This Eatery’s Sure ToCover Story Features
March 26, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
If you’ve ever met Lisa Lum, it comes as no surprise that she would be the owner of a restaurant called Happy Days Chinese Seafood Restaurant. After all, with her always-pleasant demeanor, she can often be found weaving her way through the eatery’s maze of large round tables, talking story with regulars at one, then catering to special orders at another. Lum’s smile, along with the familiar chatter of the local families who dine at Happy Days regularly, are telltale signs that the restaurant is not a place where people merely come to eat, but rather a neighborhood hot spot where diners really do enjoy their days.
“I love the customers, to see them happy as they dine here, and it’s nice to always talk to them; we have people who come in every week,” says Lum. With 30 years of experience in the local Chinese restaurant scene — 16 of those being at Happy Days — Lum knows a thing or two about giving patrons a Hong Kong-style dining experience to be pleased with.
Kaimuki-based regulars and newcomers alike feel at home once they try house-favorites such as Honey Walnut Shrimp and Peking Duck. And who could resist dim sum served up in a fun, festive dining environment adorned with charming pink tablecloths, red lanterns and chandeliers?
One dish Lum recommends is Crispy Gau Gee Mein ($10.95), which offers pan-fried, skinny Hong Kong noodles piled high with shrimp, pork, char siu, vegetables and thick brown gravy. Like crown jewels on top of the winning selection, four pork-filled crispy gau gee make the dish truly irresistible.
Just as many Chinese restaurants do, Happy Days serves up a family-style menu perfectly suited for passing around the table. Your fellow diners will be tempted to fight over every last piece of Sweet and Sour Fish ($13.95), consisting of lightly breaded sea bass, onions and bell peppers slathered in a luxuriously tangy sauce.
Those looking for lighter fare also have plenty to choose from at Happy Days, as Hong Kong cuisine tends to be lean and full of healthy vegetables, according to Lum. Taste this for yourself in Country
Style Braised Chicken ($13.95), which brings together a whole range of energizing mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, onion and ginger — all mixed with hearty chicken and lap cheong in oyster sauce. The best part is, the dish arrives to your table simmering on a burner and continues to cook throughout the meal. You also can lighten things up with Chicken Salad ($9.95) topped with house-crisped wonton strips.
With an expansive menu of 249 dishes, there’s bound to be something for everyone. You might even come across less-common specialties the likes of Leek with Lamb ($15.95), featuring tender meat that isn’t too gamey, accented with fragrant leeks and a zing of chili pepper.
While Lum says she is always encouraging her longtime patrons to try something new on the menu — as her customers “always eat the same thing, ” she says — Dining Out knows that in the restaurant industry, that’s the highest form of flattery. It’s another sign the restaurant is worth visiting, when guests come back again and again for more of their all-time favorites.
MAKE IT A PRIVATE PARTY
With graduation season right around the corner, it’s not too early to reserve a private room for your special celebration. Happy Days is home to customizable private-dining rooms available for groups large and small. And seeing as the eatery is open daily, it’s also a prime spot for hosting any festive gathering year-round.
GIVING THEM ‘SUM-THING’ TO TALK ABOUT
On any given day, waiters and waitresses at Happy Days Chinese Seafood Restaurant are busy pushing dim sum carts around the spacious dining room, serving up pork hash, char siu bao (baked and steamed) and har gau (shrimp dumpling) to lots of eager taste buds.
According to owner Lisa Lum, what makes the restaurant’s dim-sum treats so special is the work that goes into them on a daily basis. “Every morning, the dim sum cook comes in at 5 o’clock to make it, so it’s very fresh,” she says.
Bite into Chinese malasadas, deep-fried taro and much more daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., although Lum confirms that patrons may still order dump-lings a la carte after dim sum service has finished for the day. Currently, there’a also a discount on takeout dim sum orders placed from 8 to 11:30 a.m. daily: receive 15 percent off when you pay in cash, and 10 percent off when paying with credit card (see coupon HERE).
Happy Days Chinese Seafood Restaurant
3553 Waialae Ave., Kaimuki
Daily, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.