Salt Lake Blvd., Ste. C1
Daily, 10 a.m.–9 p.m., including holidays
See coupon HERE