Shooting For The Moon In Hawaii Kai
Wednesday - August 12, 2009
When Harbor Village chef/owner Kevin Lee made moon cakes last year, he expected to sell a few hundred boxes.
He ended up selling thousands.
“People kept asking for more and more,” says Kevin’s wife Flora. “This year we’re making some more.”
Good thing, too, because the cakes are so popular customers have been asking for them since January.
“Ever since before New Year, customers have been asking us when the cakes will be ready,” says Flora. “I kept telling them by October, then maybe at the end of summer, but eventually we just gave in and started baking them last month!”
I’ve been eating at Harbor Village for almost seven years and have always considered it a small gift from the food gods that one of the best Chinese restaurants on Oahu is four minutes from my house. It’s no surprise to me that the restaurant’s reputation is growing, as I’ve always thought it to be an outstanding example of consistency, quality and lack of pretension.
Kevin is originally from Macau. He learned to cook there and still travels to Hong Kong regularly, making food trips to hone his skills and learn cutting-edge preparations of new dishes. He opened Harbor Village in 1999, and now has a steady group of customers who turn to him for all their family celebrations.
Most don’t even ask for a menu.
“The customers trust Kevin and know that they will get very good food from him,” says Flora, “especially when it’s catering an important event.”
Dim sum, served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., draws a busy crowd hungry for the perfect, hot little bundles of seafood and other specialty fillings that dim sum chef Min Zhang sends out daily.
On the regular menu you’ll find outstanding examples of contemporary Chinese cooking. Hot and sour soup here is as good as I’ve ever tasted, the house noodles are a simple, nourishing delight and live seafood is a specialty. Signature dishes include live Dungeness crab cooked with garlic and hot chili, and live Maine lobster. House specials include live seafood, fried whole fish, smoked tea duck with buns, oxtail with black pepper, lamb brisket in hot pot and pork chops with cumin. It’s far from an average menu, and the quality and consistency of Kevin’s dishes show a remarkable dedication and attention to detail. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons the moon cakes have become immediately popular.
“The moon cake ingredients are very high quality,” says Flora. “We buy eggs in Hawaii and salt them ourselves. It’s more expensive and time consuming, but it’s safer and the customers seem happy to know that everything is made right here.”
You’ll find Flora and Kevin at the restaurant most days. Like many of us, they juggle running their business with taking care of their kids, and for me that’s just another part of this restaurant’s appeal. More than just good food, Harbor Village is one of those rare restaurants where being part of the community is as important as offering a good menu. Flora knows customers by name, Kevin sends out new dishes he’s testing for approval, and both greet regular customers each day with warm smiles and thanks for their business.
“We’re very thankful for our customers,” says Flora, modestly.
And we customers are very thankful for the food.
Harbor Village Seafood Restaurant.
Koko Marina Center 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy. C-123
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