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Beloved Chinese eatery stays the course

A La Carte

July 14, 2019

Story By: Brandon Bosworth | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Salt and Pepper Fish ($14.95)

Maple Garden has been a Moiliili institution for decades. Since opening its doors in 1975, the restaurant has specialized in authentic Northern Chinese Sichuan cuisine.

At one point, the eatery’s future seemed uncertain. When the original owner passed away about 12 years ago, his widow had no interest in operating a restaurant. Fortunately for lovers of quality Chinese food, Richard Lam stepped in and bought Maple Garden.

Lam came in with years of experience in the industry.

Chives with Shredded Pork ($13.50)

He was employed at Yen King in Kahala Mall for more than 20 years, working his way up from dishwasher to cook to manager to owner. When Yen King was closed, Lam took the opportunity to move on to Maple Garden.

While Lam made some renovations to the Isenberg Street restaurant, he kept customer favorites on the menu while adding new dishes of his own. “We didn’t want to change too much,” he says. “People wouldn’t like it, and we have lots of local regulars.”

One longtime favorite is the Roast Duck ($25). A whole duck is roasted until crisp, while still remaining juicy. It’s one of several duck and chicken dishes Maple Garden offers.

Roast Duck ($25)

The Chives with Shredded Pork ($13.50) features tender pieces of pork tossed with chili pepper and plenty of chives for a dish that is fragrant and just a bit spicy.

Seafood fans should appreciate the Salt and Pepper Fish ($14.95). Pieces of fish are lightly battered and fried until crisp, then seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, chives and chilis.

Maple Garden also has an extensive vegetarian menu with some dishes you might not find elsewhere, for example, the Garlic Pea Shoots ($14.95). Made from the edible leaves of pea plants, the shoots are stir fried in garlic and a light sauce making for a simple yet flavorful vegetable dish. “We are one of the only places that serves pea shoots,” Lam says.

Garlic Pea Shoots ($14.95)

Staying in business for nearly half a century is a big accomplishment for any restaurant, and is evidence that Maple Garden’s formula of offering top-notch Chinese food at reasonable prices in a homey, neighborhood setting still works. Lam sees no reason to change that. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve always done.”

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