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Sunday, April 26, 2015


Royal Garden, located on the third floor of the Ala Moana Hotel, was the third dining out event for 15 Craigside.  Previously, we went to Hy's Steakhouse and 53 By the Sea.

As you walk in, you are tempted by plates of dried abalone, scallops and mushrooms:

Which gives me an opportunity to share a story of a dining experience I had in Hong Kong around a quarter century ago.  Luis Vega and I walked into the Regent Hotel (which is now the Intercontinental) and had lunch in their Chinese restaurant.  We ordered a few dishes and each had a bottle of beer.  One of the features, half-dried abalone, had a price in taels, a weight measurement used for precious metals.  We thought that was odd, but did not think much of it until the bill came:  $180, which has a value of $325 today.  We were expecting to pay, perhaps, $50, or less.

First, remember that Royal Garden is a Chinese restaurant, and, true to normal character, the service, with the exception of one individual who must have been sent to a Dale Carnegie course, was surly, but yet essentially efficient.  Second, this establishment is well known for dim sum, which is served at lunch.  Thus, our dinner here was lonely, for there weren't that many customers in a rather cavernous room.  Our table:

You can't see the drinks too well, but there was a corkage charge of $25/table, not per bottle, so we brought bottles of Johnny Black Label, Chateau St. Michelle Riesling, Sanford Chardonnay and Bailey's Chocolate Mint Cream, the latter donated by Gene Kaneshiro, who lives at 15 Craigside.

We pre-ordered a nine-course dinner, which began with minced pork served on lettuce:

Then came the dried scallop soup, which wasn't as intensely terrific as I expected:

You ask, why scotch?  In earlier days of Chinese banquets in Honolulu, there was always a bottle  of Johnny Black Label at each table as a symbol of success.    Red Label would have been an insult.  You were supposed to place a tablespoon or two into the soup.  There are dinners I've had in the Orient where every course was toasted, but, usually, some type of brown Chinese wine made of rice is used.  Scotch is usually at 80 proof (40% ethanol), while wine is "only" 25 proof (12.5% ethanol--but can range from 10% to 20%).  Thus, scotch is not used for toasting, for that can get lethal.  A bottle of scotch is no longer used at banquets because of stricter DUI laws.

The third dish was Honey-glazed Walnut Shrimp, which I let pass because of my allergy.    #4 was Roast Pea-Par Duck, which was excellent, although I have no idea what pea-par means:

The Sizzling Boneless Short Ribs with Bell Pepper, Onion and Black Bean Sauce was not sizzling, and, in fact, was barely warm, but almost okay.  #6 was Boiled Ranch Chicken in Chicken Broth  with Mustard Cabbage, and was quite good:

I have a bone to pick with #7, Braised Mushroom with Cabbage:

It was tasty and all that, but, after you place the mushroom on your plate with a spoon, it is essentially impossible to use those large, plastic Chinese chopsticks in a fail-safe manner.  While I didn't actually see anyone drop any mushroom unto their lap, I finally solved the problem by using my fingers.  The House Fried Rice had shrimps, and the meal ended with Red Bean Soup, Lotus Seed and Lilies, although I did not observe anything that had any kind of resemblance to lilies.

Didn't get his name, but he was the only staffer here who had any kind of non-negative personality.  The whole meal, not counting the drinks we brought, amounted to $37/person plus tax and tip.  We voted to give 20%, but when the bill came, they only added 15%.  At Hy's we were ready to reward 20%, but the bill arrived with an 18% tip.  A good part about these meal outings is that the 15 Craigside van takes us there and picks us up:

We all agreed that this dinner was a very positive experience.  On the evening of Friday, May 8, we are scheduled for Sarento's, located on the top of the Ilikai. We requested the room that has this view at sunset:

I return from Kenji's Safari (where we will golf for five straight days in Napa) that afternoon.

Remember, if you're interested in going on an around the world trip this Fall, you are invited to my presentation this week:

     15 Craigside Place 
(up Nuuanu Avenue, one block past Judd Street,  turn right just before the cemetery and the security guard will tell you where to park)
     The Theater
     Wednesday, April 29 at 3:30PM


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