Ray’s Fountain Of Youthful Eats
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Anyone who meets Raymond Chau instantly will be struck by the chef’s youthful and friendly charm — so much so that you’d never believe he is almost 70 years old. At an age when his peers can be seen enjoying retirement and playing cards on River Street just outside his Chinatown Cultural Plaza restaurant, he’s at the helm of a brand-new restaurant venture and taking the reins in the kitchen.
So what’s the secret to his longevity? Chau says the food he eats has a lot to do with it, and he’s here to rejuvenate dining experiences with an innovative style of fusion cuisine that’s as unique and spirited as he is.
Seeking an active lifestyle, the executive chef came out of retirement to open Ray’s BYOB Kitchen in March. Since then, he’s been catering to local palates with a distinct brand of fare that’s rooted in Chinese tradition, but enlivened with twists and turns Chau has picked up throughout his storied past in the restaurant industry.
To help diners get acquainted with his flavorful fusions, Chau invites everyone to try the Chef’s VIP Signature Dinner, which the owner has carefully curated to expand guests’ horizons with flavors they’ve never tasted before.
“I put the best of my recipes into a perfect combination, so you have a little bit of salty, sweet and spicy flavors,” explains Chau. “It’s a good combination because a lot of customers still are not familiar with our menu. It’s totally different than ordinary Chinese restaurants’ menus.”
The Chef’s VIP Signature Dinner is priced at $22 per person, and is available for groups ranging from two to six patrons. Appropriately dubbed “A Taste of Heaven,” the menu starts off with a celestial Oriental Chicken Salad tossed in a house black garlic vinegar dressing that beams with caramelized-garlic magic. Parties of two also are presented with Steamed Fish of the Day and pan-fried Sweet and Sour Prawns with strawberry puree.
For larger parties, the Chef’s VIP Signature Dinner just keeps on giving, as dishes are added according to the number of patrons enjoying the set menu. In addition to the aforementioned entrees, parties of three are treated to Steamed Lobster with Pork Hash. For groups of four, Chau also throws Baby Back Ribs with sweet-and-tangy red wine barbecue sauce into the mix, while parties of five get to try Spicy Scallop with Eggplant as well. Last, but not least, groups of six are privy to an additional seasoned Mongolian Lamb Rack, which otherwise is not on the menu.
As patrons dive deeper into the plethora of flavors served up in this original menu, they are getting a glimpse into Chau’s long and winding culinary journey. Some customers may remember the chef from his days of operating Won Kee Restaurant more than 35 years ago, when he originally opened it in the very same spot Ray’s BYOB stands today, before eventually moving it to another spot (that’s still open) within the same plaza. His start in the industry, however, came earlier than that, when as a teenager the Hong Kong-born chef moved to Europe to work at his uncle’s restaurant in Holland. Over the years, he’s opened eateries in China, worked for Hilton International in Guam, been employed by celebrity chef Sam Choy, and much more. Even during his brief mingle with retirement, Chau travelled all around China, picking up recipes every step of the way.
Diners can taste these diverse influences in his cuisine, especially in the western touches of Baby Back Ribs, or in unique sauces like the strawberry puree used in the Sweet and Sour Prawns. When describing the latter, Chau says, “This is a very old-fashioned recipe, actually, but kamaaina are not familiar with it. Most of the time, you can taste it at banquets or very formal events, where they serve it as an appetizer.” The chef substituted the traditional tomato sauce used for the prawns for a distinguished strawberry puree to try something different and lend a fruity flavor to the dish. “A lot of people, after they taste it, they just love it,” he adds.
All patrons who order the special menu receive rice and a choice of dessert. As a testament to Chau’s lighter, healthier and zestier Chinese fare, the Chef’s VIP Signature Dinner is perfect for any special event, including celebrating the upcoming Moon Festival and China’s National Day. And, who knows, you might just walk out of the eatery feeling 10 years younger.
Ray’s BYOB Kitchen
Chinatown Cultural Plaza
100 N. Beretania St., Ste. 113, Honolulu
Daily, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and 5-10 p.m.
The restaurant is located near the golden lions at the River-Street main entrance of Chinatown Cultural Plaza; The restaurant is BYOB