Putting a twist on traditional fare

Columns Foodie Fare

May 11, 2014

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant has been serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine for the last 30 years. Although the menu tends to showcase longtime recipes, customers can still expect to be wowed by the restaurant’s innovations and twists on standard items.

“Johnny is always coming up with new ideas, so we always add new dishes,” says Calvin Wong, who co-owns the restaurant with brother Johnny, the head chef. “He is always watching the food trends and seeing what kind of new ingredients he can use.”

One example of Royal Garden’s creativity is the Stuffed Conch Shell ($6.95), which features scallops, shrimp and conch shell meat complemented with curry flavorings. The seafood is baked to perfection inside the shell.

“No other restaurant in town will serve the same thing,” Calvin says of the dish. “Some of these dishes are only offered in our restaurant.”

According to Calvin, another Royal Garden specialty that you won’t find elsewhere is the Pea-Par Tofu ($18.95), which features deep fried tofu on a bed of spinach.

“It is tofu mixed with shrimp paste and then deep fried. Then, it’s cooked with chicken broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce all together in a casserole,” Calvin explains.

Customers return to the eatery time and time again for Shrimp with Broccoli and Szechuan Sauce ($18.95), which features succulent shrimp bathed in a sweet and spicy covering.

“The sauce is a famous spicy sauce from the Szechuan region,” Calvin says.

The Zong ($4.50) might be a common Chinese dish, but Calvin says Royal Garden’s is different. The dish features mung bean, egg yolk and pork — all surrounded by sticky rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The special creation is only available during the month of May.

On the Side

“I always have been very interested in finding good food,” says Calvin Wong, who co-owns Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant with his brother, Johnny. “I love eating!

“And Johnny enjoys cooking so much,” Calvin says. “And he really cares about the comments from the customers, so he is always improving.”

After they both worked at various local Chinese restaurants, the brothers decided to open their own place and launched a couple of restaurants downtown. During their time running a restaurant on Keeaumoku Street, they were often visited by the general manager of Ala Moana Hotel.

“He told me, ‘I love your food!'” Calvin recalls. “He told me he had an open space if we would like to move to his hotel because he had so much confidence in me.”

Royal Garden has attracted a number of notable guests, including politicians and actors. For Wong, however, some of the most memorable ones have been those that have followed his journey all the way from his previous restaurant on Keeamoku more than 30 years ago.

“I’ve had second-generation and now third-generation guests come in,” he says.

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ala Moana Hotel, Third floor
410 Atkinson Drive, Honolulu
Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Honolulu, HI 96814

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best