For a while now I've been walking by the old Yong Sing location in downtown Honolulu wondering if that space would ever be occupied again. Then about 9 months ago, I noticed a bit of activity around the restaurant. First, the entryway was cleaned -- it actually looked like someone homeless was camped out there. A few weeks after that, I caught the doors open and it looked like the insides had been gutted. Shortly there after, I would pass by every now and again to check out the progress.
At the end of June 2005, I visited the Mandalay's booth at the 14th Annual Taste of Honolulu. After speaking with the owner, Linda Chan, I learned that the restaurant was planning an October opening (if I remember correctly).
Soon, October came and went, and the Mandalay still had not opened. Then on Wednesday, January 18th, I saw a "Now Open" sign in front of the restauarant as I was walking back to the office from Great Harvest.
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Interested, I walked in and got a menu. When I got back to the office, I called the restaurant and attempted to make a reservation for the following evening, only to be told that the restaurant was going to be closed for a private function. From what I was told by a co-worker that had lunch there that day, the restaurant was closed for an industry party.
Since I wasn't able to enjoy dinner here on Thursday, I decided to have lunch here on Friday. Walking up to the restaurant, I noticed a small area dedicated for take out lunches (great idea) which was set off to the side from the main dining room.
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Looking over the options, I decided to try the dim sum which is noted on a sign right inside the door. There were two options -- the "A" plate and the "B" plate.
Since I was hungry, and because I wanted to sample as many items as possible, I decided to try the dim sum plate "B" (US$6.95).
The plate contained one of each of the following (individual photos where necessary):
Steamed sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf, steamed pork dumpling, steamed BBQ pork bun, deep fried shrimp dumpling, deep fried mixed meat dumpling, mini egg tart in crispy shell & mochi with peanut and coconut.
Here is a photo of the steamed sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf after it has been upwrapped.
And here is the inside of the steamed BBQ pork bun.
As a whole, this plate of dim sum wasn't very good. The steamed BBQ pork bun was mostly bun and not enough filling. What was there was mostly fat. The deep fried shrimp dumpling was soggy and cold -- almost as if it were sitting on a cart for a long, long time. The steamed pork dumpling was cold and oily. I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth for a while. I wish that I had ordered, or brewed, some tea to wash away the oil. The other two fried items were really oily as well. The mini egg tart in crispy shell? Well, it was named incorrectly because the shell wasn't really crispy. And the steamed sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaf was probably the best thing here, even though the rice was a bit "wet", it was still flavorful and stuffed full of ground chicken and dried shrimp.
After the lackluster experience with the dim sum plate, I decided to go back for something else. This time, I decided to have something from the hot food station. I decided on a two choice plate (US$5.95).
All of the plate lunches are served with white rice, seafood fried rice or gon lo mein. Since I didn't feel like eating rice, I had gon lo mein with orange beef and stir fried green beans. The orange beef was overly tenderized and really sweet. It didn't feel like I was eating meat. The stir fried green beans were selected because they had just brought a fresh pan out of the kitchen. The beans were crisp and stir fried with ground pork and dried shrimp. I really enjoyed these and would have asked for a double order had I known the beef was going to be such a failure. The gon lo mein, on the other hand, was dry and flavorless. Some chilli sauce improved the taste a bit, but not enough to make this worthwhile.
After the poor showing during lunch, I am reluctant to visit the Mandalay for dinner. I've come to two conclusions here. One, don't order the dim sum for take out. By the time you get back to the office, it's sure to be cold and nearly inedible. Maybe the Mandalay should reconsider offering dim sum to take out. Two, when visiting during lunchtime, make sure you select whatever has just been brought out. I had a feeling that the gon lo mein and the orange beef had been sitting a while. The stir fried green beans were a hit because they were freshly made.
Was it worth the wait? Definitely not and it definitely wasn't worth the cost. Will there be a next time? It's hard to tell. Ask me in a few weeks.
1055 Alakea Street