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The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Location is everything
for this eatery

I heard from three credible sources that Kapolei Chinese Restaurant is "Great!" I was so trusting, I didn't even question the generic name.

Well, Karl Marx's quip about a rival owing "his eminence chiefly to the flatness of the surrounding terrain" could easily apply here.

I hated breaking the news to my friends that, no, the restaurant isn't great by any measure, but it is open, it packs a crowd, and this in itself is amazing.

I've complained about Leeward Oahu's bleak dining scene for several years, but none of this sticks with our "townie" readers. It's only when they actually move to the Leeward side that the grumbling about a lack of culinary options starts, as if this complaint is new.

Kapolei Chinese Restaurant

Service: STARSTAR1/2

Bullet Address: 91-525 Farrington Hwy., next to Queen's Health Care Center
Bullet Prices: About $30 to $40 for four
Bullet Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Bullet Call: 674-8888

Having encouraged restaurateurs to go West many times before -- I don't live there, I just want to help -- I am convinced they all live in Hawaii Kai and opening up a Leeward branch represents too much of a logistical problem.

But there are lot of hungry people out West, and that's why the only dress-up (you can also show up as casual as you want to be) restaurant in Kapolei is packed, day and evening.

If the restaurant were in Chinatown, it would not be able to compete with the likes of Maunakea Street's tiny Double 8 and certainly not the larger competition, but in Kapolei, it's a cut above chop suey houses from Waipahu to Aiea.

The menu is festive enough to accommodate birthday and anniversary celebrants. On one end there is fresh Crab Steamed in Ginger and Onion Sauce or Black Bean Sauce ($13.99), and Peking Duck ($15 half; $28 whole), marred only by our server's inability to juggle spoons to properly stuff the crispy skins into buns. She kept dropping the skins into the plum sauce, thoroughly drenching the delicate morsels. Thank god there were no other Chinese people in the restaurant to witness this.

On the casual side, there is Steamed Pork Hash with your choice of Salted Fish or Salted Duck Egg ($5.95).

My main complaint is sauces that seem to come out of jars, such as a syrupy red sauce topping a dish of Pressed Duck ($5.95), and the sweet-sour shellac accompanying Eggplant with Hot Garlic Sauce ($5.75).

Some of the better dishes were the Flounder Steamed with Ginger and Green Onion ($6.95), Shrimp with Walnuts ($10.25) and Salted Pepper Spareribs ($7.25), really deep-fried nuggets of pork covered with garlic, chile peppers and green onions.

A list of specials are likely dishes that didn't make the first printing of the menu. These include Clams with Black Bean Sauce ($8.95), a Shrimp and Scallop Sizzling Platter ($9.95), and an unfathomable Soft Tofu Glazed with Crab Meat ($7.95). The latter was tofu covered with an eggy, salty slime that's difficult to manage with chop sticks and without rice bowls (fewer dishes to wash).

I wouldn't drive 15 miles to eat here, but if you live in Kapolei and don't feel like leaving home turf, Kapolei Chinese Restaurant is a great find.

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Do It Electric!

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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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