The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, October 10, 1996

Finding new horizon
at Shangri-La

THE one thing I wanted at Shangri-La Cafe they couldn't offer. It was nothing particularly exotic; just Curried Crab. I get hungry just thinking about one such dish served in the Hideaway, a Portuguese restaurant in Kowloon. There in a dark, split level room populated by Hong Kong hipsters - dressed in black, of course - the staff served a challengingly spicy crab dressed in a Madras-style curry that didn't mask the sweetness of the crab meat. I have longed for this dish since my last trip to Hong Kong in July.

So I was excited by the possibilities offered by Shangri-La Cafe, serving up a distinctive blend of Macau and Portuguese fare - with the latter's Mozambique, Brazilian and Goa, India influences - in a style dubbed Macanese.

But at a month old, the restaurant has yet to see its fish tanks arrive; therefore, no crab. None of Shangri-Las other customers seem to be too disappointed. The restaurant is packed most nights.

The restaurant's interior seemed to be influenced more by Marie Callendar's than a sense of Chinese or Portuguese history. The dining room is done up in pastels with floral-patterned seats. The room made me feel claustrophobic, but as my friend put it, "This is like Hong Kong, you're supposed to feel claustrophobic." Oh yeah.

WITHOUT the crab, we settled for starters of an Escargot Cream Soup ($2.25 for a cup, $4 for a bowl), which is like cream of mushroom, but with five or six whole snails (in the larger size). Oxtail soup ($1.95/$3.50) is nothing like the local version. Here, the oxtails are braised before being added to a thickened, light- tasting tomato broth.

Next, we tried a Prawn Salad with Papaya ($6.95), with the two main ingredients tossed together with a little mayonnaise on a bed of greens. It wasn't very inspired.

Several fish dishes are offered. We went for the hake, served with a garlicky tomato sauce. Alas, the weathered fish, rather than being moist, crumbled like baked phyllo at a fork's touch. Perhaps, this problem will be resolved, also, when the fish tanks arrive.

Portuguese Chicken ($7.50) with potatoes is a curry dish made with the familiar English-style yellow curry also popular in local cooking. And one dish we saw heading for many tables was the Baked Pork Chop on Rice or Spaghetti ($4.95), topped with a bland tomato sauce. For the price, it's not surprising that there were a lot of marrieds with children in the crowd.

My favorite dish turned out to be a blisteringly hot baked North African Chicken ($9.95), topped with a mince of red and green peppers, which is not for kiddies.

Although Shangri-La Cafe leaves a bit to be desired in its sauces, I have long said that Honolulu is starving for something, anything new, and for those seeking a novel experience at a reasonable price this is Utopia.

Shangri-La Cafe

Where: 1145C 12th Ave.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 daily except Tuesday
Prices: About $6 to $10 per person for lunch; about $20 for two for dinner
Call: 737-0300

Zip into Hoku's for lunch

An hour lunch break doesn't have to mean stopping at the nearest fast-food joint.

Hoku's, the signature restaurant of the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is now promising a businessman's lunch in one hour.

On the plate are a tandoori chicken salad, a daily chef's special entree, tiramisu and coffee or tea, for $25 per person.

For reservations, call 739-8777.

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

- excellent;
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- average;
- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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