Have Your Moon Cake And Eat It Too?

Cover Story Features

August 14, 2016

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo

Executive chef and owner Johnny Wong

Executive chef and owner Johnny Wong

Just as Thanksgiving dinner would not be complete without golden turkey, the Chinese Moon Festival calls for enjoying scrumptious bites of moon cake. Luckily, folks in Hawaii don’t have to travel all the way to China to sample this holiday treat, as it’s baked to perfection locally at Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant.

For the past 15 years or so, the longstanding eatery at Ala Moana Hotel has prepared moon cake for a limited time in the months leading up to the annual mid-autumn celebration — which honors the full moon and harvest while paying tribute to peace, prosperity and family reunions. This year will be no different, as patrons already are nibbling on Royal Garden’s plethora of moon cakes and will continue to do so until the Sept. 15 holiday.



According to Royal Garden owner Calvin Wong, customers have come to appreciate the high standards of quality and freshness the restaurant delivers with these seasonal treats. “We make our moon cake fresh daily in our own kitchen. It’s not like the imported ones that have to be prepared months before they are sold,” he says.

Royal Garden’s moon cake is free of preservatives and features top-notch ingredients that have been carefully sourced by Wong and his brother Johnny, who serves as executive chef. The creme de la creme of lotus seed paste used in the traditional filling, for example, comes from Wunan province in Southern China. The paste is custom processed in Hong Kong using only pure ingredients, such as vegetable oil and a hint of sugar, making for a healthier pastry that is not overly sweet.

The moon cakes are sold in box sets ranging in price from $26.95 to $29.95. There’s also a set of mini moon cakes for $20.95. White Lotus Seed Paste with Single Egg Yolk ($27.95) or Double Egg Yolk ($29.95) are among the most customary and popular choices, as the whole egg yolks in the middle resemble the full moon when the cake is sliced in half. Other traditional flavors found in the fillings include pine nuts, mixed nuts and red bean paste. “Most people’s favorite is the lotus seed paste, but I prefer the red bean paste,” shares Wong.

Royal Garden sells 6,000 to 7,000 boxes of moon cake each year. A. CONSILLIO PHOTO

Royal Garden sells 6,000 to 7,000 boxes of moon cake each year. A. CONSILLIO PHOTO

And for those who like their moon cake with a cup of tea, a special Gift Set ($41.95) offers the petite cakes along with Chinese green tea.

Patrons also can nibble on these baked goods while dining in at the eatery. One bite, and you’re sure to be over the moon.

The attention to detail that goes into Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant’s moon cakes mirrors the entire menu of upscale Cantonese Hong Kong fare, which the eatery has served up at the hotel for the past 30 years.

Brothers Calvin and Johnny Wong co-own the establishment, with prior experience running the popular Capital Chinese Restaurant on Keeaumoku Street.

Live Dungeness Crab with curry sauce and long rice is a must-have. T. GRILLO PHOTO

Live Dungeness Crab with curry sauce and long rice is a must-have. T. GRILLO PHOTO

Some of the most popular dishes are Live Maine Lobster prepared Royal Garden-style with butter, shallots, minced garlic and a very rich chicken broth, as well as whole Live Dungeness Crab served with curry sauce and long rice in a casserole dish.

The restaurant’s customer base includes a loyal legion of local families as well as international patrons over the years, including VIPs, dignitaries and celebrities.

Royal Garden Chinese Restaurant

Ala Moana Hotel, third floor,
410 Atkinson Drive
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

Ilima Awards
Hawaii's Best