Where True Cantonese Flavors ResigeCover Story Features
February 8, 2016
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: BODIE COLLINS
While many kamaaina are getting ready to welcome Chinese New Year, House of Wong Restaurant is still embracing a new beginning of its own. The Cantonese eatery continues to settle into its fresh locale on Kapahulu Avenue, with a new coat of paint, clean interior, revamped name and all. And as the new moon will bring festive celebrations for many local families, this restaurant’s staff will remain committed to its goal of catering to Hawaii’s patrons in the coming year and beyond.
Diners will be happy to know that one thing that’s not new to this restaurant, however, is experience. Before moving to its current locale across the street from Ala Wai Golf Course in September, it had been providing quality cuisine and customer service in Waikiki for 29 years. Co-owner and general manager Michael Wang runs the establishment with three business partners, who together have formed a strong management team for 15-plus years and counting. Now that they’re in a spot that’s convenient for island residents, they’re excited to dish out authentic fare at reasonable prices, while still being able to serve tourists who wander into the Kapahulu neighborhood.
For Chinese New Year, House of Wong offers a warm setting for those seeking a family-friendly celebration. Traditional Jai ($10.95) is up for grabs and will be kept on the menu in the weeks following the holiday. The eatery’s chefs have all been trained in China, so it’s no surprise that classic ingredients — from black mush rooms and fungus to bamboo shoots and chestnuts — make their way into the vegetarian specialty. The Jai also is exemplary of the healthy and light dishes that permeate the menu.
Wang takes pleasure in getting to know customers in the community and is happy that a number of dishes have taken off with local consumers. Dungeness Crab with Spicy Salt and Pepper, for instance, is a hit, proving there’s something irresistible about the juicy crab that has been lightly battered, fried and then stir fried with seasonings.
“It’s not just fresh, it’s live,” explains Wang, when describing the crab that feeds three to four people per order. “That has been an item that keeps our customers coming back again and again. We sell it at $23.95 per pound, so one crab is about 2-pound size.”
Wang also divulges that the phone has been ringing off the hook for preorders of tender Roast Honey Glazed Spareribs ($15.95 per order), which is similar to char siu but prepared with the sparerib cut of meat. “It requires experience and unique skills, particularly the seasoning part and the time control. If you put it in the oven for five more minutes or five minutes less, it makes a difference. You don’t want to overor undercook it,” he explains.
Whether stopping in after a round of golf or simply looking for a new spot to fulfill Chinese-food cravings, a great way to get acquainted with House of Wong is to stop in for the lunch special menu (see sidebar). Menu items are rotated every month or so and give patrons the opportunity to try new and healthy selections at affordable prices, such as Singapore Rice Noodle ($9.95) prepared curry-style or Salt and Pepper Pork Chop ($9.95).
WONG FOR THE WIN
When Michael Wang and his fellow co-owners say their restaurant is a “House of Wong,” they meant it. The name Wang is pronounced Wong in Cantonese, and thus three of the four co-owners carry the Wong last name. As an added plus for this true Wong establishment, Michael says “wong” also means prosperity in the same language, which bodes well for the business in the new year.
One way House of Wong Restaurant makes dining delicious and budget-friendly for local customers is with its lunch specials. If there’s one thing you have to try this month, according to co-owner and general manager Michael Wang, it’s Shanghai Style Wonton in Soup ($7.95). The pork-and-vegetable dumplings are filled with more veggies than your average wonton, and a pure chicken broth soothes the soul. “It’s a really light in taste and healthy. I like it very much, so I want to recommend it to my customers. If I don’t like it, I don’t recommend it,” says Wang.
House of Wong Restaurant
477 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu
Daily, 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
The restaurant now serves alcohol with a full bar.