The Harbor For Chinese Seafood

Jo McGarry
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Friday - January 06, 2006
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I’ve been eating lunch at the Harbor Village Chinese restaurant regularly for more than three years, and it only occurred to me the other day that I’ve never written a word about it.

Situated in Koko Marina (to the left of Foodland, and just across from Blockbuster) Harbor Village serves incredibly good Chinese food. I first went there about 10 years ago, and was impressed with the variety the eclectic menu had to offer. Today, under the ownership of chef Kevin Lee and his wife, Flora, the menu is varied and the food consistently good.

Seafood takes priority here, and specialties include lobster, crab and live Hawaiian prawns - all cooked to order and in a wide variety of styles. Guests who come at lunchtime are treated to some excellent dim sum and a host of daily specials that may include reasonably priced abalone with chicken ($13.95) and any number of seafood daily specials.

The busy lunchtime crowd comprises Japanese tour groups, local business owners, a handful of tourists and residents of Hawaii Kai, thankful there’s a reasonably priced lunch place closer than Waialae Avenue.

The atmosphere is fine - clean, bright and bustling throughout lunch and dinner - and the service is a bit spotty. It can be incredibly slow when you first walk in and sit down, but once the staff (usually a team of no more than two at lunchtime) gets your order going, food does come fast and furiously to the table. From my long hours (it seems) of observation, it’s a simple matter of being short staffed that makes the service so slow, but as the restaurant is family-run, I’m very forgiving of the wait - especially as the food makes up for any shortcomings in the front of house. Flora works the floor most days, and couldn’t be more pleasant and helpful to customers.

When we asked about a certain noodle dish that wasn’t on the menu, she smiled and said “don’t worry too much about the menu, whatever you want we try to make it for you.”

If you didn’t know there was a chef/owner in this kitchen, then you might guess after you’ve eaten. There’s a certain level of sophistication to the food that’s lacking in many other Chinese restaurants, and there’s a confidence from the kitchen that can be seen in the elaborate presentation of dishes such as whole abalone, baked lobster, braised sea cucumber with abalone and whole flounder in two styles.

Live Maine lobster comes baked in a variety of forms - with garlic and butter, with black bean sauce, with ginger and green onions, salt and peppered or sashimi-style. Live Dungeness crab is a reason many people stop by and it, too, comes in a number of different ways (baked with long rice in a hot pot, hot and spicy, baked with ginger and garlic). There are some nice vegetarian options, too, including pan-fried string beans, ma po tofu and baked tofu with salt and pepper. Sizzling oysters, pork hash with salted egg and wonderful noodles are some of the other dishes that you shouldn’t miss - and if you’re an adventurous eater, then try the dish with my favorite name “Braised Superior Shark Fin.”

“People know us for the seafood,” says Flora. “In fact, we sell so much that we hardly ever sell orders of char siu,” she adds. Chef Kevin makes only enough char siu to fill orders of special noodles and soups.

At night, Harbor Village has a welcoming ambience, and it can get extremely busy. Call ahead to make a reservation if you want to ensure a table, especially with a large group. After seven years or so under the excellent hands of Kevin Lee, the word is out on this gem in Koko Marina.

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