Stellar Cuisine Reigns SupremeFeatures Inside Feature
January 12, 2014
Story By: Kyle Galdeira | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
Cultural celebrations are often synonymous with not only rich historical context, but also the distinct dishes that multiple generations come to love and cherish year after year.
Chinese New Year, regarded in the Chinese culture as the beginning of the new lunar calendar and recognized as the most important holiday, is one celebration that is accompanied by iconic cuisine to mark the occasion. Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant is home to some of Hawaii’s freshest and tastiest Cantonese- and Hong Kong-style cooking, and features a host of special menu items to coincide with this year’s Jan. 31 celebration.
Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant has served multiple generations of diners, both kamaaina and visitors alike, for nearly 30 years — many of which have been spent at its current locale on the third floor of Ala Moana Hotel. Owner Calvin Wong and brother Johnny, who serves as Royal Garden’s chef, opened the iconic restaurant in 1984 after Johnny completed his culinary training in Hong Kong.
Through its three-plus decades, Royal Garden has developed a stellar reputation for serving up cuisine that appeases all the senses. Royal Garden’s warm and inviting dining room creates an escape from the hustle and bustle, as guests are treated to a vast array of choices from fresh dim sum at lunch to multiple varieties of soups, seafood selections, duck, chicken, beef, pork, vegetable offerings, rice, noodles and many more.
“I have a lot of customers who have been with me for almost 30 years,” Calvin explains. “Every time I speak with customers, they tell me how much they love Royal Garden, and that’s very special.”
Calvin invites diners to partake in an assortment of special seasonal dishes available now through Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year Jai ($12.95) is a popular vegetarian dish enjoyed during this time, and features fresh ingredients including bamboo shoots, tofu, carrots, Chinese green beans and long rice. Chinese New Year Gau ($8.95 small, $12.95 large) is also available, as the mochi rice pudding is made fresh at Royal Garden and is believed to bring good luck to those who enjoy it.
Royal Garden even has two nine-course Chinese New Year menus available with at least one day’s notice priced at $345 and $455 per table. The larger special menu includes Dried Oyster in Wrapped Lettuce; Bird’s Nest Soup with Crab Meat; Peking Duck; Steamed Island Fish with Ginger and Green Onion; and Baked Rock Salt Ranch Chicken.
Before stocking up on the mouthwatering holiday-inspired creations, diners can look forward to enjoying some of Royal Garden’s excellent dim sum selections available daily during lunch. Most dim sum items typically include three to four pieces, and diners may select from more than 50 options via the dim sum carts and the restaurant’s friendly and helpful staff who deliver the tasty treats tableside.
Royal Garden also features stellar entrees and superb seafood, such as Live Dungeness Crab and Maine Lobster (market prices), which are prepared fresh on the spot as the crustaceans make their way from the in-house tank to the kitchen, where they are crafted in what Calvin calls “Royal Garden style.” He explains that the crab or lobster is cooked in minced garlic, shallots, butter and chicken broth in order to present a wide range of flavors and aromas.
“I travel all the way to Hong Kong, and nobody cooks the same way,” says Calvin with a smile. “It (a dish) may have the same name, but no other restaurant can touch our recipe!”
Those in search of stellar seafood also are encouraged to try Stir-Fried Mix ($18.95), which features a bed of shredded potatoes that form a basket containing shrimp, squid, scallops, fish and assorted vegetables. Calvin recommends Deep-Fried Shrimp Balls ($19.95) as well, which include a savory shrimp paste that offers a crunchy texture after it’s fried.
Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant is equipped with banquet menus and offers multiple private dining rooms capable of hosting 10 to 50 guests. Stop in for lunch or dinner daily, and revel in the culinary delights that reside at Royal Garden.
Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant
Ala Moana Hotel (Third Floor)
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
Lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (Monday-Friday) and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday).
Dinner served daily, 5:30-10 p.m.